A Moral Journey

The movie, “Thank you for Smoking’ is a story of an un-likely hero. Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for big industry Tabaco who users the power of ‘spin’ to sell cigarettes to anyone and everyone. To quote Nick himself, “Every time I’m on a plane I try to convince the guy next to me to pick up smoking. I figure with how much he’ll be spending on tobacco soon I just paid for my flight.’ This is what makes Nicks journey interesting. It’s not a journey of adventure or action, but more of morals and ethics.

Nick’s journey begins when his ex-wife chooses to re-marry, which causes Nick to worry about his relationship with his 12 year old son. Nick sets course and takes his son with him on a month of business trips so that he can spend more time with his son. During this trip Nick tries to be a positive role model for their son, showing him around the big cities, and teaching his son the art of ‘spin.’ But Nick ends up showing his son the dark side of the Tabaco industry as well. Making Nick question his own plans with his son. This is where Nick meets his threshold; can Nick still be a positive role model for his son and still work for the Tabaco industry?

Nick becomes the target of an assassination. Kidnapped on the streets and forced to wear enough nicotine patches to poison him. Nick is left on the streets to die; hospitalized Nick soon wakes from a coma. But, the doctors say because of how much nicotine was introduced to his system if he smokes another cigarette he could die. This is much like a supernatural aid for our hero, or even a rebirth. Nick is forced to stop smoking by an outside force, which changes his perspectives. Nick begins questioning why it is the Tabaco industry he is fighting for.

Soon after the assassination attempt, private interviews with Nick are released to the public that destroys Nick’s credibility. Nick falls into depression until his son helps him recall the integrity in his job that everyone deserves a strong defense. Nick has come to his realization, that even if he’s not proud of what he’s done he’s taught his son that everyone deserves a fair fight. Nick returns to Capitol Hill to defend the Tabaco industry in a senate committee hearing for the FCC and makes a strong argument against the use of poison labels on cigarette packs. Nick, after finishing his last job for his employer, quits and leaves the Tabaco industry behind with the goal to defend people he doesn’t have to hate; to be a better role model for his son.

I believe that good cinema meets the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. Movies easily create universes in which humans belong with a distinct picture of society. In the example of “Thank you for Smoking’ the movie doesn’t have to try very hard to establish those functions; as they are largely based of our culture anyway. The mystery behind is movie is how the power of argument is used. The movies main premise is that if you argue well enough you can win any battle, which makes people beg the question; can the Tabaco industry be right? When by the end your left with more of psychological question of what makes an answer right or wrong? Good movies leave should leave the viewer thinking afterwards, and by using the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology it helps movies invoke those deeper questions we have about ourselves or about society.