MPAA Says, Hey Kids, Smoking's Not Cool

From today's New York Times:

In a significant change to its movie ratings system, the Motion Picture Association of America on Thursday said portrayals of smoking would be considered alongside sex and violence in assessing the suitability of movies for young viewers. Films that appear to glamorize smoking will risk a more restrictive rating, and descriptions of tobacco use will be added to the increasingly detailed advisories that accompany each rated film.

But why stop there? There's so much objectionable in movies these days that we should be protecting tender hearts and minds from. I suggest the MPAA also be on the lookout for:

= Car chases. Are action filmmakers using low-emission, fuel-efficient, hybrid vehicles when they're staging their high-speed multicar pursuits? I don't think so: I see lots of muscle cars and other poorly designed products of the modern American automobile industry. Any movie featuring more than three minutes of car usage above the posted speed limit should be "Rated R for gratuitous burning of irreplaceable fossil-fuel products." And any new Michael Bay movie featuring a Hummer would be an automatic NC-17 -- my goodness, do we want our children to get the idea that three miles per gallon is somehow cool?!

= Junk food. Mystic Pizza? The Coca-Cola Kid? Chocolat? Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle? Oh my god, won't someone think of the obese children? All movies that feature sympathetic characters consuming non-whole-grain carbs, saturated fats, or products containing high-fructose corn syrup who don't immediately suffer negative consequences for their bad food choices should get an automatic R rating. Fried Green Tomatoes should come with a warning about "unnecessary deep frying." Milk Money's rating should take into account whether that milk is low-fat or, even better, soy.

= Self-esteem. Are we seriously considering the impact the appearance of Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson on film is having on our ugly daughters? Must we force our precious young boys to constantly compare themselves to Ashton Kutcher or Orlando Bloom? And self-esteem is not just about physical appearance. Should we be surprised when our children size up their athletic ability next to, say, Will Smith as Muhammad Ali or The Rock as himself and find themselves lacking? Should we be surprised when our children look at their utter lack of brains and talent and feel belittled next to the prodigious gifts of a Meryl Streep or a Philip Seymour Hoffman? I propose that from now on, films featuring anyone gorgeous, brainy, or artistic or athletically endowed receive an automatic NC-17.

We can't be too careful when it comes to our children, after all.


MaryAnn Johanson (email me)

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