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Smoke that cigarette

Country Musings by Robert Loy, September 2006

At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I think we should all be a lot more upset about the news that Turner Broadcasting in England is going through every single Tom and Jerry cartoon (as well as The Flintstones and Scooby Doo) and cutting out any scenes that appear to "condone, accept or glamorize cigarette smoking."

Why? Is it because toddlers in the U.K. are lighting up and having to deal with black lung as well as diaper rash?

No, but the Turner execs have decided that such conduct is inappropriate in shows geared for children.

(So, apparently dropping anvils on your playmates heads is all right. Eating them alive, that's no problem. And you can smack them square in the face with a cast iron frying pan. Tying a piece of lit dynamite to an appendage, that's okay too, as long as you don't light the fuse with a cigarette.)

But, I can hear you say, that's just cartoons - cartoons in England. Why should we care about that?

I'll tell you why. Because if you give the priggish, self-righteous killjoys of political correctness an inch, they'll take our entire culture. If you let them go back in time and bowdlerize our art (and don't tell me "Tom and Jerry" isn't art; those cartoons have stood the test of time, still popular after 50 years) they'll be after TV and movies next. No more Humphrey Bogart movies. No more Edward R. Murrow.

And then they'll come after music.

First they'll censor Kenny Rogers. From now on, The Gambler will "bum" not a cigarette, but a stick of gum (sugar-free, of course.) Then they'll go after Don Williams and tell him that he can start the day with black coffee (for now anyway) and missing his ex (in "Some Broken Hearts Never Mend"), but he'll have to deal with his loneliness without the help of nicotine. Presumably the Statler Brothers will still be allowed to watch Captain Kangaroo and play solitaire without a full deck, but they will no longer be allowed to smoke cigarettes while they count flowers on the wall.

God knows what they'll do with "King of the Road"? My goodness, that will never do. Roger Miller not only smokes, he smokes "old stogies" that he finds on the street. How unsanitary.

And some songs just cannot be "rehabilitated." Every copy of Patsy Cline's "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray" will just have to be destroyed. Likewise for Merle Travis' "Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette" and better go ahead and wipe out "Smoke Get in Your Eyes" even though it's not about cigarettes. We just can't take a choice with our impressionable youth.

Crazy, you say? You're absolutely right. And so is being afraid of a cartoon cat and mouse.

The views in this column are those of Robert Loy and do not necessarily reflect those of CST.

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