- 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.
Recording Academy CEO Defends Nominations After Controversial Nods to Marilyn Manson and Louis C.K.
CEO Harvey Mason Jr. said the Academy is not “in the business of restricting people” from getting nominated.
Recording Academy CEO Defends Nominations
Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. defended Tuesday’s Grammy nominations after artists like Marilyn Manson and Louis C.K. received nods for their work.
Manson was nominated for his appearance on Kanye West’s album “Donda,” which landed in the Album of The Year category. Earlier this year, Manson was accused of sexual assault, rape, and psychological abuse by multiple victims.
C.K., who previously admitted to sexual misconduct, was nominated for Best Comedy Album.
While speaking to The Wrap, Mason argued that the Recording Academy should not consider an artist’s personal life in its nomination process.
“We won’t restrict the people who can submit their material for consideration,” he told the outlet when specifically asked about Manson’s nomination. “We won’t look back at people’s history, we won’t look at their criminal record, we won’t look at anything other than the legality within our rules of, is this recording for this work eligible based on date and other criteria. If it is, they can submit for consideration.”
Even though Mason believes artists with serious accusations levied against them should not be excluded from nominations, he did say the Academy will consider those factors when it comes to performances and other on-camera appearances.
“What we will control is our stages, our shows, our events, our red carpets,” he explained. “We’ll take a look at anyone who is asking to be a part of that, asking to be in attendance, and we’ll make our decisions at that point. But we’re not going to be in the business of restricting people from submitting their work for our voters to decide on.”
Other Controversial Nods
Manson and C.K. were not the only controversial figures who received nominations. Comedian Dave Chappelle was nominated in Best Spoken Word Album for his special “8:46.” Last month, he faced severe backlash for transphobic comments he made in a separate special titled “The Closer.” Chappelle was slammed by several major LGBTQ+ organizations over the special but has defended himself against criticisms.
Rapper DaBaby was also condemned by LGBTQ+ groups this summer after he made homophobic remarks during her performance at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami. He received Grammy recognition for his work on “Donda” and Justin Bieber’s “Justice.”
The Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles on Jan. 31, 2022.
See what others are saying: (The Wrap) (Pitchfork) (Rolling Stone)
Kevin Spacey Ordered To Pay “House of Cards” Studio $31 Million for Losses After Sexual Misconduct Claims
The studio argued that Spacey cost it millions after multiple sexual harassment and abuse claims against the actor forced it to suspend production, fire him, and shorten the show’s final season.
Arbitration Between MRC and Spacey Becomes Public
Actor Kevin Spacey and his production companies have been ordered to pay nearly $31 million dollars for breach of contract to MRC, the studio behind the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
The ruling was actually made by an arbitrator more than a year ago but was only made public Monday when MRC’s lawyers petition a California court to confirm the award.
Spacey was a centerpiece of the hit series and also served as one of its executive producers. However, during filming for its final season in 2017, an actor named Anthony Rapp accused Spacey of making a sexual advance towards him when Rapp was 14 in 1986.
Netflix suspected production in the wake of Rapp’s claims, but soon after, others came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Spacey, including several former and then-current crew members of “House of Cards.”
Netflix eventually fired Spacey, whose list of accusers grew to at least 15 people.
MRC Blames Spacey for Production Losses
In the secret arbitration last year, MRC argued that Spacey “repeatedly breached his contractual obligations.” It added that he and his companies are liable for his behavior, which allegedly caused the studio to lose millions given what it had already invested in developing, writing, and shooting the final season.
MRC also said the Emmy-winning series brought in less revenue when it finally aired because it had to be shortened from 13 to 8 episodes to write out Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood.
According to Variety, Spacey filed a counterclaim, alleging that he was owed money after he was dropped from the series and did not breach his contract. That claim was later rejected and the arbitrator ultimately agreed with MRC, issuing the massive reward, which includes compensatory damages and lawyers’ fees.
Spacey and his team have not commented on the news as of Tuesday, though the studio has since issued a statement saying, “The safety of our employees, sets and work environments is of paramount importance to MRC and why we set out to push for accountability.”
See what others are saying: (Variety) (CNN) (The New York Times)
Netflix Staffers Who Criticized Dave Chappelle Rescind Labor Complaint, One Resigns
Two employees previously accused Netflix of trying to stop staffers from speaking out against the company.
Employees Rescind Labor Complaint
Two former Netflix employees who were critical of Dave Chappelle’s latest comedy special have rescinded a labor complaint that they filed against the company, according to a statement released by their lawyer on Monday.
Terra Field and B. Pagels-Minor were outspoken about their issues with Chappelle’s special “The Closer,” which was widely accused of transphobia. Both protested the company’s decision to support Chappelle amid the controversy. They were also members of a resource group for transgender employees that staged a walkout in which staffers took to the streets of Los Angeles to call on Netflix to do more to support its LGBTQ+ employees.
Field and Pagels-Minor filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in October claiming that Netflix was punishing its staffers for speaking up about Chappelle and LGBTQ+ related issues at the company.
According to the Los Angeles Times, the two staffers accused Netflix of attempting “to quell [them] from speaking up about working conditions including, but not limited to, seeking to create a safe and affirming work environment for Netflix employees, speaking up about Netflix’s products and the impact of its product choices on the LGBTQ+ community, and providing support for employees whom Netflix has treated in an unlawful and disparate manner.”
On Monday, Netflix released a statement saying the complaint had been rescinded.
“We have resolved our differences in a way that acknowledges the erosion of trust on both sides and, we hope, enables everyone to move on,” the statement said.
A lawyer representing Field and Pagels-Minor confirmed that the complaint was voluntarily withdrawn.
Terra Field Resigns From Netflix
Both Pagels-Minor and Field were subject to some level of disciplinary action during the Chappelle controversy. Pagels-Minor was fired from Netflix for allegedly leaking internal information, though Pagels-Minor denies ever doing so. Field was suspended from the company after reportedly attending a meeting she was not invited to. That suspension was quickly lifted after it was revealed that a miscommunication led to the incident.
On Monday, Field released a statement announcing that she had resigned from Netflix.
“This isn’t how I thought things would end, but I am relieved to have closure,” Field wrote. “Shortly after B. was fired for something I did not and do not believe they did, I made a decision: sink or swim, I was going to walk side by side with B. as they had for so many of us while they led the Trans* ERG.”
In a tweet, she added that she was “not happy that this is how things turned out” but believed “this outcome is best for all parties involved.”
Why Did Dave Chappelle Spark Backlash?
Chappelle faced backlash for defending author J.K. Rowling, who was previously accused of being a TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminist) after releasing a series of statements many found to be transphobic.
“I’m team TERF,” Chappelle said during “The Closer.”
“I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact,” he added.
Chappelle made a series of other jokes aimed at the transgender community in the special, including one about Caitlyn Jenner and another comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.
The comedian has defended himself against criticisms. According to The Daily Beast, he also recently continued to make transphobic jokes at screenings of his new documentary. The outlet reported that while Chappelle aired the film in New York, he made jabs about pronouns and “said the f-slur.”