Photo Credit: Disney
When you’re watching old movies with your kids -- and by old, I mean anything made before 1990 or so -- it’s nearly impossible to avoid images of cigarette smoking. If you haven’t taken in any classics lately, go ahead and try it -- chances are, you’ll be in for a smoggy surprise. This past weekend, for instance, we rented Ghostbusters on DVD. I was completely stunned by the fact that everybody in the movie smoked. I had no memory of anyone smoking in the film, but barely a scene goes by without a butt hanging from somebody’s lips. I shouldn't have been too surprised, though -- all that secondhand smoke comes with the territory; these are films from an unenlightened age. It can be a little tiresome to have to keep explaining that to your kids, though.
I at least expect that when I go to see a modern family film, it will be smoke-free. Not so, though, when I went to see Fantastic Mr. Fox. Bean, the meanest and evilest of the mean and evil farmers in the movie, puffs away through the flick. After my gut reaction -- “Oh, geez, I’m going to have to give her the no-smoking talk again after the movie” -- it hit me that the cigarette between Farmer Bean’s fingers only added to his ghastly, cruel image. The wreath of misty grayness encircling his head served to make him scarier and uglier. This had nothing to do with glamorizing smoking. It was, in fact, quite the opposite.
This got me thinking: Is smoking okay in a kids’ movie if it’s the bad guys who do the puffing? I thought back to Cruella de Vil and her everpresent long, black cigarette holder; the vile kidnapper, Medusa, from The Rescuers; the obnoxious cigar-chomping slaver from Pinocchio; and other villainous chain smokers from filmdom’s past. It never bothered me to have my kids see them. And it wasn’t because the movies were older, it was because the smokers were evil. So, thank you, Fantastic Mr. Fox, for the anti-smoking message, whether intentional or not. Now, all the alcohol drinking in the film, that’s a different story.
It’s still a brilliant film, though.