Wednesday, July 25, 2007


Disney stubs out smoking from its films
Walt Disney on Wednesday became the first Hollywood studio to phase out cigarette smoking in its films, saying smoking scenes in future Disney-branded movies would be “non-existent”.

Mr Markey, who has called for tougher action to stop children from smoking, said it was “time for other media companies to similarly kick the habit and follow Disney’s lead”.

“We know that the presence of smoking in a movie significantly influences a child’s decision to start,” he said. “This is troubling given the fact that a vast majority of smokers begin smoking before their 18th birthday. I am pleased that Disney is embracing a policy that is consistent with the long-term public health of the nation.”

Wouldn’t the Hollywood depiction of any behavior be a significant influence on a child’s decision to start or stop the depicted behavior? Bad behavior portrayed in a positive way could influence a child to behave badly and good behavior portrayed in a negative way could influence a child to abandon or reject good behavior.

Could you ever imagine any of the following headlines?
Walt Disney on Wednesday became the first Hollywood studio to phase out premarital sex in its films, saying premarital sex scenes in future Disney-branded movies would be “non-existent”.

Walt Disney on Wednesday became the first Hollywood studio to phase out lying to parents in its films, saying lying to parent scenes in future Disney-branded movies would be “non-existent”.

Walt Disney on Wednesday became the first Hollywood studio to phase out religious bigotry in its films, saying religious bigotry scenes in future Disney-branded movies would be “non-existent”.

I don’t think so. Disney and congress aren’t really interested in promoting good behavior and discouraging bad behavior; both are only interested in the politically correct influence on their bottom lines.


Rick and Gary said...

Hi David -- Interesting point. Although one could counter that movies may influence optional behavior but not deeply rooted behavior. Smoking is not an intrinsic part of human nature, while sex, lies and bigotry are.

Buz said...

Hi, Rick,

Interesting point of view. While I would probably agree with you on sex, and maybe on lies, do you really think that bigotry is an intrinsic part of human nature?

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rick and Buz,

There may be some merit to Rick’s differentiation in some instances, but I’m not sure that smoking is all that different from premarital sex. The reason some people smoke and the reason some people have premarital sex has a lot to do with outside influences and the temporary, short term, good feeling of each activity.

Both premarital sex and smoking can have serious long term health consequences, but smoking does not have the serious long term emotional and moral consequence of premarital sex.

I’m not sure anyone at Disney or in congress would agree with me, but I am almost certain that Disney will not voluntarily stop making movies without sex and sexual references because to do so would shrink their bottom line, whereas cutting cigarettes from their movies will garner affirmation and possibly more of an audience from the anti-smoking zealots who care more about health than morality.

Rusty said...

Of course, if media doesn't have any influence on society, then that must be why there's no such thing as commercials.

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rusty,

People, especially children, are influenced by all kinds of advertising, logos, impressions, friends, foes, and education. However, television commercials are the state of the art and the science of manipulative influence. Many movies and television programs use the same techniques to illicit an intended reaction.

When my oldest daughter was in kindergarten she pointed at a man she didn’t know and said, “look at that bad man smoking”. I then had to un-teach her something she had learned at school. Smoking may be unhealthy, but it is very low on the list of immoral.

Buz said...

HAHA ... David, you reminded me of a (now) humorous episode (althought it was not quite so funny when it happened). When Nate was small, we sent him to first grade at a local Baptist school. (We were in Indy at the time, and Indianapolis city schools were really poor.) He came home one day and told my wife that she was going to hell because she wore pants. We had a very long discussion with him about what is personal opinion and what is biblical truth.

Thanks for that memory!


Rick and Gary said...

Hi Buz,

Yes, I think humans are predisposed toward forming groups around some common characteristic and then viewing with a level of hostility anyone who falls outside that group. But just because something is part of human nature doesn't make it good, and, to paraphrase Freud, the whole point of civilization is the containment of our destructive impulses.

Hi Rusty,

Advertising is instructive. It appeals to human desires for status, sex, happiness, ect., to make us buy a particular brand. It doesn't try to actually change those desires. Doing so would be very unsuccessful. It was tried a lot for decades in socialist states.

Hi David,

I agree that stigmatization of pre-marital sex is desirable, can be successful, and has been successful in the past up to a point.

But I also maintain that the desire for sex, particularly in an adolescent boy, is much more fundamental than the desire for smoke or any other drug or stimulant and, therefore, much more resistant to media influence.

Of course, that doesn't mean that the media should actually be pandering to and exploiting this desire, as you point out.

Rusty said...

Sorry guys, coming in a bit late here. My comment was tongue-in-cheek. I certainly agree that advertising attempts to influence us (hence, that's why we have advertising).

David M. Smith said...

Hi Rusty,

I knew what you meant, I was just adding to it.

Hi Rick,

My gut tells me you are probably right, but my memory tells me I was much more attracted to smoking at an early age than I was to girls. I also remember girls as being much easier to walk away from.

Rick and Gary said...

Good point. Once you're addicted to nicotine, it's a mighty powerful draw. I had the same problem in my teens.

Nevertheless, teens don't start out addicted to nicotine, whereas they do start out powerfully attracted to sex. So a movie exec could argue that influence can preclude the former, but not the latter.

On the other hand, I've conflated sexual drive and pre-marital sex. For adolescent boys, at least, there's a highly popular means for dealing with the former without resorting to the latter. :-)