Thank You for Smoking
Thank You for Smoking is a 1994 novel written by Christopher Buckley and 2005 dark comedy film directed by Jason Reitman and starring Aaron Eckhart and William H Macy. Eckhart's character, Nick Naylor, is a lobbyist for the big tobacco corporations, and his job is to defend them in the moral, economic and social arena of the United States. The film asks many questions about the morality of smoking versus free choice. The main plot of the film is Naylor's progression through different mindsets in the tobacco industry, particularly as he tries to appear as a good role model to his 10-year-old son. Although the film doesn't take a strong stance for or against smoking, it teaches us that "the great state of Vermont will not apologize for its cheese."
It's worth noting that while the movie deals with smoking advertising in films, it never once shows a character actually smoking. Make of that what you will.
- Alliterative Name: Nick Naylor.
- Heather Holloway.
- Bobby Jay Bliss has a nice ring to it.
- Amoral Attorney: Nick and his lobbyist buddies.
- As Himself: Dennis Miller, the talk show host.
- The Barnum: Nick Naylor himself.
- Because I'm Good At It
- Black Comedy: It's a Comedy about smoking.
- Bowdlerise: Parodied. After the events of the movie Senator Finistirre is still hard at work, attempting to censor cigarettes in old movies by covering them with bananas and other ludicrous objects.
- Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Nick's speech to his colleagues at the MOD Squad after his Heroic BSOD.
Nick: "And right there, looking into Joey's eyes, it all came back in a rush. Why I do what I do. Defending the defenseless. Protecting the disenfranchised corporations that had been abandoned by their very own consumers. The logger. The sweatshop foreman. The oil driller. The landmine developer. The baby seal poacher."
Polly: "Baby seal poacher."
Bobby: "Even I think that's kind of cruel..."
- Chekhov's Gunman: Late in the book (only), Gomez saves Nick's bacon and provides him with clues.
- Chewbacca Defense: Many of Nick's arguments are more sophistry than substance, as he illustrates with Vanilla vs. Chocolate Ice Cream, and "We don't want Cancer Boy to die, we'd lose a valuable customer!"
- Did Not Do the Research: A strange example. When discussing the potential movie that's supposed to show how Smoking Is Cool IN SPACE, Nick mentions to the director that smoking in a space shuttle wouldn't be possible, since the director didn't do his research, and that smoking in a oxygen atmosphere would be a fire hazard. It gets odd when you realize that Nick doesn't know what he's talking about, because space shuttles don't have pure oxygen for the air, for the very reason Nick pointed out (flammability). It's also unhealthy to breathe 100% oxygen. It gets stranger when you realize that due to the way that fire works in zero gravity, smoking in zero gravity (the main reason the director wants it, because he thought it would look cool) probably wouldn't be possible. Although who knows if the filmmakers knew that or not?
- Also acknowledged by the agent he's pitching the idea with, who admits that research doesn't really matter in movies.
It's an easy fix; one line of dialog. "Thank God they invented the whatever device."
- Drink Order: The Captain and mint juleps.
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Captain.
- Eviler Than Thou: Played for laughs. Nick comments that as alcohol and guns don't kill as many people as cigarettes, Polly and Bobby don't need to worry about being killed by vigilantes. They are both deeply offended by this until he apologizes.
- Expy: In the book, the lead guy who kidnaps Nick resembles Peter Lorre to the extent that he is simply called "Peter Lorre" for the rest of the book.
- Fun with Subtitles: BR refers to Finnistre as an environmentalist in a speech to his board. This word is subtitled as "Pussy" even if the subtitles are switched off.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking/Smoking Is Cool: The entire movie and book are built on discussing these tropes.
- Grey and Grey Morality: Both the tobacco companies and anti-smoking senator use dirty, or at least morally ambiguous tactics.
- Hand Wave: The entire concept is lampshaded:
Jeff: Sony has a futuristic sci-fi movie they're looking to make.
Nick Naylor: Cigarettes in space?
Jeff: It's the final frontier, Nick.
Nick Naylor: But wouldn't they blow up in an all-oxygen environment?
Jeff: ... probably. But it's an easy fix. One line of dialogue. "Thank God we invented the, you know... whatever... device."
- Herr Doctor: Dr Meisenbach.
- Hypocrite: Nick himself. The lobbyist for the tobacco industry is never seen smoking in the film.
- Hypocritical Humor: Senator Finistirre.
Nick: I'm just tickled by the idea of the gentleman from Vermont calling me a hypocrite, when the same man in one day held a press conference where he called for American tobacco fields to be slashed and burned, and then jumped on a private jet and flew out to farmyard where he rode a tractor on-stage as he bemoaned the downfall of the American farmer.
Dennis Miller: Care to comment, Senator?
Finistirre: The... I... shh... No.
Dennis Miller: Eloquent in its brevity.
- Informed Attribute: They say Nick is a heavy smoker but you never see him smoking.
- We did, however, see him trying to smoke, only to find he ran out of them.
- Insult Backfire: Subverted. Nick's comparison of the death rates from cigarettes, alcohol, and firearms is not received kindly by Polly and Bobby Jay.
- Ironic Echo: Everyone's got a mortgage to pay.
- In the book: "Population control", as well as:
Larry King: Care to Comment Nick?
Nick: Not really, Larry.
Larry King: Emotional issue.
- Irrelevant Thesis: Nick Naylor, constantly.
- Jerkass: Jill, Nick's ex-wife. She gets uppity when Nick tries to spend time with their son- she seems to think that, since he defends Big Tobacco, he's obviously going to tie their son down and force him to smoke at gunpoint. At one point she basically says to him "Why would he want to hang out with you when he could hang out with Brad?" (Joey's step-dad).
- Karmic Death/Death by Irony: Inverted when some anti-tobacco activists kidnap Nick and try to overdose him on Nicotine Patches, it's his lifetime of smoking that gave him the resistance to fight it. It does become a Cool and Unusual Punishment though, as he can never smoke again on pain of death.
- A second example in the book: BR had people killed through smoke inhalation "accidents", and is killed in the same manner by the same person.
- Knight Templar: the kidnappers in the movie and Senator Finisterre in both, to an extent, who is also a Manipulative Bastard.
- Littlest Cancer Patient: "And where in the hell did you find Cancer Boy?... When you're looking for a cancer kid, he should be hopeless! He should have a wheelchair, he should have trouble talking, he should have a little pet goldfish he carries around in a ziplock bag. Hopeless!"
- Logical Fallacies: Many of the arguments concerning cigarettes are quickly deflected by Nick Naylor by subtly changing the subject. His debating partners, most of whom aren't really good at debating at all, rarely call him out on this. Naylor even admits to his son that he never has to prove that he's right, but only has to discredit his opponents somehow or twist their arguments so they look bad even if they are entirely correct. It's notable that Naylor seems perfectly aware that he's really only playing the masses and the viewers, and that it requires a certain moral flexibility on his part rather than actual facts.
- Major Injury Underreaction: Surprisingly, Bobby Jay, while fighting Panamanians.
- Meaningful Name: In the director's commentary Reitman mentions a conversation with Buckley about the things he got wrong in the film. One of them is that Senator Finistirre's name is supposed to be pronounced finis terre instead of Finister. It's French for 'End of the World'.
- Morally-Ambiguous Doctorate: The German scientist who works for the tobacco companies.
Nick: He's been researching tobacco for thirty years and hasn't found any conclusive evidence linking cigarettes and cancer. This guy's a genius. The man could disprove gravity.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Senator Feinstein, I mean, Finistirre.
- Averted in the book with Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, and others.
- No Smoking: As noted elsewhere on this page, despite the movie being about smoking, we never actually see anyone smoke.
- Occidental Otaku: Jeff, the movie producer. He is apparently obsessed with Japanese culture to the point of heavily basing his entire building on a jazzed-up traditional Japanese design aesthetic, having a very well-stocked koi pond and constantly maintained indoor rock gardens, and wearing a very intricate kimono when he's alone.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: BR
- Pragmatic Adaptation: The movie forgoes many of the book's subplots and the final series of plot twists, instead focusing on the rivalry between Naylor's relationship with his son and his rivalry with Senator Finistirre.
- Spoof Aesop: Cigarettes saved Nick Naylor's life.
- Stealth Cigarette Commercial: From the book, "Everything your parents told you about smoking is right".
- Sympathetic POV: Nick Naylor's actions are at best amoral and sometimes indefensible (persuading the kid on the plane to smoke in the movie springs to mind), and what makes it so troubling is his charm still makes it difficult not to like him, let alone revile him in the way we may feel we should.
- Title Drop: BR has a sign on his desk that says "Thank You For Smoking."
- Wall-Bang Her: Nick and the hot reporter.
- Wham! Line: "The Captain died this morning."
- Zero-G Spot: Discussed, in combination with Smoking Hot Sex.