Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Quote of the Day: Stanton A. Glantz

“This is like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply.”
That hysterical outburst is from Stanton A. Glantz, the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco. He is equating the appearance of a character who smokes cigarettes in the new blockbuster "Avatar" with an act of terrorism on our our infrastructure.

The character is a scientist named Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver, who studies a tribe of 10-foot tall blue humanoids on the planet Pandora. In the movie, Augustine and others control hybrid alien bodies through a sort of transfer of consciousness, using a nervous system link.

James Cameron explained the character thus:
“She’s rude, she swears, she drinks, she smokes. Also, from a character perspective, we were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in video games.

“I don’t believe in the dogmatic idea that no one in a movie should smoke. Movies should reflect reality. If it’s O.K. for people to lie, cheat, steal and kill in PG-13 movies, why impose an inconsistent morality when it comes to smoking? I do agree that young role-model characters should not smoke in movies, especially in a way which suggests that it makes them cooler or more accepted by their peers.”
Cameron told the Times that he doesn't support smoking as a habit, adding, "and neither, I believe, does ‘Avatar.’"

The attitude of Glantz and other anti-smoking crusaders is spastic. No, of course we shouldn't encourage smoking, but nor should we pretend it doesn't exist. Must every feature film be a battle ground for smoking? Do directors and producers have the responsibility to rewrite characters if they exhibit certain vices? Do these films change when such elements are removed? Ask the Mormons; they've censored Cameron's films before.


All of this reminds me of the zeal that removed the barely visible cigarette from the hand of Clement Hurd, illustrator of the children's book, "Goodnight Moon" on the jacket photo. It's just stupid.

It shows a disrespect for history, intellectual property, and art. It also shows an arrogance about indivdual causes, a need, so strong, to keep the world from smoking, that everyone must change their ways to accomodate it. Nevermind that some representations of smokers are either representations of reality or subtler character studies illustrating precisely your anti-smoking message.

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