Hollywood’s highs and lows: Drug use in films

Hollywood has a bad case of bi-polar disorder when it comes to drugs.

Filmmakers have thrown themselves right into the vortex of the national drug debate, and the use of drugs that appear in movies primarily targeted at Gen Y varies so greatly it makes you spin in circles until you think you’re on an acid trip.

Drugs sell. And not just in little bags and bottles of pills. For all the millions upon millions of dollars made by drug cartels, gangs, members of the mob and frat boys selling dime bags, Hollywood gets a pretty big piece of the pie too.

Some movies show off the funny, social, party scene that drugs can offer. Can’t we all relate to Harold and Kumar as they drive around New Jersey looking for that sacred White Castle joint? (See how easily drugs can get incorporated into this?) And who hasn’t turned on Comedy Central on a Saturday afternoon to find Dave Chappelle and Jim Bruer selling as much weed as they can to bail Kenny out of jail?

And admit it, how cool would it be to be Nancy Botwin, the drop-dead-gorgeous PTA mom turned cutthroat, fugitive heroine keeping her family afloat by growing and selling pot. Brilliant!

Hollywood makes drugs seem pretty cool, and much of the time it’s targeted at us. A fine example is the neo-noir film, Brick, a story told in classic detective-style, about a bad cut of heroin that gets into the wrong hands and exposes an underground crowd of upper-class socialites, dealing an alarming amount of the brownstone and bringing in an even more alarming amount of money. The catch? They’re all high school kids, running a business of illegal drugs as if they’ve been trained by Pablo Escobar himself, ready to sacrifice anyone who gets in the way of their profits.

On the other side of the coin, Hollywood has put out some movies that can literally scare you sober. Darren Arofonsky ‘s Requiem for a Dream is like a kick to the stomach about the lives of three 20-somethings that allow their addiction to heroin take over their lives until they’ve squeezed every possible hope and dream out of themselves just for that next high.

Aronofsky’s film epitomizes the horror of what drugs can do the human mind and body. Drugs become the sole sources of pain and pleasure for each one of the main characters.  The life-destroying power of drugs and the spiral of all-consuming addiction are drawn out so slowly and with such careful and gruesome detail, you can barely sit still, but like an addiction, you can’t quit watching.

Trainspotting, too, will scare a person into getting clean. Who can forget the baby scene?

The award-winning movies as well, like Maria Full of Grace and Traffic, show us the lengths to which people will go to when it comes to anything involving drugs and the tragic consequences that generally comes from getting involved with dealing or using.

So what is Hollywood trying to tell Millennials when it comes to drugs? Are we impressionable when it comes to trying recreational and prescription drugs?  Films have shown us the highs (and there have been plenty of them) and the lows of drug use and drug addiction, but there’s no real way to tell if there’s a message behind the movies, when it comes to the overall opinion of drugs on the big screen. It could just be pure entertainment.

Decide for yourself, the next time you spend $10 on a movie about drugs. Or, just stay home and spend it on marijuana.

Photo: Erika Christensen and Topher Grace in Traffic (Bedford Falls Productions)

EvanPowers I'm Evan. A UMass-Amherst graduate in Journalism, I have a passion for writing and communicating, brainstorming ideas and strategies with consumers and the media, and just about anything social media-related. I still enjoy getting my news from a newspaper, but my favorite section is still the comics. And that's the best way to sum up my personality.

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2 Responses to “Hollywood’s highs and lows: Drug use in films”

  1. Shawn

    I don’t really get the point of your article man. If you could sum up the underlying message of your article in once sentence, what would it be?


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