Growing up in the early 1980's, I watched a lot of Saturday Morning Television
when it was in its prime. It was a wonderful time to be a child in love
, and it was also the era in which I believe the children of my generation
would get the seed planted
in their brains that would later spawn the urge
though agreeably unhealthy
habit of smoking cigarettes
Where would this seed come from, and how, you may ask? To take poetic license, the easy answer would be "the dark side".
There was a popular Public Service Announcement I recall from my youth, one that was constantly being shown on television, one that everybody saw. The public service announcement featured two of the most widely recognizeable celebrities in american film history. One of them was holding a lit cigarette. The other caught him, and explained to him exactly how it was bad for him.
The two celebrities were the world famous droids, C-3PO and R2-D2, stars of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi, 3 of the top grossing films in the history of mankind.
These two icons of cinema appeared to send us a message that smoking can be hazardous to your health - a message everyone hears at some crossroad of their life - By having C-3PO explain it to a cigarette-clenching R2-D2. It has become evident, now, well over a decade since the original airing of the PSA, that it somehow failed to discourage people of my generation from smoking. The question I ask (and will indeed answer is) - How can that be?
The idea was fool proof. Take two iconic figures and have them send the message. In the early to mid-1980's, there was nobody bigger amongst children than C-3PO and R2-D2. These were two characters who audiences young and old revered and would listen to discuss any matter at great length. How could a nation of fans somehow disregard the importance of a message directed at them from these two symbols of goodness and purity?
I'll tell you how. Nobody thought the damn thing through, and they gave the cigarette to the cool robot.
What the hell were you thinking? Everybody knows C-3PO is a square! Through the course of these 3 Star Wars films - Which all the world had seen - The Robot C-3PO is constantly depicted as a worrying, uptight individual with a debatable sexual preference, whereas his counterpart R2-D2, though unintelligable, comes across as heroic, inspired, witty and clever. Somehow, no matter what mess the two droids encounter, it's R2-D2 who can get them out. C-3PO has no tact or sense when it comes to dealing with real problems. He never wants adventure or excitement, he wants to do his work. In every single Star Wars film to date, C-3PO has been either a) the guy who doesn't get let in on the joke or b) the butt of the joke all together. Nobody respects C-3PO! If he tells R2-D2 not to smoke, the kids of America can safely assume R2-D2 knows what he's doing.
Here's an idea fellas: Give the robot everybody likes a cigarette, and give the robot everybody laughs off the speech about how they're bad for you.
If you ask me, they should have given C-3PO the cigarette. Think about it. Kids wouldn't even know what to make of it! They're initial confusion over why in God's good graces tight-ass C-3PO would want a cigarette at all is probably enough to halt the idea of smoking in their doe-eyed little heads immediately. Nobody would think C-3PO doing anything was worth emulating. If they had designed the PSA as such, it could have been the most successful tool in the battle against cigarette use ever.
I suppose it only goes to show that in the battle of big tobacco, it helps to have a keen sense of american pop culture.