There was actually some controversy over “Moneyball,” a pretty tame PG-13 flick about the book about Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. There is one swear word, no violence and no sex, but some people were tweaked that almost constantly throughout the movie, Brad Pitt is seen chewing tobacco.
As you know, a lot of us fought long and hard to get smoking scenes out of PG and PG-13 movies. Hollywood has long had a fascination with smoking that became corrupt, archaic and then for the past few years mystifying.
Smoking scenes have dropped dramatically in PG-13 movies over the last two years. The issue to me are movies that make smoking and the stars who smoke appear glamourous. You and I know that’s BS, but kids 8-13 years old don’t. They see people onscreen looking glamourous with a cigarette in their hands and studies have shown this is a factor for encouraging kids to start smoking.
I didn’t really have a problem with the chewing scenes in Moneyball for two reasons. One, Billy Beane in real life was a big chewer (I have no idea if he still chews today.). The book Moneyball talked about his constant chew. So, it was included for authenticity. Secondly, it was fucking GROSS in the movie.
At no point do you actually see the spit, but Brad Pitt carried a cup with him at all times through the movie and every five minutes, you saw him spit his chew into the Dixie cup. I actually heard people in the theatre say, “Ewwww,” whenever he did this. Jonah Hill, playing his assistant, actually flinched a couple of times when he did it. It certainly didn’t make chew look glamourous. It made it look disgusting. I mean, having to carry a Dixie cup with you at all times where ever you go? Nasty.
Overall, Billy Beane came off like a slob in the movie. He also had a big pile of sunflower seeds on his desk at one point (A really disgusting habit I once had personally), and was constantly eating Twinkies and doughnuts and always had food stains on his clothing. The chew was part of his slovenly character. Not the usual Brad Pitt glamour role.
Brad Pitt has been guilty of glamourizing smoking in some of his early movies, such as Thelma and Louise, but he claims now that he has quit smoking for his kids.
Interestingly, I found two articles that take two completely opposite tacks on the spitting in Moneyball. Bloomberg Businessweek thinks it could actually help chewing tobacco sales because Brad Pitt is a glamourous movie star . I don’t see it, frankly. Like I said, most of the people in the theatre seemed to find it disgusting.
Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, which I would expect to rail about the PG-13 rating, instead took a more reasonable angle. This pretty militant group points out that the movie highlights the problems of chewing tobacco in baseball, which is absolutely true. For some mystifying reason, chew is rampant in baseball. Billy Beane was a Major League player and kept up his gross habit as general manager of the A’s. Tobacco-Free Kids used the movie as an opportunity to advertise their “Knock Tobacco out of the Park” campaign, an effort to ban chewing tobacco at the Major League level (don’t laugh, it’s been banned in the minor leagues for several years now.).
Anyway, it was a very good movie, going to great lengths to humanize Billy Beane. I ended up understanding his reasons for turning down a glamour job with the Red Sox (stuff involving Beane’s daughter that was not in the book.).
My favourite part of the film was when the Red Sox offered him a huge contract and John Henry essentially told him right to his face, “we’re going to steal your ideas..,” which the Red Sox proceeded to go out and do, putting a huge emphasis on on-base percentage and OPS in the guys they brought onto their team while winning two World Series. The Yankees, Rays, Giants and plenty of other teams have likewise put the same theories into play, emphasizing OPS and on-base over batting average and steals. They have out-Moneyed Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s, who have been a pretty mediocre franchise the last 5 or 6 years.