G.L.Piggy [at] gmail.com
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Rod Dreher on the depiction of smoking in Argo:
Watching Argo last night brought to mind the headaches I had all the time, growing up in a smoking household. Don’t get me wrong — many, many households were like this. Moms and dads smoked, and smoked inside. My parents, who still smoke, have been doing it outside of their own house for 20 years now, since their first grandchild was born. But it wasn’t like this in the ’70s and ’80s. So, so much better now.
The smoking in Argo was the one thing I actually thought was cool about the movie. Everyone smoked, and they smoked everywhere – including on the airplane. It’s funny flying nowadays seeing those backlit “No Smoking” symbols. They tell you that you’re not on a brand new plane, and they remind me of cars from the ’80s that have “55″ emboldened and outlined on the speedometer.
The death of C. Everett Koop is an occasion to discuss the transition from a smoke-friendly society to the one we have today. Koop was instrumental in rounding up the mounting research suggesting that smoking was bad for the fetus and basically pushing the idea into legislation which culminated in putting pregnancy warnings on cigarette packs in 1985. The funny thing about Koop is that he was hated by many on the Right for going against the Reagan administration and the smoke lobby and also hated by the left for being a strong opponent of abortion. I wish my co-workers had the same consistency.
At work, there’s quite a bit of hostility towards one of the new servers. The woman is a train wreck – several kids already that she doesn’t take care of and another one on the way. She also smokes, and this has really, really pissed off all of my female co-workers. Most of the guys, including me, don’t really care. I mean, I think it’s shitty, and I wouldn’t let the woman carrying my child do it, but I just don’t really care at all about this woman or her child. I also laugh at the many female co-workers of mine who are agitated about this woman’s smoking yet are either raising children without fathers or are loathe to judge other women for it. I can’t definitively say which one is worse out of the two though there is a lot of overlap on that Venn Diagram. Throw on top of this that most seem to be pro-choice. Pregnant Smoker Server Chick tests their consistency on the issue.
Anyway, it’s clear that attitudes towards smoking in general and smoking while pregnant have changed dramatically. Seinfeld had an episode where George and Elaine visit a pregnant psychic who was smoking while she was doing a reading of George. George didn’t seem to care about the smoking, but Elaine sat there for a while before finally saying something and then pissing off the psychic to the point that she left George hanging on a piece of bad news. The feeling I had from seeing that episode for the first time so long ago was that the topic was really only then becoming a cultural flashpoint like many health issues in the early 1990s. It all moved quickly from there.
It’s quite different from the episode of Breaking Bad where the pregnant Skyler White sparks up in her car and faces the judgmental grimace of a woman in the next car over. Seinfeld had a long scene in which Elaine kind of asks the woman if it was a good idea to be smoking; Breaking Bad had a snippet which didn’t require any dialogue to let us know the prevailing attitude of the late 2000s.
My general sense is that the 1960s were a decade of activism on macro issues; the 1970s had some activism going on, but it was largely a hibernation period after the previous decade; the 1980s involved a lot of behind-the-scenes policy action; and the 1990s were an era where SWPL/Bobo lifestyles were meeting with a bit of the activist spirit along with the academic research teaching people how best to live their lives. A lot of that pent up liberal energy bust out into popular culture in the early 1990s in the form of an enlightened hedonism.
French women who serve as model parents for the most SWPL of American mothers, still smoke pretty heavily during pregnancy. What seems to be the case here in the U.S. is that smoking in general has become a status/class issue, and this has compounded especially heavily on pregnant women. That would fit my co-worker who I dislike for reasons other than her smoking. Besides the aforementioned squadron of children (of whom she does not have custody), the father of her the child in her stomach was picked up and thrown in jail for something (this fact also tells us something about her). She’s also strongly suspected of having stolen from a co-worker. She has a tattoo of a flower on the top of her hand. Lumping it on the pregnant smoker is a way to safely judge the woman for all the other indicators of her lack of fitness to be a mother.
(I really wanted to title this post “Smoking in the Boys Womb”, but that didn’t make any sense.)