The upcoming film “Chappaquiddick” has been rated PG-13 for, among other reasons, “historical smoking.” Nothing about sex or death was specifically mentioned in the rating, despite the arguably unsuitability of these themes for children.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) rated the film, set to release in American theaters on April 6, 2018, PG-13 “for thematic material, disturbing images, some strong language, and historical smoking.”
The film focuses on the July 18, 1969, Chappaquiddick incident, in which married U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was driving a single 28-year-old girl away from an intimate party but then crashed the vehicle in a tidal channel. Kennedy swam free, but the girl, Mary Jo Kopechne, was unable to escape and drowned.
Kennedy eventually abandoned his presidential ambitions as a result of the scandal.
The scandal involves themes of violence, sex, and political intrigue, but none of these were specifically mentioned in the rating in the way that smoking was. This suggests the MPAA is more concerned about protecting children from images of smoking — even when based in historic American culture — than from discussions of sex, death, and political scandal.
Smoking is an unhealthy practice, but the cultural stigma against it has arguably gone overboard. Television remains bombarded with ads against smoking, and schools emphasize the evils of smoking to the exclusion of other vices and pitfalls.
Two trailers for the film have been released, and smoking features in about a second of one of them. Watch the first trailer below.