- The anti-smoking group Truth Initiative released a report that says Netflix included depictions of tobacco use in its programs more than other streaming services and broadcast networks.
- “Stranger Things” in particular was its worst offender, with 100% of episodes including tobacco use.
- Netflix has now pledged to eliminate smoking in future projects rated TV-14 and below or PG-13 and under for movies, except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy.
- Shows with higher ratings will include tobacco use for reasons that are essential to the creative vision of the show.
Truth Initiative Report
Netflix says it will cut back on depictions of smoking in its show following a report that criticized the company for the amount of tobacco use shown in programs like “Stranger Things.”
Truth Initiative, a nonprofit anti-tobacco advocacy group, released a report on July 2 that analyzed what it called a “surge” of tobacco imagery in TV and streaming programs. The organization calculated the use of tobacco shown across 13 shows on cable and streaming services, finding that for the second year in a row, Netflix had shown the most tobacco use on screen.
The report said Netflix “topped the list with nearly triple the number of tobacco instances (866) compared with the prior year (299).”
“For both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, episodic programming on Netflix had a greater total number of tobacco depictions than programs aired on broadcast or cable TV, with Stranger Things continuing to show the most tobacco overall,” the report continued.
According to the data, tobacco depictions in “Stranger Things” jumped from 182 instances in season one to 262 in season two. The report went on to say, “Researchers found that 100 percent of Stranger Things episodes coded included tobacco.”
The report dropped ahead of the release of the third season of the series, which also features plenty of on-screen smoking. This is particularly true for David Harbour’s character Jim Hopper and Winona Ryder’s character Joyce Byers. However, none of the main teen characters are shown smoking.
The report argues that the increase in tobacco imagery across shows should be concerning. Truth Initiative says the U.S. surgeon general found that those with higher levels of exposure to tobacco use in movies are twice as likely to smoke compared with those with less exposure.
It goes on to say, “Further, analysis of peer-reviewed studies estimates that exposure to tobacco use in movies is responsible for 37% of smoking initiation among young smokers.”
While the majority of the studies have been conducted on tobacco imagery in movies rather than TV programs, the organization says it is reasonable to assume that the impact is similarly harmful.
Netflix Vows to Cut Back
Netflix responded to the report by promising to scale back on depictions of tobacco use going forward.
“Netflix strongly supports artistic expression. We also recognize that smoking is harmful and when portrayed positively on screen can adversely influence young people,” a Netflix spokesperson said in a statement to Variety.
“Going forward, all new projects that we commission with ratings of TV-14 or below for series or PG-13 or below for films, will be smoking and e-cigarette free — except for reasons of historical or factual accuracy,” the company continued.
“For new projects with higher ratings, there’ll be no smoking or e-cigarettes unless it’s essential to the creative vision of the artist or because it’s character-defining (historically or culturally important).”
The company also said that later this year, it plans to start including smoking information in the rating box so that users “can make informed choices about what they watch.”
The debate over how smoking should be treated on screen has been a long-running dilemma for those in the entertainment industry, especially when tobacco use is historically relevant to the project or characters. In the case of “Stranger Things,” many have been understanding of the creative decision to include tobacco depictions, considering the fact that the show is set in the 1980s, when smoking among adults was more common.
Still, others like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Rodney Ho have pointed to films like “Hidden Figures,” which was set in the 1960s. Director Theodor Melfi told Empire Online in 2016, “In real life, when we looked at reference pictures, every single person in those rooms had a cigarette in their mouth. But I don’t want to to put smoking in a movie unless I absolutely have to. Also, it makes the movie R-rated right away. And this movie being rated R would be a disservice, because you really want teenage kids and pre-teens and kids to see it.”
This is not the first time the Truth Initiative has forced the entertainment industry to examine the ways it presents tobacco use on screen. In 2007, the Motion Picture Association of America added smoking as a factor in assigning film ratings, along with sex, violence, and swearing after facing pressure from the organization.
Justin Bieber Apologizes After Supporting Morgan Wallen’s Music
Bieber said he had no idea the country star had recently faced backlash for using a racial slur.
Justin Bieber Apologizes
Singer Justin Bieber apologized on Wednesday after sharing support for music from embattled country singer Morgan Wallen.
In February, Wallen was caught saying the n-word on a video circulated by TMZ. He was subsequently dropped from major country radio stations and suspended by his label. Still, he has managed to have a successful year so far, and his album — “Dangerous: The Double Album” — has spent months at the top of the carts.
Bieber posted on his Instagram story this week that he was listening to “Dangerous” and said he loved the album. He ended up deleting that post after fans called him out. Bieber later explained that he was unaware of Wallen’s recent controversy.
“I had no idea that the guy’s music I posted was recently found saying racist comments, as you know I don’t support or tolerate any sort of racism or deicrimination,” he wrote on his Instagram story. “I had no idea, I sincerely apologize to anyone I offended.”
Bieber Addresses Previous Controversies
The “Sorry” singer then addressed backlash he previously faced for a similar reason. Two videos surfaced in 2014 depicting Bieber using racial slurs when he was younger. In the first, he was 15-years-old and told a racist joke using the n-word. Bieber was 14-years-old in the second video, where he made a racist parody of his song “One Less Lonely Girl” that likewise included the n-word. He apologized for both at the time and brought them up again on Wednesday in hopes others could learn from his mistakes.
“When I was a kid, I was incredibly ignorant and said some very hurtful racist jokes that were clearly not funny,” he wrote. “I hurt a lot of people, especially the Black people in my life but was fortunate enough to have had them educate me on the horrifying origin of the N-word. This brings those painful memories back up, I will always take ownership for my ignorance and my past because I know I am not that person.“
He added that even though he has already apologized for these remarks, he believes it is important “to bring this up to hopefully educate people who may be ignorant to the topic of racism and how hurtful it is.”
He added that he has a lot left to learn but is thankful for the patience he has received, particularly from the Black community.
Read more: (Entertainment Weekly) (Complex) (The Hollywood Reporter)
Selena Gomez Slams “The Good Fight” for Kidney Transplant Joke
The singer said the reference to her transplant was “tasteless” and encouraged writers to call out these kinds of jokes so they don’t make it on air.
Selena Gomez Addresses Joke About Kidney Transplant
Singer and actress Selena Gomez slammed a recent episode of “The Good Fight” Tuesday after it made a joke about her 2017 kidney transplant.
In one scene of the Paramount+ show, a group of characters brainstorm jokes and then start discussing what subjects are out of bounds. They ultimately agree that necrophilia, autism, and “Selena Gomez’s Kidney transplant” are not to be mentioned.
This led to swift backlash online from people who thought the series was making light of Gomez’s health struggles. Many argued on Twitter that the singer’s battle with Lupus is no laughing matter, prompting Gomez to join the conversation herself.
“I am not sure how writing jokes about organ transplants for television shows has become a thing but sadly it has apparently,” she wrote. “I hope in the next writer’s room when one of these tasteless jokes are presented it’s called out immediately and doesn’t make it on air.”
Gomez also encouraged people to register as organ donors if they are able to do so.
A source close to the production of “The Good Fight,” however, told Variety that some of the anger is being taken out of context.
“If you watch the episode in full, the reference to Selena Gomez is part of a discussion the characters are having about topics that are not okay to make fun of and the idea of cancel culture and being canceled for telling a bad joke,” the source explained. “The reference is that Selena Gomez’s transplant is not something you can joke about.”
Previous Joke in “Saved by the Bell”
Still, some believe that by referencing Gomez’s kidney transplant as something you can’t joke about, the show was in turn making a joke about it.
This is not the first time a show has made headlines for making a quip about Gomez’s procedure. In 2020, a scene from Peacock’s “Saved by the Bell” reboot was removed because it included several characters talking about the situation. In the scene, characters were asking if several people, including Gomez’s ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber and singer Demi Lovato, were secretly Gomez’s organ donor. At one point “Does Selena Gomez even have a kidney?” is written on a school hallway.
Gomez’s friend Francia Raisa gave her the kidney in an act Gomez previously described as “the ultimate gift and sacrifice.” NBC ended up apologizing for the scene, claiming they had no “intention to make light of Selena’s health.” The network also donated to The Selena Gomez Fund for Lupus Research at the University of Southern California.
After the apology, Raisa slammed the joke in “Saved by the Bell” as offensive and dismissive to organ donors. She made no specific remarks about the joke in “The Good Fight” but retweeted Gomez’s posts on the matter.
See what others are saying: (Variety) (Entertainment Weekly) (People)
Disney Eviscerates Scarlett Johansson’s “Black Widow” Lawsuit as “Callous,” but Report Suggests Emma Stone and Emily Blunt May Follow Her Lead
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in an uncharacteristically blunt statement that was heavily criticized online.
Johansson/Disney Lawsuit Gets Bitter
Disney has described a recent lawsuit from “Black Widow” actress Scarlett Johansson as “sad and distressing in its callous disregard for the horrific and prolonged global effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” but Johansson may have just unleashed what is to become an even bigger legal challenge for the House of Mouse.
At the center of this dispute, Johansson alleges she lost $50 million because Disney opted for a dual streaming/theater release of “Black Widow,” which debuted in theaters and for $30 on Disney+ with Premier Access earlier this month.
According to Johansson’s suit, her contract with Disney — which was negotiated prior to any hint of a pandemic — stipulated that “Black Widow” would see an exclusive theater release. Notably, the actress also said her contractual bonuses were tied to the movie’s box office performance, which is an extremely common practice with films featuring A-list celebrities.
Of course, when the pandemic hit — like many other industries — movies were upended. Pandemic-related changes meant that despite having an initial release date of May 2020, Marvel fans wouldn’t get a chance to see “Black Widow” for over a year.
Still, Johansson said she tried to contact Disney to renegotiate her contract prior to the film’s ultimate release, but she claims the company was unresponsive.
On Thursday, she then filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, with her attorney arguing that “Disney has enjoyed the benefits of having one of Hollywood’s top actresses promote its wholly owned subscription service at no additional cost to Disney, and with the intended effect of taking money out of that actress’ own pocket.”
Later Thursday, Disney claimed that it has “fully complied” with Johansson’s contract and that the streamed release of the film “has significantly enhanced her ability to earn additional compensation on top of the $20M she has received to date.”
“There is no merit whatsoever to this filing,” the company said in its uncharacteristically blunt statement.
Are Emma Stone and Emily Blunt Next?
Speaking of blunt, it was reported Friday that both Emily Blunt and Emma Stone may also file lawsuits against Disney’s dual streaming release of their films.
In fact, according to an exclusive newsletter run by former Hollywood Reporter Editor Matt Belloni, Stone “is said to be weighing her options” over the dual release of “Cruella” in May. Meanwhile, he suggested Blunt could also take action or speak out following this weekend’s release of “Jungle Cruise.”
Belloni went on to describe Disney as “notoriously difficult to deal with” regarding such matters and claimed that many have simply been waiting for someone powerful enough to speak out.
Disney Criticized for Its Response
Much of the public perception of the situation has led to overwhelming support for Johansson’s camp. Online, a slew of people lambasted Disney’s response, with many calling it a deflection.