Smoking in ‘Rango’ Upsets Uptight Organizations Designed to Get Uptight About Things

Kori Titus, the CEO of a not for profit organization called Breathe California, leads a project called “Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down!” that catalogues the instances of smoking in movies. After analyzing the recent animated release Rango, they were horrified to report that there are at least 60 instances of characters smoking in the film. Until I read this news I had thought that people who played fantasy baseball were the biggest nerds on the planet. Now I am certain that it is instead the members of Breathe California, who clearly have too much time on their hands.

But probably I don’t know what I’m talking about. Maybe watching movies with a clicker in your hand and counting every time you see a cigarette is a perfectly worthwhile way to spend your time. Smoking is a gross, deadly habit after all. The director of The Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, Stanton Glantz, says that, “A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie.” Studies done by his organization have found that kids who are frequently exposed to images of people smoking are two to three times more likely to start smoking themselves than children who rarely see it. That’s amazing. I have done a similar study that has found that kids who are frequently exposed to ice cream are 100% more likely to eat ice cream than kids who have never seen it. I published my research in Popular Science under the title “Obvious Hypothesis Wastes Your Time”, and it is the reason that I’m going to raise my children exactly according to the movie Dogtooth (which was inspirationally devoid of instances of tobacco use).

Another of Glantz’s projects, Smoke Free America, ran a full-page ad in Variety on February 23rd taking the makers of Rango to task for allowing smoking to take place in a PG film.  Glantz and his cohorts feel that any movie that contains a character smoking should be rated R. A spokeswoman for Paramount has responded to the Variety article by pointing out that the hero of the film never smokes and that, “The images of smoking in the film … are portrayed by supporting characters and are not intended to be celebrated or emulated.” This is a reasonable enough explanation for the film’s sins, but I might have taken the response a bit further. I would have said something like, “Yes, the evil henchmen in our movie about the Old West smoked cigarettes. You see, they were goony gang types and that’s what happened in the Old West. I’m certain none of the children in the audience noticed or cared. Perhaps you should take all of the time and effort you put into counting cigarettes in a movie and go try to feed some hungry people or something. You really weird me out, you creeps.”

And so the attempt at homogenizing art and entertainment continues. When I was a kid we watched movies like The Monster Squad. The kids in that movie smoked, cussed, made fun of each other’s weight, and took pictures of the teenage girl next door’s tits as she undressed in the window. We played on playgrounds with rusty metal edges, and nobody ever wore a helmet. I spent whole summers running around with a pack of candy cigarettes rolled up in my sleeve and a plastic handgun shoved in the front of my pants.  That’s the way we liked things, and they worked. I’ve never smoked or owned a gun in my adult life. If I started smoking because I saw it happen in a movie it wouldn’t be because of the movie, it would be because my weirdo parents passed their stupid genes down to me. And if I actually got my hands on cigarettes and started smoking them it would probably be because my parents were too busy going to anti-smoking meetings to pay attention to what I was doing. The recent Guillermo Del Toro debacle has proven once again how hard it is for anybody to get an R rated movie made in today’s Hollywood. Expanding the criteria of what can get a film an R rating even further is like an absolute nightmare to me. Traveling down this path will lead pretty quickly to the sterile future of Demolition Man. No thanks, not for me. Somebody put me back in the fridge.

Do we have any bad parents out there that let their kids watch Rango? If so, how filled are you with shame right now?

Source: USA Today

Weaned on the genre films of the 80s. Reared by the independent movement of the 90s. Earned a BA for writing stuff in the 00s. Reviews current releases at

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