Movie rating change aims at shielding young viewers from smoking scenes
Rating letters are just one clue to picking an appropriate film. Invite pupils to use the newspaper's weekend entertainment section or pages as a research tool. See how much information individual students or teams can find about one new movie — including from ads.
Risks from certain behaviors or products are presented in health and science news coverage. Challenge students to find a recent article about nutrition, exercise, alcohol or tobacco. Ask them to evaluate whether it's clear, balanced and useful.
Critics of the effort to curb teen smoking through stricter movie ratings say parents and young filmgoers can decide what's appropriate. Solicit views on this topic and assign the class to compose one or two letters to the editor, expressing the opinions of audience members who are affected.
Heavy on-screen tobacco use now could bring an “R” rating for new films, according to the Hollywood watchdog group that decides whether releases are suitable for General audiences, should be flagged for Parental Guidance or limited to viewers older than 17. Moviegoers under 17 can see “R” films only if a parent or guardian tags along.
The Motion Picture Association of America ratings board, which previously considered underage smoking, now also will evaluate smoking by adults. That adds cigarettes, cigars and pipes to factors such as sex, violence and language that determine which of five ratings a film earns. Rating advisories appear on ads, trailers, in theaters and on video packages.
Film raters will consider the extent of tobacco use, whether it glamorizes smoking and the context. Movies set in the past, when smoking was more common, get a break.
Watchdog says: “The rating system . . . is not intended to change behavior. It is for parents, so they can make informed decisions about what movies they do and don't want their kids to see." -- Seth Oster, executive vice-president. Motion Picture Association of America
Reviewer says: ”One does wonder where this will eventually lead. Do we give an R rating to a film that shows people eating hamburgers, since fatty foods can lead to heart disease? Do we give R ratings to all films showing cars speeding, since speeding can lead to fatal accidents? Can anyone be shown drinking and driving without the film being branded with an R?” – Tom Long, Detroit News film critic
Editorial says: “The rating likely will have little impact on smoking. . . . It seems relatively silly to restrict access to a movie that depicts something anyone — child or adult — can see while walking down any street in the country. . . . The best way to reduce tobacco use among all age groups is through education.” – The Reading (Pa.) Eagle
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