"Chicago" Wins Hackademy Award

The movie musical "Chicago" may be in line for the Best Picture award at this year's Oscars, but it gets a "Thumbs Down" Hackademy Award from the American Lung Association (ALA) for its numerous scenes involving cigarette or cigar smoking. Two of the main stars of the movie smoke regularly throughout the film. Catherine Zeta-Jones smokes even while dancing, even though very few women actually smoked during the period when the movie was set. "Thousands of girls are going to start smoking because of that movie," said physician and anti-tobacco activist Stanton Glantz citing the "That's going to go down as one of the classic pro-smoking movies in history. If they had eliminated every single bit of tobacco from that film it could have been just as good." Glantz believes that tobacco company "product placement" - where corporations pay producers to include their products in films - has helped fuel a cinematic tendency to depict smoking as glamorous.


First of all, yes, very few women smoked during that period. HOWEVER, flappers DID! Flapper women were the epitome of the counterculture female and if this person actually paid attention to the movie, the average woman/burgeoning feminist was represented by Mary Sunshine who wrote for a paper that encouraged young women to NOT drink, smoke, listen to jazz, etc. The main characters of Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart were also in the vaudeville/burlesque entertainment industry and they were most definitely counterculture. They were most likely modeled after women Bob Fosse met while he was a child as his mother was a burlesque performer.

Flappers wore clothes, spoke and danced unlike any of their mainstream counterparts. Flappers were not well-received by mainstream society because they did not just want to get married, stay at home and pop out baby after baby. They drank hard 'manly' liquors, smoked, cussed, cut their hair far shorter than a 'proper' woman did, wore flimsy clothes, danced 'unladylike', stayed out all night, and experimented sexually. Hell, that's not even accepted TODAY! Flappers were the backlash against the Victorian Era which ended not too long before they first appeared. Remember that era when women were as conservative and asexual as possible?

Add to that most of the scenes took place while they were in jail. A lot of people pick up bad habits in jail, among them are smoking and doing drugs. I doubt it was different back then.

Second, I doubt thousands of girls started smoking because of that movie. I doubt that many young girls went to see the movie considering the only recognizable person under 30 was Mya and Lindsay Lohan, Mischa Barton, Orlando Bloom or any other teen heartthrob was nowhere in sight. Considering the overall theme was that of women killing their ne'er-do-well boyfriends and husbands, are girls going to start doing that too because of the movie? That's just stupidity of the highest order.

Thanks to the ALA campaigns against smoking and those insipid Philip-Morris anti-smoking ads, most young people view smoking as 'totally uncool'. Most likely if any young girl (and by that I mean under 18) went to see Chicago she was probably more likely to start taking jazz classes that taught the Fosse technique than smoke or more likely she is already a dancer and went to see the movie since Chicago is one of the most popular musicals in the world.

Third, if they eliminated the smoking from the movie it would not be true to the original musical (remember, Hollywood didn't come up with this, Glantz!) OR to the characters shaped by their particular subculture of the 1920s. The female characters were counterculture and the main male character, Billy Flynn, smoked a cigar like many men did in that era.

Lastly, I do not remember Catherine Zeta-Jones smoking while she was dancing. In the opening number she held a cigarette and gave it to the male dancer behind her then later during the Cell Block Tango the character Velma put out her cigarette before dancing while telling the story of why she 'justifiably' killed her husband and sister.