According to a February 25 New York Times article, The American Medical Association is planning on lodging an official complaint against Warner Brothers for its “disturbing images of specific cigarette brands” in their new movie, “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Melissa Walthers, director of the health advocacy group’s effort to reduce teenage smoking, says that there is no artistic reason to include such images.
While the movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” doesn’t show anyone smoking, there are numerous shots of the cigarette brand Natural American Spirit Lights in their recognizable bright yellow box as well as a red Marlboro carton, and the AMA is not happy. Ironically, the story line places smoking in a negative light. The main character, played by Jennifer Connelly, leaves her husband not because he cheated on her (although he did) but because he lied about quitting smoking.
Ms. Walthers says that various studies estimate that smoking in films prompts 200,000 young people to start smoking each year. Other health organizations besides the AMA have pressured The Motion Picture Association of America to “trim tobacco sequences” from their movies, but the industry cites the need for artistic license and, in 2007, refused to consider an outright ban on cigarettes and smoking in film.
As for anyone out there skeptical about the power of the media to influence consumers, look back to the year 1934 and the release of the Frank Capra comedy, “It Happened One Night” with Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert, the winner of five Academy Awards, including Best Picture (Columbia). Sales of men’s undershirts declined sharply after Gable, undressing for bed in a scene, took off his shirt and appeared bare-chested and sexy. He was not wearing the traditional undershirt, a standard clothing item at the time for men. According to legend, sales of undershirts plummeted overnight. American men had made up their minds. If Clark Gable didn’t think he needed an undershirt under his shirt, then neither did they.
Click here to see the famous scene from “It Happened One Night” titled, “The Walls of Jericho.” (That’s Claudette Colbert with Gable, who, win finishing the movie, pronounced it the worst she’d ever made – then went on to win an Oscar for that very movie.