11 December 2012

Should Santa Claus be depicted as a nonsmoker?

A new Christmas book puts the issue right in the title:
Twas The Night Before Christmas: Edited by Santa Claus for the Benefit of Children of the 21st Century
The book is a yet-another-publication of Clement Moore's classic poem, but the publisher and illustrator have excised this iconic passage: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

Here's some commentary from a StarTribune column:
Not surprisingly, controversy has ensued, with the American Library Association protesting and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert labeling the act "political cor-Xmas."..

"I want people to get mad at tobacco, not librarians fighting with me. All parents don't want their children to smoke, so we're all on the same page."  "I'm not cleaning up the most famous poem in the English language," McColl said. "I'm just coming at it from a smoking angle."
I am reminded of the 2010 sanitizing of a famous photo of Winston Churchill by the removal of his cigar stub, and the printing of a U.S. postage stamp with the cigarette plucked from the fingers of the actress.

With regard to the latter, here is the incisive commentary of Roger Ebert:
Depriving Bette Davis of her cigarette reminds me of Soviet revisionism, when disgraced party officials disappeared from official photographs. Might as well strip away the toupees of Fred Astaire and Jimmy Stewart...

... Look, I hate smoking. It took my parents from me, my father with lung cancer, my mother with emphysema... When my mother was breathing oxygen through a tube, she'd take out the tube, turn off the oxygen, and light up. I avoid smokers. It isn't allowed in our house. When I see someone smoking, it feels like I'm watching them bleed themselves, one drip at a time.

So we've got that established. On the other hand, I have never objected to smoking in the movies, especially when it is necessary to establish a period or a personality. I simply ask the movies to observe that, these days, you rarely see someone smoking except standing outside a building, on a battleground, in a cops' hangout, in a crack house, in rehab, places like that. In an ordinary context, giving a character a cigarette is saying either (1) this is a moron, or (2) this person will die...

Two of the most wonderful props in film noir were cigarettes and hats. They added interest to a close up or a two-shot... These days men don't smoke and don't wear hats. When they lower their heads, their eyes aren't shaded. Cinematographers have lost invaluable compositional tools. The coil of smoke rising around the face of a beautiful women added allure and mystery. Remember Marlene Dietrich. She was smoking when she said, "It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily."

...Movies can't rewrite reality. The MPAA cautiously mentions smoking in their descriptions of movie ratings (even if it's the Cheshire Cat and his hookah). If, by the time you're old enough to sit through a movie, you haven't heard that smoking is bad for you, you don't need a movie rating, you need a foster home.


  1. As I, as a vegetarian, while far from condoning killing animals to butcher and eat, do not object to pictures of people eating, at a barbicue for instance.
    The British, in all their stupidity, outlaw anything that can harm hurt or offend anyone, to the point where a kindergarten meeting may not have hot drinks incase one were to be spilt.
    Wrap us all up in cotton wool to protect us from life ?
    No, let us burn our fingers on the stove so that we learn.

  2. Don't forget Frosty the Snowman's corncob pipe. Goodness knows, we need to nip that corncob pipe smoking in the bud.

  3. Santa is also too fat. Obesity is more of a problem these days than smoking. Santa needs to be thin.

  4. Attempting to sanitize the world does not work as a strategy to grow good people. Taking every opportunity to discuss history, culture, values, science and health in every context they appear does.

  5. Have you noticed people in new movies actually don't know how hold a cigarette? They look like teenagers learning how to do it.

  6. Gandalf also smokes, let's rate The Hobbit NC-17.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...