Continued from page 1
But not all characters smoke; not all these people down on their luck immediately reach for fags. Jack Nicholsonís character in The Shining doesnít reach for a cigarette despite suffering from what we can only describe politely as a mild bout of depression and paranoia.
In a likewise manner, take Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro. De Niro plays part of a Vietnam veteran sickened by society. If ever a character needs to relax with and spark one up, itís our friend Travis Bickle, yet, no, he decides to relax by doing some DIY that involves a pistol secreted up his arm and a mirror into which he can imagine conversations.
And whilst weíre at it, I donít want to see Clint Eastwood riding into town, sipping delicately from a bottle of Evian. The subtle nuances would be lost; thereíd be something missing.
Smoking exists in society. Therefore, if Hollywood is to reflect society, then there is always going to be characters who smoke and those that donít. If a character is stressed out, he or she are still unlikely to reach for a Geri Haliwell yoga video.
And are teenagers, whose screen idols smoke, more likely to smoke themselves? Iím more inclined, as others are, to go along with idea of peer pressure, of influences closer to home. I smoke because my friends and parents smoked. I didnít see Casablanca as a teenager. And it certainly hasn't encouraged me to continue smoking. Film-making is one of arts. Art reflects life. The semiotics of smoking suggests several traits within a single character, this much is true, yet it is so ingrained within Western culture to see a character who smokes as being cool and having a shed load of attitude that this overrides all else. Society must change first, then films will follow suit. Not other way around. Hollywood isnít that powerful, nor should we ever let it become so.
© Copyright Holmes Charnley mmiv. All rights reserved.
Freelance Journalist based in Devon-UK. For more examples of my work, please visit http://www.articles.me.uk. The two most recent pieces have been published in The Guardian (UK broadsheet.) Pieces also accepted by Jack magazine.