Have you seen “Stranger Things”? The first season was enjoyable, but the second season was not palatable for me. Despite the fact that I did not like season two, I still opted to watch season three
out of boredom. I felt the need to watch something and I could not find anything that remotely interested me. Even though I have not finished the season yet, I have to say that it is just as boring (if not more) than season two. Although I appreciate the music from the 80s, the props, and style from back in the day, fast pace and action are things I look for in a show but am having trouble finding. But this is not a review of “Stranger Things”. This is a discussion on specific things (characters/ actions) from the series.
Whenever I watch a movie that is set in the past and I see people smoking, I go back in time. It reminds me of the past that I barely even remember. People smoking at the dinner table, smoking/ non-smoking sections in restaurants, doctors smoking during patient consultations, etc. How does that impact me? It just shows me how things change and how life was so different back then. It is so strange to be reminded of the past lifestyle trends. It seems so different from what we have now. What will be the next cigarette – popular today, but frowned upon and alienated in a decade or two?
Season three was released in its entirety on July 4th. When I browsed through various news websites on the morning of July 5th, I expected to see a ton of reviews and spoilers related to the new season of “Stranger Things”. However, it seems that other people, like I, were too busy celebrating Independence Day and did not binge the show until the next day or so. Articles started appearing on Saturday, but they were not about the show as a whole. They were about one thing and one thing only – cigarette smoking.
Season three is set in 1984, and if you were around then, you know that everyone smoked (well, not eeeeveryone, but A LOT of people). Even though the show is completely fictitious, it definitely prides itself on being true to the time it is set in. People wear 80s clothes and hairdos, they eat and drink specific foods, etc., and so naturally, they also smoke. Apparently, Truth Initiative, which is a “public health organization dedicated to making tobacco use a thing of the past”, conducted some research and found out that smoking was featured in every single episode of the show that they had reviewed. Why is that so bad? Their mission is to: “achieve a culture where all youth and young adults reject tobacco”. I understand that it is meant to do good, but are we not allowed some free will? Maybe a young person needs to get sick on a few cigarettes their dad forces them to smoke so they never touch it again.
Netflix was quick to react. They vowed to limit the use of cigarettes in future episodes/ series they produce. A statement has been issued: “(S)moking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people.” Is someone smoking a cigarette a positive portrayal? It is not like the character says: “Cigarettes are tasty. Cigs are good. Everyone should smoke because it is good for you.” In the future, any show rated PG-13 will not feature cigarettes. In shows/ movies for adults, they will try to steer clear from smoking, unless it will be necessary for character building. They also plan on adding a cigarette usage warning in those shows that will feature them.
Where does it end? Will documentaries about rock stars stop including cocaine? Will horror movies not include murder? Yet another example of trying to solve a problem by going about it the wrong way. Do you want your kid to stay away from cigarettes? Banning them from watching movies/ shows in which people smoke will not do that. You will have to actually use some parenting skills to try and keep them away from smoking. Ultimately, it is up to them. Because even if you slap that cigarette out of their hands every time they bring it to their mouth, one day they will become adults and move away. What then?
A couple of days ago, I stumbled upon yet another article about the show. This time around it was about negative traits one of the characters displayed throughout the season. A woman and a man agree to go out for dinner. He arrives and waits, and then waits some more. She stands him up. Not on purpose. She goes to see another man. It is not what you think – she actually goes to consult a scientist because of some strange things that she had witnessed. But the guy does not know that. When they meet, he is upset that she never showed and never notified him she would not be coming. He is also jealous because he finds out she spent her evening with another man. Does all that sound reasonable to you? It does to me.
This guy, Hopper, is also taking care of a girl, Eleven, with superpowers. She had a rough childhood and is not like other kids her age. She is very literal, innocent and vulnerable. When she spends the whole summer with a boy, locked in a room, he gets worried. He wants to protect her, so he talks to the boy, possibly threatening him if he was to do anything to hurt the girl. To me, that sounds like any other protective father. Which father does not care about their baby girl?
I am not saying this character is perfect because he is not. Are there other ways to handle things? Sure. But we are humans with the gift of free will. I saw a man, who cares for the people around him. What did other people see? Toxic masculinity. [Feel free to sigh now.] Do you never get angry when you are hurting? Do you always act with class and dignity when your emotions are in full swing?
No one is perfect. Fiction is exactly that – fiction. If you watch a movie and decide to base your life on what happens in them, then it is not the actor’s fault; it is YOURS. People have emotions. They have good AND bad traits. Why are we so hellbent on masking the negative ones? I think DEALING with those is a better idea than trying to pretend like they do not exist. Also, do not judge a person by a single thing/ trait/ action. There is more to them than that. Sometimes you need to help others who are struggling instead of abandoning them just because they have issues.
When did we start restricting fiction?
Why do we insist on erasing the facts of the past?
Should we constantly be looking backward, or should we focus on the present?
Are we not hurting young minds by “protecting” them from images of toxicity?
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