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Week In Review

The 168 Turnaround: Cigarettes Are Sexy

THIS WEEK: November 13 – 19, 2011

The Week At Large
So you still can’t trust your daughters with Justin Bieber.  Rumours of him having fathered a fan’s baby died down after the young mother dropped her paternity suit last week.  Apparently, however, the pop sensation will still be taking a DNA test to determine if he is or is not the father of the fan’s child.  According to reports, the mother now wants to settle outside of court (click here for more).  Speaking of caring for the young, do you remember the story of army major Marius Els and his pet hippopotamus?  In a video posted to the internet several months ago, Els is seen playing with six-year-old Humphrey (the hippo), and later saying, “I go in the water. He allows me to get on his back and I ride him like a horse. He swims with me.”  Sadly, Humphrey had a sudden change of heart this past Saturday when he dragged Els into the water and killed him (click here for more).  Did nobody else see this coming?  And since we’re on the topic of poor judgement, should I mention the controversial Benetton clothing ads that feature (photoshoped) images of various world leaders kissing?  Apparently the Pope is a little upset, what with there being a picture of him kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, the Imam of al-Azhar mosque in Egypt.  Don’t believe me?  Click here to see for yourself.

The Close Up
I don’t smoke, and have never considered smoking—the cancer stick just isn’t my thing, I guess.  And I’m not going to go on about how it’s a dirty habit and why all you smokers should quit.  If you smoke, then you’ve likely heard it all before.  We all know smoking causes cancer, so act accordingly as you see fit.  Smoke or don’t smoke—it’s up to you.

But if you’re a celebrity, don’t you dare smoke on camera.  Do it in private, in your home, in your closet or bathroom … do it anywhere but on film.  That’s the message, anyway, and superstar Rihanna can tell you all about it.  The singer has recently come under fire from The Ulster Cancer Foundation of Ireland for smoking in the music video for her single, “We Found Love” (which was filmed in Ireland).  Reacting to the video, a Foundation spokesperson said, “Three-quarters of adult smokers start the habit as teenagers, which is why it is so irresponsible of Rihanna to influence her young fan base in this way.”  You can view the video below:

And now Rihanna is stirring the pot once again after having posed for a set of promotional pictures in support of her new album, Talk That Talk.  The pictures feature the singer in provocative poses while smoking a cigarette or with smoke drifting from her open mouth.

Should we be outraged?  Won’t these images poison the fragile minds of teenage girls everywhere?

To tell you the truth, I don’t really know.  I don’t have any kids, let alone a teenage daughter, so I can’t make any definite proclamations one way or the other.  But I’ll say this much:  I’m conflicted.

On the one hand, smoking will kill you.  It’s like a reliable dog that way—it will stick by you till the end.  And so I can’t help but worry over the consequences of portraying it in any way that is somehow favourable.  Life is too short as it is.

The cover for the deluxe edition of TALK THAT TALK

On the other hand, however, I really hate the idea of limiting what artists can and cannot portray and represent.  Sure, teenagers are often stupid and impressionable (I know from firsthand experience), but that doesn’t mean we should mould our creative expressions to fit their shortcomings.  Art is an expression of life, of our experiences, of our triumphs and defeats.  Why let children cripple it?

And then there’s this:  smoking can be sexy.  Through the lens of the right photographer’s camera, a ribbon of smoke drifting from an open mouth can be considerably arresting.  Sensual, smooth, and … well, an open mouth is an open mouth (if you understand my meaning).  It’s a powerful image.  Is it troubling?  Sure.  Problematic?  Of course.  But it’s still sexy.  Besides, most of us understand that it’s the kind of image that only really works in the land of make believe.  In the real world, cigarette smoke stinks; in my imagination, however, it can be nothing but sweetness.  And that’s okay—the land of make believe is an all right place to visit on occasion.

So what about the kids?  Is no one thinking of the children?  Of course they are, but sometimes it’s all right to let them think for themselves, too.

The 168 Turnaround is a week-in-review column, a place for me to reflect on the week’s most interesting pop culture news items.  If it mattered to me or I think it might matter to you, then it will be here.  If I’ve overlooked an important news item, or if you have a comment or question, please leave a response below.  Thank you for reading.


One thought on “The 168 Turnaround: Cigarettes Are Sexy

  1. So what can you say about a guy who thinks hippos are like dogs. Wow…I think he used the word ‘dangerous’ about 3 times in his video. That’s a clue right there. Oh well…live/die and learn.
    I hope someone sues the pants off the company that approved the photo’s. Just because you’re a public figure doesn’t mean you can do whatever turns your crank.
    And for smoking…maybe kids will be influenced by stars…however, I think simple peer pressure is the real culprit, along with parents who model it for their kids. However, it is a lot easier to jump all over ‘stars’, but they are missing the real issue. Oh well…

    I’ll miss your blogs while in Mexico…but I’ll have something to look forward to when I return.

    Posted by Scott Roe | November 19, 2011, 9:20 am

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