Monday, March 16, 2009

Smoke gets in your eyes?

I’ve been reading a few old favourites in the last couple of months – books from 1950s and 60s - and one of the things that really makes an impact are the references to cigarette smoking, often used, I think, to make the characters look modern and sophisticated. Now it really hits you that this is a book from another time period.

It's the same on stage and screen, with plays and films from an earlier era. If you go to a play by Noel Coward or Terrance Ratttigan the characters are always reaching for a cigarette. And what about that heart rending romantic trick with the two cigarettes in Now Voyager?

Cigarettes now having a bad press, what has taken their place as the yardstick of glamour? Alcohol? Do we have more scenes set in pubs, clubs and bars? I suspect we might. Is sipping a mean Margarita the height of sophistication? It will be interesting to see if a time comes when booze also goes out of fashion.

Cars, shoes and consumer goods also have their place in setting a scene, and it's not all product placement. Maybe they will also fall away in cash strapped times.

I'd be interest in other opinions. What things in a book date it for you?

Before you leave - American Title V begins the last round to day. If you want to know who made it to the final and read the love scenes - rumour has it that they are hot, hot, hot - drop in to the Romantic Times site to cast your vote.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm happy to see the demise of the wimpy, stupid heroine. You remember her: the one who always went down into the darkened cellar when anybody with a shred of brains would have run out the back door and called the police. These days any woman who goes down into that cellar is liable to be Buffy, Ripley or Xena and the bad guys better watch out. Her appearance has also forced the near-extinction of the brutal, insulting and quasi-abusive male as the love interest. Today's heroine kicks that jerk to the curb and watches him bounce. It's possible to be an alpha male without being a total tool and modern writers reflect that.


Savanna Kougar said...

Evonne, so true about the cigarettes... dating films and books.
There is something glamorous about smoking, in a non-addictive manner. I can say that because I've never smoked a cigarette. Just as there's something sophisticated about drinking in a limited manner. There's nothing glamorous about someone who is addicted, though. It's just ugly.
It's like everything else. It's how it's used, or how it's abused.

Pat, true about heroines!