Thursday, July 06, 2006

Thank You For Smoking

Today the Close-Minded Movie Reviewer takes a break from movies to review a television commercial. Have you seen those American Legacy Foundation “Truth” commercials? The ones that ‘expose’ the truth about smoking. So, it turns out that, get this, smoking is bad for you. Who knew? Oh wait, every freakin’ person in the known universe.

Seriously, who doesn’t know smoking is bad for you? Wouldn’t the money spent on these commercials be better suited to exposing other “truths”? If you’re going to call your project Truth, shouldn’t you tackle other areas as well as smoking? Is this the only lie ever conceived? What about alcohol and alcohol related deaths? I’d wager that more young people are unaware of the dangers of alcohol abuse than smoking.

What a pretentious title for your program, “truth”. These are the most obnoxious commercials ever and although I’ve never smoked, I’m seriously considering taking up the habit. That’s how much I hate those commercials, they are literally driving me to smoke.

The idiots in the commercials are always claiming to be attempting to track down some tobacco exec and trying to confront him about cigarettes and ask why the tobacco companies have attempted to mislead the public about the inherent dangers. So the lesson of the commercial is twofold: a) smoking is bad for your health, and b) tobacco companies downplay the negative effects of smoking because they are trying to get you to buy their product. This is helpful information for absolutely no one, because it is something that everyone already knows.

Guinness has an advertising slogan that reads “Guinness is good for you”. After years of exhaustive study, researchers have determined that Guinness is, in fact, not good for you (yes, I know alcohol in small amounts has been said to be good for your heart, but in large quantities it can also damage your liver, and I hear that’s a bad thing). Guinness isn’t allowed to use their slogan in the U.S. because of strict truth in advertising regulations. The statement that Guinness is good for you is obviously a joke to everyone but the target audience of commercials. These are the same people that don’t know coffee is hot, and are blissfully unaware that companies that sell a product might not be in a hurry to point out the reasons you shouldn’t buy it. That doesn’t make dishonesty ok but if Hostess came out with a commercial telling you Twinkies were good for you and you switched over to an all-Twinkie diet, then you are, in all likelihood, a moron. We don’t need huge ad campaigns to save people from their own stupidity. At some point you have to let natural selection do its thing.

The worst commercial is the one with the dork who goes to the mattress store and asks if they put warning labels on mattresses, because a memo from a tobacco executive suggested people be warned against sleeping because so many people die in their sleep. The interviewer apparently is not against smoking of every kind because he’s got dope-smoker written all over him. It’s immediately obvious to every sane viewer that the exec’s memo was a tongue-in-cheek note essentially saying “if you’re going to put warning labels on cigarettes because they can kill you, why not put labels on everything that could kill you?” Since they don’t tell you when the memo was written, one assumes it was 10 or 15 years ago, before they actually did put warning labels on everything including hot coffee. The memo was using an absurd statement to illustrate an absurd circumstance. The commercial, on the other hand, presumes the memo is meant literally, that those wacky tobacco executives actually think sleep is bad for you. As if anyone, besides the maker of this commercial, is that dumb.

I’m reminded of the closing scene of The Misfits, starring Clark Gable. Gable’s character is reconsidering selling the horses he’s just round up to a dog food company. He’s decided it’s not something he wants to do after all, but before he can take action, Montgomery Clift and Marilyn Monroe, in a fit of self-righteous indignation, ‘save’ the horses by cutting their ropes and releasing them. It’s immediately clear to the viewer that this is a largely symbolic gesture because unless they plan to spirit the horses away somewhere, he could simply come back the next day and round them up again. In fact, his sidekick, played by Eli Wallach, says as much. Nevertheless, Gable grabs a rope and single-handedly catches and reigns in the powerful stallion that had just been released. Then with Clift and Monroe looking on, he cuts the horse loose, saying, “Don't want nobody makin' up my mind for me, that’s all”.

Your intrepid reviewer wonders, who does want their mind made up for them? On the other hand, I suppose if thinking for yourself wasn’t such a rare quality, they wouldn’t have to make movies about the few who possess the ability.

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