In addition to the financial settlement, the tobacco industry is volunteering to help set the tone and content of the anti-smoking curriculum in our schools. They are offering their expertise in reaching youngsters on the verge of fateful, risky decisions—this time with a life-affirming rather than life-threatening message.
Should we hire them?
This would represent a sea change in corporate citizenship, from opposition and denial to active cooperation, but theirs will be a daunting task given the enormous power of peer pressure. Recent school shootings have resulted from grinding peer pressure applied to the armed, unstable and not traditionally masculine. The need to find oneself; to push limits and test the world can yield a situation where teens find it better to feel pain than to feel nothing; a perverse escalation of which has girls cutting themselves and boys cutting each other. Anything, to feel alive.
And the pressure is not always from other teens.
A case in point is the first edition of a glossy, mainstream action magazine aimed at young men called “Real Edge: Your Guide to the Unexpected.”
The editor tells us that Real Edge is written by “writers who understand you and the things that not only impact your life, but shape your perceptions … We’re here to feed your need for new, fresh and exciting things”
“Real Edge is not a magazine for posers,” growls the Editor. “In the words of John Belushi, ‘Take no prisoners!’”
Real Edge tells our boys everything they need to know about hierarchy and gender relations—the natural order of things. We learn, for example, that a $145,000 Ferrari “attracts the opposite sex like a mile high wallet. When all is said and done, the reason men love cars is that…they announce our societal standing in the most primitive, Jane Goodall, we’re-all-apes-trying-to-prove-our-genetic-fitness-way.” And if an engorged wallet does not suffice, there is always violence. Take a supermodel’s reaction to a bar fight: “There was blood everywhere and drinks flying. It was terrible, but it turned me on. I was like, “Oh, honey, let’s go home and have sex right now.”
But the real message of Real Edge is that real men take real risks.
So, unlike speedy computers and the geeks who thrill from faster spell checkers, “…cars are fast in a scary, thrilling, white knuckle, manly way. After all, no one winds up in extreme physical therapy after his computer crashes.” And Robbie Knievel emerges from the emasculating shadow of his overbearing father when he tells us that, “Even if this meant risking my life for bullshit, penny ante paydays, the only thing that was more depressing was the thought of taking a straight job.” And James Dean “will forever be the teenager struggling to make sense of his world on his own terms despite some overbearing authority figures.”
“We think we know where you live,” purrs the Editor. “We’re not here to tell you what to do. Certainly you have enough sources for that in your life. You can make your own choices from here.”
And you know what you can tell those “sources” to do. I mean James Dean died for our sins, if our sins were boring. Robbie Knievel would risk his life in order to risk his life. Get off my back, dad, I’ve got choices to make.
And then comes the onslaught of hip cigarette ads with the warning that if you stop smoking you reduce your chance of getting sick.
Look out kid, you might not get hit.
And then we learn that, “this free issue of Real Edge comes to you compliments of our friends at Brown and Williamson Tobacco.”
Should we hire the tobacco industry?
If a manipulative adult made his living selling videos of children smashing their heads on concrete, would you hire him to photograph your child’s birthday?