Thank You For Smoking

Starring Aaron Eckhart as Nick Naylor (main character), Katie Holmes as Heather Holloway (reporter from Washington Post, J.K. Simmons as BR (nick's boss), Robert Duvall as "Captain," Rob Lowe as Jeff Megall (movie star agent), William H. Macy as Ortolan Finistirre (Senator from Vermont) and Sam Elliott as Lorne Lutch (the original Marlboro Man).

Thank You for Smoking makes a powerful statement about truth... how truth is communicated and how truth is perceived.

Observation: Not a single person is shown smoking throughout Thank You for Smoking. There isn't even a hint of cigarette smoke at any point in the movie. This confirms the fact that this movie is not about the morality of smoking, nor is it an attack on Big Tobacco; this movie is about truth-spin.

Nick Naylor, like most Americans, is fully aware of the fact that smoking cigarettes is harmful to people's health. But he still manages to speak favorably about the tobacco companies he represents. He reorganizes truthful words so that that people hear a version of the truth, but never in a way that might incriminate big tobacco.

When Nick's son asks him, "Can't anyone do that?" Nick replies, "No... my job requires a moral flexibility that goes beyond most people." This is another way of saying, "Anyone else who might try to do this job would not be able to live with themselves." He openly admits that the purpose of his employment is to bend people's moral sensibilities. In order to keep people smoking, tobacco companies have to pump a steady stream of deception flowing through the veins of mainstream media and Nick Naylor is the spin-doctor for the job.

Nick realized that he needs to implant the message that "smoking is cool" into young people's minds. "What we need," he says, "is a smoking role-model, a real winner." He realized that young people look up to movie stars, so his goal is to make cigarette smoking more prevalent on the big screen.

On the front cover of some Michael Clayton DVDs there the words "The Truth Can Be Adjusted" blurred out, which would imply that Michael Clayton is a movie about spin-doctoring. But Michael Clayton (the character) comes nowhere near the spinning savvy of Aaron Eckhart. Overall, Thank You For Smoking is sharper than Michael Clayton like a razor blade is sharper than Jello.

The actors interviewed in the DVD's featurette, "America: Living in Spin," make some astute observations about truth-spinning in America. I wonder if the producers of this DVD meant to make "America: Living in Spin" sound like the familiar Christian phrase: "living in sin" ?

In this featurette, William H. Macy says: "Some people lie a little bit for a greater good... but what those people are... is liars." What?! That is the most definitive statement about morality that has ever come through my television screen.

Most people don't want to think about right and wrong; it's too inconvenient. The most widely shared conviction throughout Thank You for Smoking is "I gotta pay the mortgage," which means, "I'm going to lie, cheat, steal and maybe stab you in the back to pay my bills." But lets's consider the wise words of William H. Macy. There is an underlying Law that holds the whole universe together. Truth over lies, right over wrong, good over evil is what keeps the universe intact. The fundamental laws of reality that God put in place boil down to the basic decisions we make every day, the opportunities we have to make the right decision in a lot of ways that no one will ever notice. These decisions are what set in motion the overall direction of our society.

The featurette shows clips of President Clinton and President Bush making some of their more infamous statements. Bill Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with Miss Lewinski." George Bush: "When we're talking about war, we're really talking about peace." Bill Clinton: "Well, that depends on what the meaning of "is" is." George Bush: "We believe in peace in the middle east."

David Koechner (Bobby Jay Bliss the representative for firearms) says, "From the time you wake up in the morning, everyone's spinning... I think it's part of what has happened in this country, is 'Where is the truth?' ... now people are willing to accept no truth or a substitute for truth."

Dennis Miller says, "It makes for a more morally relativistic world. There used to be black and white, right and wrong... but now everything is gray because everybody's taking everything that happens and and trying to convince the rest of the world that that's the way it should be"

***

It's a good sign that tobacco has gone by the wayside in the U.S. Although the resistance to tobacco has been in many ways just as misguided as the forces that brought tobacco to power, at least we can be encouraged by the fact that change is possible!

On a personal note, I sincerely hope fossil fuels (oil and coal) will experience the same fate as tobacco. However, the stakes are higher as oil and coal are still (for some reason) America's main sources of energy. Fossil fuels must be de-popularized in a similar way as tobacco if we want to have any hope of weaning ourselves off of this archaic form of energy.

5 comments:

Michael Ott said...

I have to say I enjoyed this movie immensely. Another thing I observed was how they good guys (anti-tobacco) were made out to be just as morally flexible and even worse sometimes.

I can't remember at what point it happened but I realised I was siding with the tobacco company LOL. Will H Macey did a superb job.

JC said...

I couldn't agree more with you. When I saw the movie at the theater last year, I really liked what I saw.

gbg liquid vitamins said...

It was an awesome eye opening movie.

Richmond said...

I really like this movie as well. Powerful lesson on truth and false truth and the impact it can have on all of us.

I too found myself siding with the Tobacco company, which created very odd feelings in me.

Rodney said...

The fact that people still decide to smoke, knowing the repercussions down the track, is always distrubing. This film was a real eye opener.