Last Friday was get-your-hair-cut-in-Suffolk day. On the drive home, I was listening to the radio.
An ad came on for the new movie “Chappaquiddick,” (and if you’re older than 40, the title immediately tells you what the film is all about) which concluded with a peculiar disclaimer:
It cautioned moviegoers that the film - which opens this Friday - contains “disturbing images, some strong language and historical smoking.”
Yep, HISTORICAL smoking.
I nearly drove into a tree.
Historical smoking, as in, everybody smoked in 1969 when Sen. Ted Kennedy famously drove a car off a bridge and killed a girl, so the film can show cigarettes without seeming to promote tobacco use. And without being punished with an R rating by the selective prudes in Hollywood.
Just the latest success scored by anti-tobacco zealots, who have been lobbying the industry for years to slap adult ratings on any movie that features smokers.
Violence is fine, though. So is sex. But cigarettes? Avert your eyes, America.
Think about this for a minute:
“Chappaquiddick” is about an entitled, philandering U.S. Senator from a powerful family who let a girl drown in his car - he waited more than 10 hours to report that he’d driven off a bridge with a 28-year-old female passenger - while he tried to figure out how to save his sorry political ass.
Yet audiences need to be warned that a few of the characters may light up?
Smoking is one of the least disturbing things an audience will see if the filmmakers did a halfway decent job of telling Kennedy's sordid story.
Look, I’m no tobacco lover, even though I live in a tobacco-growing state.
I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. My mother was a heavy smoker who died of lung cancer, so no one needs to tell me what a nicotine addiction can do.
Still, it's worth remembering that smoking is legal. About 15 percent of Americans smoke. Pushing producers to churn out films that portray us as a nation of non-smokers is fundamentally dishonest.
Filmmakers ought to be able to tell their stories without being blackmailed by modern-day church ladies who have singled out cigarettes for special treatment.
Think about it. If tobacco scandalizes movie raters today perhaps on-screen soda swilling will alarm them tomorrow.
And I can't help but wonder - given this anti-smoking hysteria - what Hollywood will do with the G-rated "101 Dalmatians," and its chain-smoking villain, Cruella De Vil.