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The Lens: Blue smoke

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 5, 2010 - The people behind the Smoke Free Movies Initiative - the ones who want the MPAA to slap an "R" rating on any film depicting smoking (a re-release of "Now Voyager" would get an NC-17, of course) want you to know that James Cameron's "Avatar" is a very dangerous movie (also very long and tiresome, but that's a subject for another day...).

Why? Because the environmental scientist Grace Augustine, played by Sigourney Weaver, loves the demon tobacco even more than she loves smacking down Giovanni Ribisi. Cameron, not exactly known for subtlety, isn't having any of it. In a statement that suggests he hasn't seen his own movie, he describes the character as "off-putting and even unpleasant. ... She is not meant to be an aspirational role model to teenagers." Sure, Jim, that's why you named her "Grace," with a saintly surname, no less.

But wait, it gets better: "We were showing that Grace doesn’t care about her human body, only her avatar body, which again is a negative comment about people in our real world living too much in their avatars, meaning online and in videogames." So that's what "Avatar" was all about? You spent $300 million on a movie filled with wall-to-wall CGI creatures just to get kids to swear off video games? (Better not tell these guys ...)

Surprisingly, the smoke-free gang beats Cameron at his own game by issuing the single most hyperbolic statement of the whole exchange: How dangerous are Sigourney's on-screen puffs? How about this? According to the SmokeFree head Stanton Glantz, "this is like someone just put a bunch of plutonium in the water supply."

Let's see Cameron top that one.

The Lens is provided by Cinema St. Louis.

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