Thursday, May 5, 2011

Ban smoking in movies to save lives

Hyperbole is defined as an extravagant statement or figure of speech not intended to be taken literally. Of course, with comments originating from anti-smoker fanatics it's sometimes difficult to tell the difference between hyperbole and plain old bullshit.

Take, for example, the following statement: “God knows how many film-goers died from watching Lauren Bacall smoke.” Are we really expected to believe the sultry siren from the age of the silver screen caused untold numbers of mysterious movie deaths just by blowing a little smoke?

No. I don't think so. That's an obvious exaggeration; an extravagant statement. And, just as obviously, it's not intended to be taken literally (or seriously). It's hyperbole. Surely the Guinness people would have kept a tally if movie-goers were kicking the bucket in great numbers while watching Lauren Bacall light up on screen. Hell, it would have been front page news if even one movie buff had died from watching the sexy screen star caressing her Winston's.

But why single out Bacall? Does she deserve all the blame for any mysterious movie deaths which may have previously passed without notice. Was it only Bacall's surreal cigarette smoke which surreptitiously slipped from the screen to slay unsuspecting movie-goers. I mean, God only knows how many film-goers died from watching Bette Davis and the chain-smoking characters she often portrayed. If watching someone smoking on screen really killed people, then, together, those two would have qualified as a weapon of mass destruction.

At any rate, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health apparently has a new study which claims “the very sight of a character lighting up on the screen is enough to encourage a new generation of smokers.”

Shit. More hyperbole. I think.

But, I don't believe many teenagers sit up to the wee hours of the morning, being led astray by Bacall or Davis; lured into a lifetime of degradation as chain-smoking cigarette fiends? Nor do I believe watching Bacall on the small screen has the same deadly impact as watching her from front row seats in a real theatre.

So, perhaps the hyperbole prone Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health is talking about more recent films.

Yes. That must be it. They recently handed out their Ashtray award for the Quebec film with the most scenes of smoking on screen. The award, intended to communicate the disapproval of the anti-smoker zealots for on-screen antics involving smoking, went to a film titled “Les amours imaginaires”, directed by Xavier Dolan (who also co-starred in the film).

Dolan, in his early twenties, is considered one of the most gifted of the current crop of young Québécois film makers. His first feature, “J’ai tué ma mère”, won several awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. It also won Dolan the Toronto Film Critics Association Jay Scott Prize for emerging talent.

None of which matters to the censors of the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health. To the anti-smoker zealots the quality of a film is not based on the truth and humanity which it reveals, or the number of laughs it produces, but rather the number of tobacco occurrences in the film.

And it's not at all surprising they have a scientific study to support their argument.

The scientific study, conducted by researchers from Université du Québec à Montréal, counted 116 “tobacco occurences” in the film which they estimated, with great scientific precision, at one occurrence every 59 seconds. Uh-huh. One tobacco occurrence every 59 seconds. They counted them. On their fingers and toes. Which suggests the film was reviewed by at least six scientific cigarette censors. Or, maybe they used a specially modified scientific calculator.

At any rate, after rigorous scientific analysis, the Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health, which commissioned the study, concluded that “by glamorizing smoking, the movies encourage teens to smoke”. Uh-huh.

In addition, after reviewing a similar study of American teens, carefully extrapolating the data to the Quebec population and allowing for potential confounding factors such as language and the consumption of French-Canadian pea soup, the council estimated that “about 40% of young Quebec smokers start the habit because of what they have seen in the movies.”

It is unclear whether or not the “young Quebec smokers” were ever exposed to Lauren Bacall or Bette Davis movies. When asked, most of the kids responded: “Who?”

Also unclear is the number of tobacco occurrences to which a teenager must be subjected before trotting off to the nearest First Nations reserve to get his/her first fix of the noxious weed, then plummeting into the depths of depravity and ultimate death caused by their newly acquired addiction.

However, it has been rumoured that the US Surgeon General plans to announce that there is no safe level of exposure to on-screen tobacco smoke. One over-zealous zealot named Whinnykoff proclaimed alarmingly “If you can see it; it can kill you. Third, er . . fourth, er . . . fifth hand smoke is even more deadly than active smoking. Be afraid. Be very, very afraid.”

The Quebec Council on Tobacco and Health is quick to point out that they are not calling for outright prohibition of smoking in the movies, but rather they contemplate giving movies which depict smoking an automatic “18A” rating. Given that, in La Belle Province, this rating is usually reserved for hardcore pornography, this would place Casablanca (with Lauren Bacall), and “Les amours imaginaires” (with Xavier Dolan), in the same classification as Deep Throat (with Linda Lovelace) and Debbie Does Dallas (with Bambi Woods).

How I know the names of the stars in the latter two movies is in no way germane to the issue. But, I should note that they surfaced only after serious scientific research.

I have only one question . . . who are these fucking clowns?

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