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Best picture nominees display contrary image of cigarettes

March 7, 2018

For anyone who has spent any time with me since Christmas, the subject of how excited I am for the Oscars has definitely come up in conversation at least once. Award season, in my opinion, is the best season – and I am taking a firm, "sorry, not sorry" stance on that.

This year, I have been filled with even more anticipation than usual for the Academy Awards. For the first time ever, I have actually seen almost every single one of the Best Picture nominations. If any inquiring minds would like to know, the only movies I still need to check off my list are "Darkest Hour," "Phantom Thread" and "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri."

Even though I have not seen all nine films this year, I have followed their journeys throughout the different award shows leading up to the Oscars finale and have consequently seen trailers and clips of all of the best picture movies.

This is how I know that all nine of these movies covers a diverse and wide range of topics such as war, falling in love with a sea creature and of growing up and moving away from your parents. These nine movies also feature story lines that span many decades such as the 1940s, the 1980s and even the modern day. The movies are all very different from one another, but they might be more similar to each other than you realize.

The similarity I am talking about specifically has to do with the lighting of and the smoking of nicotine and tobacco-filled cancer delivery devices. In every single one of the films nominated in the best picture category, at least one character smoked a cigarette! Every single movie. In comparison to today’s changing mood to smoking, which views the smoking of cigarettes as increasingly taboo and rare to even see someone doing, the many scenes that I saw with fingers curled around a glowing and smoky cigarette really stood out to me.

If it is not obvious, I am really against smoking cigarettes. I often acknowledge how terrible cigarettes are for people’s health by exclaiming to those around me, “why would someone spend so much money on something they know is going to give them cancer?” But in the movies, cigarettes do not seem so unhealthy to me. They seem ... glamorous and cool.

I realize that for many of the Best Picture movies, the time frame of the story practically demands that smoking be a part of the movie. It was just part of what you did during that time in history. But for other movies, I can’t help but think that smoking was added or even emphasized to help a character make a statement. When I watched the movies that were nominated this year, smoking was used to show toughness, manliness, sophistication and a sense of elegant nonchalance. I would never associate any of those characteristics with someone I saw smoking on the street today.

Cigarettes still seem to have a big image problem that sharply contrasts the old-fashioned glamour of smoking against the modern-day sensibilities of knowing how dangerous cigarettes.

Lauren Simenson is a student at UW-River Falls.