Friday, May 01, 2009

The Last Crusade

The Cigarette Smoking blog points out the mindless moralism of Watchman. Sure, permit the four minute gratuitous sex scene staged in a bizarre aircraft - just don't let the character smoke. Nevermind the effect that New York City going up in the smoke of nuclear annihilation might have upon viewers, just don't let those viewers see a good character smoke.

A more ridiculous case of this was on offer in Constantine. One would think a movie about a man who repeatedly travels to hell would be low on moral impact. But no, Constantine resounded with a message clear as crystal: Don't smoke. That smoking is bad for you was not a sub-plot to this movie - it was the plot. The opening scene: Constantine smokes. The final scene: Constantine has given up smoking. At one point the surgeon general's warning even filled up the entire screen for a full four seconds. The message: You can even end up in hell, your lungs burning in torture for all eternity, so long as you don't smoke there.

Sad it is to see the orphaned moral impulse of an entire culture desperately cling to something of comparative insignificance. For refreshing contrast, consider the famous story about the beginning of Opus Dei. José Maria Escriva (of canonizable personal holiness) told the first three ordained Opus Dei priests that in order not to stand out in 1944 Spain, one of them was going to have to start smoking. Father Portilla took up the challenge, and ended up succeeding Escriva.