Tuesday, November 08, 2005

trying too hard

if you live in the seattle area, you've probably seen these posters on the sides of buses. the image is startling and immediately gets your attention... until you turn your head, disgusted and confused. at least that was my experience when i first saw the billboard of a sort-of-cute, sort-of-creepy, wide-eyed little doll eating a dead rat with blood all over her face. the tag-line? "kissing a smoker is just as gross." what?!

i guess i'm just not making the connection between the two categories. but, having never kissed someone that eats rotting animals, i'll just take their word for it. for more grossness, go here (not recommended).


Anonymous said...

For some reason that was really funny to me. Am I any less likely to smoke? No, not really. But I even chose multiple doll heads so that I could see if they reacted differently to eating the disgusting things. I found myself wishing I could get them to smoke a cigarette though, that would have been truly disgusting!!! Ha.


bryan said...


Jaime said...

hey, i like fish head soup, my mom makes a good one, and of course i eat worms and grasshoppers, too.
hmmmm, maybe that´s the reason i´ve never been kissed...

elnellis said...

jaime, i love you man. thanks for keeping it real.

Becky said...

as a youth minister, i don't want to encourage youth smoking, but i was just hurt by the images as i have seen them around town and in commercials. the dolls look like children...so we'll say they are youth since the point is all about kissing.

so, here's a kid who started smoking maybe out of a desire to fit and to be desired. they attach their identity to a group that smokes - they attach smoking to their identity.

how do we help them to stop smoking and begin to make good decisions? tell them that they are disgusting and utterly undesireable.

it's just heart-breaking. i want to weep for the youth i know that smoke and that are now, cynically making fun of the commercials on the surface, but probably internalizing that they are unacceptably and in mythic proportions disgusting.

chuck said...

regardless of the propaganda, the style of art is brilliant. i'd love see this put to a feature length production involving a young woodsman and an alien.

elnellis said...

well said becky! thanks for that.

and chuck, i do agree, let's not throw the carcass-eating-babies out with the bath-water.

joy said...

hey all,

i guess i have a different take on these posters from being in medicine (for those of you who don't know me, i'm finishing up med school). smoking is nasty. it causes cancer, not just lung but bladder. it decreases your lung funx. it increases your risk of a stroke and heart attack.

but what makes it the worst is that parents smoke. it doesn't matter if they smoke outside. if they smoke, it's like their children are smoking. that makes me mad as a future pediatrician concerned for children's wellfare.

the problem is that many people don't realize how nasty smoking is for you and your loved ones. maybe these posters are the only way some people will realize this. maybe it will educate.

the thing i would change is that i'd show the same poster but say "if you smoke and have children, it's as nasty as feeding your children rats."

is this too strong? i don't think so. parents need to know how their actions will affect their children. some will change. some won't. at least it starts a conversation. you can't change what you don't talk about.


Lian said...

I'm so excited that somewhere in the U.S. there is anti-smoking propoganda! Yeah! Maybe it will help. I hope it will. I hope that smoking ceases to become an enjoyed pastime, and instead becomes viewed as the nasty, suicidal activity that it is!

elnellis said...

my wife saw a lot of anger and violence in the adds and we were both wondering where the producers of the adds are coming from, or whoever hatched the idea. what is it in their story that results in something like this?
additionally, i have yet to see any anti-smoking propaganda that is intelligent and thought provoking. so far it has been "butts are gross" "it looks just as stupid when you do it" (showing pictures of animals smoking) and now "kissing a smoker is just as gross." the strategy here is one of inclusion/regection. like becky said above, the young kid that smokes does so to establish an identity and be included by a group he/she admires. so what do the anti-smoking people do? develop adds that state clearly that the kid will be rejected (for grossness or stupidity) if they continue to smoke- we have authority figures telling kids it's not cool to smoke. what do adults know about "coolness" in the first place?
i guess i see adds the same way i see evangelical tracts and tv evangelists... they don't work. the only way some kid is going to give up the smokes is through relationship anyhow. relationship with someone who cares about them and communicates that they are loved and desirable regardless of what they do, but one who continually calls them to be more fully alive.

elnellis said...

joy and erika - i agree and understand how you 2 feel about cigaretts and what they can do to a person. it makes me terribly sad and frustrated to see our neighbors blowing smoke over their childrens heads every day but i think it's also sad that just because smoking is killing so many people the people who do it get labeled. and we who don't look at them and think "they" are disgusting. how would it be if every harmful thing a person does was plastered around with such degrading images. is it a little like the church - focusing on the select sins that are visibly "killing" and painting the people who do them as hell bound but don't do the same to "lesser evils" that may be just as detrimental. dying of lung or mouth or bladder cancer is a terrible fate but isn't there a person with possibly deeper problems behind the smoke rings? and how must it feel to battle every day to stop and every day be reminded what a disgusting habit you are engaging in?
okay maybe just rambling but...

Becky said...

what would it look like if every harmful thing was treated with the same level of response?

what would it look like if that response affirmed dignity and sought to restore personhood - the image of God?

certianly it would not look like these.

if i were a smoker, i hope i'd take lung cancer over losing more of the image of God and of my recognition of that image in me.

joy said...


i really appreciated your comment on smoking. it is a complex issue and one that definitely labels people. and i do agree that other issues affecting society are often overlooked while smoking is now being targeted as bad. but i don't think this means that smoking shouldn't be tartgeted. afterall, there is tremendous support for people to stop smoking (emotional support, environment change and medication) and that the only way for them to receive this help is to consider stopping. maybe the ads can help with that? maybe there is a better way? i do think there needs to be a societal push to encourage people to quit. quitting smoking is a lifestyle change and takes lots of support: socially, emotionally and physically. i look at the ads as not necessarily labeling people but simply making them aware of how nasty smoking is because as a smoker you get used to the cough and the smell. it is normal.
i'm not about youth feeling bad about themselves but i doubt if the ads really make them feel bad about themselves. if they think smoking is cool, i kinda doubt an ad will change that. i guess my feeling is that it may affect parents and adults but maybe that's just my bias.

the idea of intellectual ads is interesting. . . but most people know the reasons not to smoke. it's also hard to stop something knowing that it will affect you in ...40 years! i think there is something to a visceral reactions and funny looking ads. they make you stop and think. they create a discussion like we are having.

i do think there is really something to creating a relationship with youth and thereby putting them in a better environment. relationships are better anyday than ads. ads... at least now there are not ads targeting youth to smoke. that is an important change even if the anti-smoking ads are pointless. though i think they have their place.

in reference to the church, i do believe that though some sins are focused on more than others that doesn't mean that the sins that tend to be focused on should be dismissed. i look at smoking not as a sin but as a way of living that we now know is harmful. i'm all about helping people change.

but there are those who don't. i have a former doc in the hospital with heart probs and bladder cancer. he's a chain smoker with a 200 pack year history (4packs a day for 50 years). i'd like to help prevent something like this happening, but even knowing the risk he still smokes. I don't know...

anyway I've rambled long enough.


Becky said...

here's the commercial for parents (aparently it used to be on tv in saint paul):

a boy is walking behind his dad.
his dad says hi to someone - the boy says hi
the dad starts whistling - the boy starts whistling
that dad kicks a rock - the boy kicks a rock
the dad sits down on a curb - the boy sits down on a curb
the dad starts smoking
pan to the boy
end of commercial.

i think that's more what you're looking for joy.

as a youth minister of 8 years and as someone with an undergrad and graduate degree in youth, let me say with utter confidence that these do affect youth. youth laugh at them on the surface - but please never be fooled by that! today's youth are so assaulted there is nothing left but the flimsy armour of sarcasm and shallow pretense - but below that, they are bleeding!

i've been thinking about this alot and i can honestly say that if these commercials are the mode for youth to stop smoking, the best thing for their health is to continue to smoke. and i don't think these ads are aimed at parents.

i'll put it this way - if a doll looking like that little girl was on a cigarette ad, would you campaign against that company because they are targetting children and youth?

as hard as smoking is to change - as much as it is a life style change, regaining the confidence and ability to see beauty in yourself is already an impossible, life-long journey.

the former is a life style change.
the latter is a life change.

what might happen if the funds put into this ad campaign were allocated to help in all those ways you listed: socially, emotionally, physically?

what would it look like if, instead of walking away, the boy she's about to kiss said, "you are too beautiful for that. let me walk with you as you seek to change your life."

additionally, i'd say that smoking is a way of living that is harmful, but i would define sin as dysfunction and all dysfunction as a way of living that is harmful - including putting up a sarcastic armour to hide a bleeding heart - and including creating an ad that tells suffering people that they are gross rather than allowing your heart to be affected by them and incarnationally meeting them as you walk through this change with them.

i don't know you joy, but it seems that this is where your heart is and i love that! that is striking! i'm so glad that you are happy to see something done. i just think that your precious heart could go so much further by looking beyond the glass eyes of this doll and into the hearts of all of those who will identify with her. does that make sense?

sorry phil, i guess i just ranted on your blog...but how we approach these kinds of issues - how we see them - or how we see and care for the people they represent - is what will change the world some day.

elnellis said...

i've been enjoying the conversation, thanks everyone.

joy said...

hey all,
time got away from me and i meant to write ages ago. sorry. thanks so much for the responses. i've appreciated this conversation. i do like the idea for the commerical with the the parent and child. my one concern with it is that it doesn't address the effects of a pregnant woman smoking and parents with younger children.
i hope you all are doing well. i'm sorry to hear about this loss of your dear friend Todd. my thoughts are with you.

roger hollands said...

hello Phil,

This is Ruthie's friend Sara's Husband from Calgary.

How's it going?

It seems to me that the anti-smoking campaign is being treated as a financial concern. I wonder, who is funding the anti-smoking campaign? Is it the government?
And if so, to what extent are they involved? Do you guys have health care?

IF so, then one could argue that the government is just trying to reduce their costs by the most efficient/ruthless, way possible.

Otherwise, if these ads are being funded/supported by an institution that can afford the luxury of compassion, then perhaps the message of these ads should be re-assessed.

Because really, it matters who is running the campaign. Are we to ask our governmets to be compassionate? I think that the real issue seeks to understand the relationship that exists between people and the machines of governance that they create to define and protect them. What ever we create will have flaws, such as this ad campaign.

The machine is wearing out. and it is wearing us out. but love never fails. And as the machine wars towards a state of decreased liability and increased corruption, and while the people who created it become engendered to its definitions, we become redfined.

We define our existence in the terms created by the machine? The only way to change this is to understand when the machine is speaking.

But yeagh, the burden will always rest on the strong to love and protect the weak.