I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, probably because these are some smoking related media that resonated pretty strongly with me. Nowadays you are not allowed to show teens or pre-teens smoking cigarettes, nor do they have the PSA style episodes that they used to when I was growing up. My earliest memory of a response to smoking on television had to be watching the Raccoons. I think this is where my ideas of instant addiction came from. The episode showed Lisa Raccoon trying smoking to fit in with her friend from the city. At one point, they show her being chased by giant cigarettes and I think it really frightened me. I can remember that I always felt both excited and uncomfortable watching these young people/animals try smoking. What was even more odd, is that always wanted them to keep smoking. At least I thought that was odd as a kid. Now it makes a little more sense to me. But as a kid all I understood was that smoking was bad for me and the TV shows were telling me not to start unless you want to be a hopeless addict. And yet, I still on some deeper level I still think I wanted to try it.
My next memory, is probably of Stephanie Tanner almost smoking on Full House. I was so disappointed that she didn’t. Again, this freaked me out a little that I was gunning so much for these TV figures to start smoking. Next was probably, the chick that takes up smoking on the original Degrassi. Honestly, this episode would be downright controversial and potentially even banned now because not only does the focus character for that episode start smoking, but they are ambiguous as to whether she will quit or not. I guess Degrassi was going for realism over PSA. That was long before the Next Generation years of exporting them to the states. I’m pretty sure that episode would never fly nowadays.
I also remember Claudia from Party of Five experimenting and probably the most recent teen smoking that sticks out in my mind and probably one of the last incidences that would be shown on TV without some sort of PSA attached is the famous first time Ryan and Marissa meet on the O.C.
You never did see Ryan or Marissa smoke after this. Sandy tells Ryan that if he is living under his roof he can’t smoke and Ryan obliges. After all, better to live in a mansion as a non-smoker than be homeless and a smoker. Or so the message of the show was. The next time you saw anyone smoke anything was when Marissa’s bad sister comes back from boarding school. She likes to smoke the green stuff and after getting some from her, Seth starts to smoke pot. Until he burns down his Dad’s office that is. I think teens pot smoking on TV is the 21st century equivalent of cigarette smoking in the late 80’s and 90’s. No one smokes pot without consequences and they are usually seen to abuse it in some way. Now they do not show teen smoking on TV because presumably they found that teens might be influenced by seeing the young stars light up on screen and it normalized the smoking. The same logic presumably does not apply to pot smoking because it is illegal.
Gossip Girl, by the creator of the O.C., is based on a popular set of novels by the same name. The show differs from the show in many way but the most striking difference is that you would be hard pressed to find a character in the book that doesn’t smoke something. Nate is a pot head, Dan is a chain-smoker and Serena, Blair and the other girls all enjoy cigarettes with their coffee before class. Of course, they couldn’t have that. I mean they didn’t even show teens smoking like that back when I was a kid, let alone now when they seem to be hyper-vigilant about who is seen smoking on TV.
Here is an excerpt:
Blair shrugged her shoulders and took a long drag on her dwindling cigarette. “I thought we could hang out by ourselves for awhile,” she said. “No one really comes out until later.”
“Okay,” Serena said. She smoothed out her dress and dug around in her little red purse for her own pack of cigarettes. Gauloises, from France. She tapped one out and stuck it in her mouth. “Want one?’ she offered Blair.
Blair shook her head no.
“There’re kind of strong, but the box is too cool, I don’t care.” Serena laughed. She was about the light up with a pack of bar matches, when the bartender swooped in with a lighter.
We couldn’t have teens saying stuff like that on TV now, could we? And we don’t. Making Dan a non-smoker took a lot of his edge away. On the show, he is a downright goody goody, that is a writer still, but the similarities stop there. It is kind of interesting the difference it makes, but it does.
Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed this trip down memory lane. I’m not sure how much longer I will blog for so do not be surprised if this site one day disappears. I do not want to disappear but I might have to for personal reasons not pertaining to my boyfriend.