The Weird, Failed Campaign To Get 'Rango' An R Rating
A mere 10 years ago, a non-Disney animated movie hit our screens and made such a big impression that, naturally, some people had to yell and scream about it. Rango was and remains a stellar feat of animation excellence. Its homage to the art of storytelling and its satirical take on old Western movies delighted some, while its near-photorealism both wowed and also scared the bejeezus out of most of us.
While some felt that Rattlesnake Jake up there was too scary for their kids to watch, one could argue that, well, yes, you should be scared of rattlesnakes, kids. Besides, will an animation ever become a classic if it didn’t scare us shitless as kids in some way or another? People who grew up with classics like Sleeping Beauty and The Secret of NIMH will surely back us up here.
Anyway, we digress (a little) because that wasn’t even the big hoo-ha parents made about this film. No, what really got to some people was the fact that many of the (bad) desert creatures in Rango were smoking on screen.
“A lot of kids are going to start smoking because of this movie.” These were the words of Stanton Glantz, director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the UCSF, following anti-smoking campaigners’ outrage over some evil lizards puffing away on screen. Never mind the fact that the main character didn’t smoke (seriously, only the bad guys were sporting rollies). Never mind the fact that this was the Old West. The public purveyors of media sanitization were solely focused on counting and then being very mad about how many times the antagonists lit one up on screen because kids won’t naturally follow their curiosities into bad habits that their parents may or may not have discussed with them. No, they will emulate bad desert folk from animation because “the lizards made me do it.”
And we’re not exaggerating here, as you can probably tell from Glantz’s quote up there anyway. A pro-Clean Air non-profit named Breathe California ran a project called “Thumbs Up! Thumbs Down,” where young people and adults were basically trained to watch out for and then count every smoking instance in a movie because it’s impossible for some people to simply enjoy art. Now, of course, we’re not promoting smoking here, folks. But demanding that a film like Rango should be R-rated because a bunch of gunslinging animals are chomping down on tobacco “and so will our children” is just pretty ridiculous. That’s like claiming kids who watched 101 Dalmatians all became chain smokers, just like Cruella De Vil.
There were also the many Christian articles written about how the “Spirit of the West” and the overall narrative of man having impetus in his own story was both anti-God and anti-Christian, proving that satire and also taking responsibility for one’s own actions will forever be lost on some.
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Top Image: Paramount Pictures