Movie Smoking Scenes May Get ‘R’ Rating
Lobbying groups and some Members of Congress, notably Sen. Jay Rockefeller, are pushing to force the Motion Picture Association of America to assign an automatic “R” rating to movies depicting characters smoking cigarettes. MPAA president Dan Glickman is resisting but says the ratings board “will now consider smoking as a factor among many other factors, including violence, sexual situations and language, in the rating of films.” Glickman points out that the percentage of films that included “even a fleeting glimpse of smoking” dropped from 60% to 52% between July 2004 and July 2006 and 75% of those were rated “R” because of other factors.
This points to the silliness of the ratings system with its broad categories.
To the extent that ratings are there to give parents information so that they can make responsible judgments about what movies to allow their kids to see, providing information about smoking seems reasonable enough. After all, smoking is addictive and can bring substantial health risk to those who smoke large numbers of cigarettes over a long period. There’s little doubt that seeing positive portrayals of smoking by movie stars and other role models can influence kids to think of smoking as “cool” and therefore take it up.
Then again, most parents would likely not object to their kids seeing somebody smoke a cigarette, figuring they can teach them about the risks. Yet, rating a movie “R” would take that call away from the parents, unless they want to sit with their kids in the theater watching the movie. (Although, in the age of Netflix, they could just wait a few months and let them see it at home.) Further, parents who wouldn’t object to smoking scenes may well decide against letting their kids see an “R” rated movie even if smoking was the primary culprit in earning that rating, since the basis of the ratings is far from transparent.
We’d be far better off dumping the current system for one that simply provided information about the movie’s content. Some parents may strongly object to graphic violence but have no problem with nudity, whereas others may take the opposite position. Some may object to nudity and violence but have no problem with the use of the “F” word. Ditto smoking, strong sexual situations, or whatever. Inform the parents and let them decide.
We could continue to automatically bar children from obviously pornographic movies (most of those now rated “NC-17,” formerly “X”) but theater owners would be free to sell tickets to other movies to all comers. Leave it up to parents to monitor their kids. If they don’t trust them not to see movies they’ve been told not to see, they shouldn’t be unsupervised at the theater, anyway.
via Matt Keller’s Facebook page