Friday, October 14, 2011

The smoking man

There's a reason people think smoking is cool. It is.

Spike Spiegel, the ultimate smoking badass.

DISCLAIMER: Smoking is bad for you. It WILL eventually kill you. HARD TRUTH: Smoking does make you look cooler. As I was watching Drive a few weeks ago, I noticed an odd hatred toward smoking.  It was one of those minor annoyances.  I'm not saying smoking is good, I just don't understand this strange new Hollywood trend where they don't have their badassier actors smoking.

There's one thing I don't understand, and that's the real anti-smoking theme they're shoving in Drive.  Gosling has a habit of chewing toothpicks instead of cigarettes, and when the screw-up Shannon lights up a cigarette, the main gangster complains and yells at him until he puts it out. I mean, you want to have an anti-smoking theme, that's fine, but it really doesn't make sense here. These are bad guys, they should not care about lung cancer.

Here's my beef with toothpick chewers: I have never felt that a person is badass because he chews toothpicks. What is there to lose in that? Am I supposed to believe you're a hardened badass because you have clean teeth habits or some sort of oral fixation?  Chewing toothpicks looks like exactly what it is, a healthy excuse for cigarettes. You want your character to look cool, have him smoke. How does this make him more badass? This means that he A) he is so badass he does not care about the consequences of his health, and/or B) he's so messed up/crazy he NEEDS something that kills him to keep him going.

Toothpicks hold neither of these.  The only way you could possibly be badass with toothpicks is if each one of them was single handedly made by you, from the tree you killed with your bare hands that slaughtered your entire family somehow when you were a child. And also they explode when you throw them away.

Now it could be that Gosling, being the stand-up guy that he is, just wouldn't go for smoking. Fine, don't have him smoke, but don't try to substitute it. Or you could do any number of techniques to show him smoking without him actually smoking. A friend and I were watching Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid and in it, Steve Martin plays a hardened smoking detective, except he never once inhaled.  And that was back in the 90's, think of all the techniques you could pull off now with smoke in after effects.

Another idea I would have accepted, his toothpick obsession really is a substitution for cigarettes, and later on in the film when shit really hits the fan, he throws away the toothpicks and starts smoking up. What I'm trying to say is that it hurts the story and validity of the characters by having them look like they would smoke if they weren't so gosh-darned obsessed with staying healthy.

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