- 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.
Big Machine Records Denies Taylor Swift’s Claims of Blocking Music Use
- Taylor Swift claimed Thursday that her former label Big Machine Records and its executives, Scott Borchetta and Scooter Braun, are preventing her from performing her old songs at the upcoming American Music Awards.
- She also says they are blocking her from using the songs in her Netflix documentary.
- Big Machine denied those claims and said Swift owes them millions.
- Swift’s team hit back, citing an email from Big Machine denying music use and saying it is actually the label that owes her millions for unpaid royalties.
Swift’s Feud With Big Machine Escalates
Taylor Swift’s former record label is denying the bombshell accusations she made against them Thursday, saying they are preventing her from performing and using her own songs.
Swift posted a lengthy statement about the situation online where she claimed that her former label – Big Machine Records- was preventing her from performing a medley of her hits at the upcoming American Music Awards, where she is set to be honored with the Artist of the Decade Award.
According to Swift, the label argued that performing her songs on television would constitute re-recording her music before she is legally allowed to in November 2020.
The singer also added that Netflix has been creating a documentary about her life, but has not been granted permission to user her older music or performance footage for the project.
She said that Big Machine Lable Group’s CEO Scott Borchetta will only allow her to use the music if she agrees to two conditions: If she agrees to not re-record copycat versions of her old songs next year and if she agrees to stop talking about Borchetta and his business partner Scooter Braun.
“The message being sent to be is very clear,” Swift wrote. “Basically, be a good little girl and shut up. Or you’ll be punished.”
This is not the first time Swift spoke out against Big Machine Lable Group, which was founded by Borchetta and recently acquired by Braun. In June, the singer expressed frustration after learning that her former label had sold to Scooter for $300 million, which meant that he would own all of her master recordings “in perpetuity.”
She called the news her “worst nightmare” and claimed that Scooter had “incessantly bullied and manipulated” her for years.
After that news, Swift revealed that she plans to re-record her old music when she is legally allowed to do so.
Thursday’s accusations mark the latest escalation in the feud between her and Big Machine execs. At the end of her recent statement, she encouraged others who might be frustrated by the news to let Borchetta and Braun know how they feel.
She also asks people to reach out to artists that are signed with Braun’s management agency who might be able to “ talk some sense into the men who are exercising tyrannical control over someone who just wants to play the music she wrote.”
Support for Swift
As of Friday morning, none of Braun’s clients, which include superstars like Ariana Grande, Justin Bieber, and Demi Lovato, have commented on the situation.
However, dozens of other big-name celebs have shown Swift public support.
Swift’s longtime friend Selena Gomez released a lengthy statement saying felt “sick” over the situation. “You’ve robbed and crushed one of our best song writers of our time an opportunity to celebrate all of her music with fans and the world,” she added.
Singer Halsey also joined in with a message on her Instagram story saying, “This is punishment. This is hoping to silence her from speaking about things by dangling this over her head.” She then went on to post a video of her singing Taylor Swifts song “Mean.”
Other statements of support were posted by Stars like model Gigi Hadid, singers Lily Allen, Tinashe, Sara Bareilles, and others.
Fuck that. We’re with you— TINASHE (@Tinashe) November 14, 2019
Joseph Kahn, who directed Swift videos like “Bad Blood” and “Look What You Made Me Do” called Braun and Borchetta “assholes.”
He added, “How do they live with themselves?”
Meanwhile, music producer Joel Little, who produced several tracks for Swift including “ME!” and “You Need To Calm Down,“ said the situation was “unbelievable and completely messed up.”
Big Machine Records Responds
After a night of backlash, Big Machine issued a statement saying they were “shocked” to see her statement which was “based on false information.”
“At no point did we say Taylor could not perform on the AMAs or block her Netflix special. In fact, we do not have the right to keep her from performing live anywhere. Since Taylor’s decision to leave Big Machine last fall, we have continued to honor all of her requests to license her catalog to third parties as she promotes her current record in which we do not financially participate.”
“The truth is, Taylor has admitted to contractually owing millions of dollars and multiple assets to our company, which is responsible for 120 hardworking employees who helped build her career,” the statement claimed.
“We have worked diligently to have a conversation about these matters with Taylor and her team to productively move forward. We started to see progress over the past two weeks and were optimistic as recently as yesterday that this may get resolved. However, despite our persistent efforts to find a private and mutually satisfactory solution, Taylor made a unilateral decision last night to enlist her fanbase in a calculated manner that greatly affects the safety of our employees and their families.
The statement went on to say that Swift created a narrative that “does not exist.” The label also says Swift and her team have not accepted their invitations to speak and blame the “rumors” on a lack of communication.
Statements from Swifts Team
After the label’s response, a spokesperson for Swift issues a statement to Rolling Stone, citing an October 28th e-mail from the vice president of rights management and business affairs and Big Machine.
The letter reportedly said “BMLG will not agree to issue licenses for existing recordings or waivers of its re-recording restrictions in connection with” two projects. Those projects were the Netflix documentary and a recent performance tied to a sales event hosted by the Chinese e-commerce giant, Alibaba Group.
At the Alibaba event, Swift instead performed three songs from “Lover” after “it was clear that Big Machine Label Group felt any televised performance of catalog songs violated her agreement,” the rep said.
The rep added that Borchetta himself “flatly denied” the waiver request for both the AMAs and Netflix on Thursday, the same day Swift went public. “Please notice in Big Machine’s statement, they never actually deny either claim Taylor said last night in her post,” the spokesperson added.
Her team also called the claims that Swift owes million to them inaccurate. “Big Machine is trying to deflect and make this about money by saying she owes them but, an independent, professional auditor has determined that Big Machine owes Taylor $7.9 million dollars of unpaid royalties over several years.”
Eminem’s Team Addresses Leaked Lyrics About “Siding With Chris Brown” After Rihanna Assault
- Last week, a snippet of an unreleased Eminem track leaked online, featuring lyrics like: “Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too…”
- On Monday, the entire reference track surfaced, prompting Eminem’s team to issue a statement stressing that the lyrics were scrapped and rewritten and that Eminem and Rihanna have a great relationship.
- Many fans point out that these comments are not out of character for the rapper and are more upset with the recent music leaks instead.
Unreleased Version of “Things Get Worse” Leaks
A representative for rapper Eminem issued a statement this week addressing an old unreleased track that recently surfaced, featuring lyrics about Chris Brown’s 2009 assault of Rihanna.
Last week, a Reddit user posted a seven-second snippet of what seems to be an early version of what would later become B.o.B.’s 2011 track “Things Get Worse.”
On Monday, the full reference track containing the lyrics also leaked online, according to XXL.
“I’m not playing Rihanna, where’d you get the V.D. at?” Eminem raps in the song.
“Let me add my two cents/ Of course I side with Chris Brown, I’d beat a bitch down too if she gave my dick an itch now,” he adds.
According to XXL, the track was recorded during sessions for Eminem’s 2009 album Relapse, which released a few months after Chris Brown was charged with felony assault.
The lyrics were especially frustrating for some listeners who noted that Rihanna and Eminem have collaborated together on several occasions for songs like “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster” in 2010 and 2013.
Eminem’s Team Responds
After the leaks, Eminem’s spokesperson Dennis Dennehy issued a statement to XXL saying, “This is a leak of something that’s over 10 years old.”
“After Eminem recorded it, he scrapped it, and rewrote it. Obviously he and Rihanna have a great relationship.”
Fans Respond to Music Leaks
After seeing his team comment on the matter, some fans expressed their frustration with Eminem’s recent music leaks rather than the content itself.
Late last month, a different controversial song surfaced. That previous leak was of a Joyner Lucas song reportedly titled, “What If I Was Gay?,” which features Eminem rapping from the perspective of a homophobic man.
One user wrote, “I can’t believe they HAD to explain this. The thing is: stop supporting music piracy, stop buying leaks. Show some respect for your artist. Y’all know how hard Eminem works on his stuff… please, stop.”
Meanwhile, others pointed out that Eminem is knowns for pushing the boundaries with shocking or violent lyrics.
Who cares!!! This is what Eminem has always done… he talked mad shit about the gay community and he ends up performing with the great Elton John at the Grammys and at the end of his performance he flipped is all off… what’s new… it’s his Gimmick— Major1943 (@Major19431) November 11, 2019
This is no where near the most offensive thing he’s ever said face it you can’t cancel eminem it just ain’t possible— Azor ahai ⁶𓅓 (@Killmonger666) November 12, 2019
Chris Evans, Elijah Wood, and Others Speak Out Against James Dean CGI Casting
- A CGI version of James Dean has been cast as a secondary lead in the upcoming Vietnam War movie, Finding Jack.
- The directors and studio received permission from Dean’s family to use his image, however, many do not think it is okay to use an actor in a film posthumously.
- Stars like Chris Evans and Zelda Williams condemned the use of James Dean in this manner, seeing as there is no way to know if Dean would actually want to be in this movie. This started a widespread online discussion on the practice of using CGI to bring stars who have passed onto screens.
James Dean Cast in Film
Critics are speaking out against James Dean being cast in a movie—60 years after his death.
Directors Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh are partnering on the film Finding Jack, which is based on a novel of the same name. It will follow a man who is forced to abandon an injured dog he met while serving in Vietnam. The film is being produced by Magic City Films and Dean is set to play the secondary lead in the story.
Dean suffered an untimely death in 1955 after a car accident in northern California at the age of 24. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “Dean’s performance will be constructed via “full body” CGI using actual footage and photos. Another actor will voice him.”
Dean’s family gave the studio permission to use his image for the film.
“We feel very honored that his family supports us and will take every precaution to ensure that his legacy as one of the most epic film stars to date is kept firmly intact,” Ernst said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. “The family views this as his fourth movie, a movie he never got to make. We do not intend to let his fans down.”
Ernst also said that they did look at other casting options, but ultimately landed on Dean.
“We searched high and low for the perfect character to portray the role of Rogan, which has some extreme complex character arcs, and after months of research, we decided on James Dean,” he added.
Actors and Others Upset by the News
The concept of casting someone in a film posthumously did not sit well with many in the industry. Zelda Williams, daughter of the late Robin Williams, said it sets an “awful precedent for the future of performance.” In fact, Robin Williams’ family restricted the use of his image for at least 25 years after his death in 2014.
Big-name actors also joined the conversation. Avengers star Chris Evans called the decision “awful.”
Lord of the Rings actor Elijah Wood said, “this shouldn’t be a thing.”
Julie Ann Emery, who has starred in projects like Preacher and Better Call Saul added that it may not give proper credit to the living actor providing Dean’s voice.
“How do Dean’s descendants know that he would WANT to be in a Vietnam movie?” she later asked.
Actors were not the only ones upset about this. An article from Vice pleaded “please don’t do this.”
“For the love of all that is holy, just let his legacy be,” it continued.
Esquire came up with its own suggestions for working actors that would have made a better choice instead of Dean. Their picks ranged from Timothée Chalamet to Harry Styles, to Cardi B and Post Malone, all to say that any living person would be better than a CGI version.
On the other hand, however, some were not as critical of the choice. While their voices were fewer and farther between, some thought that since his family gave it the okay, it should be allowed.
Future and Past Instances
According to The Hollywood Reporter’s piece, Ernst might have future plans to use this kind of technology. Magic City will be working with a Canadian group called Imagine Engine and a South African group MOI Worldwide to produce the CGI, and their list extends past James Dean.
“Our partners in South Africa are very excited about this, as this technology would also be employed down the line to re-create historical icons such as Nelson Mandela to tell stories of cultural heritage significance,” he said.
This is also not the first time a late actor has been used on the screen in this way. In 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Peter Cushing, who died two decades before the film’s release, made an appearance as Grand Moff Tarkin via CGI. He originally played the character in Star Wars: A New Hope. When Rogue One hit theaters, his presence caused its own controversy, with some also thinking it was wrong to do this.