Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: No Smoke

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  • Lucy Stewart,

    Sherlock Holmes is an interesting case, because, as you mention, the mere fact that Watson does disapprove strongly of his cocaine use in-story is highly unusual for the time - I would say, more unusual than disapproving of smoking would be today (as smoking is not considered medicinal by anyone - medical marijuana aside - but cocaine was in the late nineteenth century.) In the RDJ movie they replaced it with alcohol, which was not right at all, because it's a totally different drug taken for different reasons.

    Personally, I think it's taking censorship to a dangerous level to remove smoking from past situations - just like removing sexism, racism, and other nasty habits once more common than today (not that I think smoking is on the same level but you get my point.) It whitewashes the past, makes people forget things have changed. And that makes us forget things might need changing - or be able to be changed.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Josh Addison,

    all three Die Hard movies (yes, I said three)

    Damn straight - Die Hard 2 is a piece of crap.

    Onehunga, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 297 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    not considered medicinal by anyone

    Hard to believe I know but Dad was told to smoke by a doctor in the early 80s for a chest cold so it took some time for the message to take.

    I can't find the 30s song I was looking for but from 47 there been plenty of competing anti-smoking culture:

    And we'll never see this is the manner it was envisaged, through the smoke haze of the theatre:

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 570 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    See, I did not notice that cocaine had been replaced in the Guy Ritchie film at all - I just assumed it was implied that it is what he was on when he was holed up in his office experimenting on the dog.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    In 1985 there was some palaver over the smoking in Desperately Seeking Susan. Some outraged mother had decided it was a children's film (and evidently Madonna was a popular children's entertainer), and therefore children who saw the film or even looked at the poster would be lured into the world of smoking, which is not cool.

    Meanwhile, I - aged 10 - saw Desperately Seeking Susan and loved the crap out of it. I thought Madonna and Aidan Quinn were the two coolest people in the universe and I wanted to live that crazy-arse beat-up New York loft existence.

    However, it did not make me want to smoke at all.

    Influence on smoking came from real people - the cool kids at my school (but not the young bogans who were genuinely struggling with and troubled by their nicotine addiction).

    The trouble is that your friends who are cool smokers are so cool, and that's more dangerous than any film or TV show.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1869 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    Hard to believe I know but Dad was told to smoke by a doctor in the early 80s for a chest cold so it took some time for the message to take.

    In the 80s? Wow. Oddly, I was just discussing this on Twitter - last summer I had a persistent dry cough for nearly five months (okay, yes, not all of it summer) and the only thing that made it stop was smoking. But all in all, for anaesthetising the throat alcohol is probably better.

    And we'll never see this is the manner it was envisaged, through the smoke haze of the theatre:

    Favourite movie of all time, quite possibly. Dr Haywood ensured my undying devotion by giving me a copy of the book.

    In the RDJ movie they replaced it with alcohol, which was not right at all, because it's a totally different drug taken for different reasons.

    Indeed. It needs to be something, like nicotine, which sharpens your thinking rather than dulling it. Or at least feels like it.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    The RDJ Sherlock seemed highly adrenalized... danger as drug?

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 570 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    See, I did not notice that cocaine had been replaced in the Guy Ritchie film at all - I just assumed it was implied that it is what he was on when he was holed up in his office experimenting on the dog.

    No, they made quite an explicit choice to not include any references to or depiciton of cocaine use - largely, I understand, as a condition of RDJ taking the part, for obvious reasons.

    Hard to believe I know but Dad was told to smoke by a doctor in the early 80s for a chest cold so it took some time for the message to take.

    Oh, I know - I saw a great cigarette ad in a display at the Berkeley Historical Society with a doctor promoting the brand as the "most soothing". Cough.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    No, they made quite an explicit choice to not include any references to or depiciton of cocaine use - largely, I understand, as a condition of RDJ taking the part, for obvious reasons.

    I understand that, but there is also the implication that he was on something during those times, and I don't recall it being obviously alcohol. Does he even drink much in the film? He gets wine thrown in his face, that much I remember. And drinks some fine spiked wine. But other than that?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    RDJ was looking a little fagged and punch drunk in that movie...

    ...will there be tokin' resistance from the snuff movies?

    ...and there goes that Rita Angus self portrait, too...

    and puff the magic dragon, will get the big C

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 5092 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg,

    Here, researchers at the Otago School of Medicine are calling for...

    Always with the calling for something! How do you call for something anyway? Half the news on TV seems to be of someone or other calling for something. I think I'd like to call for a few things myself.

    Anyway, that internet! It's turning us all into smoking child-pr0nographers. I call for protection!

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 797 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Does he even drink much in the film? He gets wine thrown in his face, that much I remember. And drinks some fine spiked wine. But other than that?

    Hmmm - I was pretty sure I remembered some pointed references to alcohol, but maybe they were being deliberately vague? I do remember that fandom had a good bitch about the inappropriateness of alcohol as a substitute drug, so that was certainly the impression a lot of people were left with.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Not so much about smoking and movies--and changing social norms-- but this has prompted a memory of travelling through the Texas Panhandle in the early 1980s. We chanced upon a local museum in some tin-pot town (it may well have been Waco), presided over by a local wizened crone. Poking around the back of this two-room treasure-trove, I chanced on an original Wanted poster for Bonnie & Clyde and I asked the LWC whether she had any memories of the fugitive pair. Her reply (in a barely discernible Texan accent) floored me:

    LWC: " I remember 'em but nobody 'round here approved of 'em"

    Me: "Why was that?"

    LWC : "' 'cause they was living together and they wasn't married!"

    Never mind that they were robbing banks and murdering folk!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2327 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    Possibly the definitive philosophical rondelay on the subject: Cigarettes Are Sublime by Richard Klein (also author of the equally subversive and counterintuitive Eat Fat):

    Cigarettes ... are sublime by virtue of their power to propose what Kant would call a "negative pleasure": a darkly beautiful, inevitably painful pleasure that arises from some intimation of eternity; the taste of infinity in a cigarette resides precisely in the "bad" taste the smoker quickly learns to love. Being sublime, cigarettes, in principle, resist all arguments directed against them from the perspective of health and utility. Warning smokers and neophytes of the dangers entices them more powerfully to the edge of the abyss where, like travelers in a Swiss landscape, they can be thrilled by the subtle grandeur of the perspectives on mortality opened by the little terrors in every puff. Cigarettes are bad. That is why they are good -- not good, not beautiful, but sublime.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • David Ritchie,

    In the Guy Ritchie / RDJ version, Watsons admonishes him for experimenting with something used for "eye surgery" - which was one of the early medical uses of cocaine.

    How many times is Holmes' cocaine use referred to in the Conan Doyle books anyway? My impression is it's not many, and it tends to get blown out of proportion (something which Mark Gatiss referred to in an interview regarding "Sherlock" recently).

    Wellingtron • Since Nov 2006 • 163 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    How many times is Holmes' cocaine use referred to in the Conan Doyle books anyway?

    After having a very civil drinking disagreement with someone recently over Holmes's cocaine use, I came home and picked up my copy of Adventures, flipped it open, and the cocaine is mentioned on the first page (A Scandal in Bohemia):

    Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.

    That I think indicates that, however often the word is mentioned, the drug use is habitual.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4371 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    In the Guy Ritchie / RDJ version, Watsons admonishes him for experimenting with something used for "eye surgery" - which was one of the early medical uses of cocaine.

    Yes, I honestly thought watching it that it was entirely obvious, but I wonder how much I read into it by virtue of knowing about it - and also, it's RDJ for heaven's sake. Duh. I see it a bit like a return to the Hays code, things have to be said more obliquely but they get said anyway. You just have to learn to read the signs.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Jolisa,

    alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.

    Interesting, in that it suggests Holmes uses cocaine as a downer, rather than an upper.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Nov 2006 • 1427 posts Report Reply

  • Joanna,

    I watched the DVDs of This Life the other year, and I couldn't believe how much they were smoking! Inside! At work! Holy crap! It was unreal. And that's only 15 years old or so...

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 727 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    Interesting, in that it suggests Holmes uses cocaine as a downer, rather than an upper.

    Could imagine Sherlock Holmes using Adderall nowadays - killing off his flights of genius to make him happy in the mundane world.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    My own stint as a 'smoker' was during my only time of high-rise office work. It was an extremely convenient excuse to take frequent breaks that involved sunshine, fresh air, and generally idling hanging around, which didn't run the risk of being ambushed at the coffee machine by someone about some work. I didn't usually inhale, but if I didn't take and use a packet of cigarettes, I would have been frowned upon rather than tolerated. I probably got some kind of mild nicotine buzz from mouth absorption. I bought the cheapest nastiest ones I could get, and put them in a constantly recycled box for something classier. If I had to do such a silly thing now, I'd probably pack my own ones with some inert aromatic substance, but I didn't have a proper packing machine then.

    I'm not certain, but I tend to think I felt almost as refreshed as most of the smokers after those little breaks.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8659 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    There's quite a few prescribed psychoactives that could be similar to the Holmes portrayal. Maybe Ritalin?

    Interesting, in that it suggests Holmes uses cocaine as a downer, rather than an upper.

    Yes, that's kind of where I'm going with Ritalin. His brain is portrayed as bordering on hyperactive, although not with any clear attention deficit. But he is also fictional.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8659 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    No, they made quite an explicit choice to not include any references to or depiciton of cocaine use - largely, I understand, as a condition of RDJ taking the part, for obvious reasons.

    Which is rather odd, because Downey's biggest critical and commercial success has been playing a barely functional alcoholic.

    I watched the DVDs of This Life the other year, and I couldn't believe how much they were smoking! Inside! At work! Holy crap! It was unreal.

    If Bette Davis and Joan Crawford were working today, their costumes would have to be lined with nicotine patches or all hell would be unleashed. (I suspect that HBO's mini-series adaptation of Mildred Pierce is not going to have Kate Winslett knocking a Titanic-sized hole in America's tobacco reserves. Worse luck.) Just saying...

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12052 posts Report Reply

  • Jackie Clark,

    I know nothing of Holmes' use of cocaine - I just think it's absolutely ludicrous to retroactively remove cigarettes from old films etc. Madness.

    Mt Eden, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3123 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I believe that on stage passive smoking may have been responsible for the "Curse of Dads Army" by which most of the actors in the classic English sitcom are now dead.

    Or it may be that it was made a while ago, and was about old people.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4480 posts Report Reply

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