There was something about the recent Herman Cain “smoking” ad that seemed familiar to me, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me, it reminds me of the Edgar Friendly speech from the movie Demolition Man.
For those not familiar with the film, it is a Sylvester Stallone move set in the not too distant future where the nanny-state has come to full fruition. Use of crude language is fined, food is restricted to “healthy choices,” music is limited meaningless ditty’s, and even kissing is prohibited as a safety hazard because it transfers bodily fluids. Citizens lead safe, happy, government-directed, meaningless lives.
Society is managed by someone named Cocteau, who rose as a benevolent savior after a major war. Behind the scenes, you come to understand that Cocteau’s benevolence has less to do with the good of society and more to do with maintaining personal control over the population. He’s perfectly happy creating a utopian society, as long as that utopia reflects his vision of what utopia should be.
The rebels in the film are a group of people whose only crime is wanting to live life according to their own vision. Cocteau considers them such a threat, that not only has he driven them underground, but he goes to extraordinary lengths to eliminate them–permanently–by killing the rebels.
Which brings us to the Edgar Friendly speech, where late in the film he explains exactly why he doesn’t want to be part of the Cocteau’s utopian society:
You see, according to Cocteau plan, I’m the enemy, ’cause I like to think; I like to read. I’m into freedom of speech and freedom of choice. I’m the kind of guy who likes to sit in a greasy spoon and wonder, “Gee, should I have the T-bone steak or the jumbo rack of barbecued ribs with the side order of gravy fries?” I WANT high cholesterol. I wanna eat bacon and butter and BUCKETS of cheese, okay? I want to smoke a Cuban cigar the size of Cincinnati in the non-smoking section. I want to run through the streets naked with green Jell-o all over my body reading Playboy magazine. Why? Because I suddenly might feel the need to, okay, pal? I’ve SEEN the future. Do you know what it is? It’s a 47-year-old virgin sitting around in his beige pajamas, drinking a banana-broccoli shake, singing “I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.
The freedoms he’s fighting for seem trivial (eating a steak, smoking a cigar) and silly (green Jello?), but the speech raises one question: why should any of this be the government’s damn business?
This is the same feeling Cain’s smoking ad evokes. The ending is so un-PC, that it’s a huge middle-finger to the nanny-state, declaring the way I live my life isn’t any of the government damn business?