Drug addiction and alcoholism are serious conditions that render sufferers powerless over a lifestyle that keeps them very sick. Millions of people are addicted to a number of substances and behaviors in real-life, so when Hollywood portrays the experience of an addict, is that being accurate and informative, or is it glamorizing a disorder?
Life on the big screen can show just about anything. With ratings on movies, topics can include addiction and the associated behaviors, with very little restriction, and then an R rating is used in an effort to deter younger viewers from seeing content too early in life.
It seems there is a fine line in Hollywood on the glamorization of drugs and alcohol in movies. Films like Trainspotting, Traffic, and Blow paint the picture of the ups and downs associated with drug use. There are moments of glamorization, but each film also shows the danger, the risk, and the inevitable negative consequences caused by abuse and addiction.
Then there are movies about binge drinking, like The Hangover, Animal House, Beerfest, and countless others only show the party and the perceived fun people have while drinking alcohol to excess. Humor is used to deter from the true risk taken when getting blackout drunk.
Are Hollywood films continuing to glamorize the use of drugs and alcohol?
In recent years, there seems to be a trend in showing the hidden world of addiction through characters on television. Shows like House and Nurse Jackie revolve around main characters who become addicted to drugs because of their work in the medical field. Is this glamorization, or just telling the story of countless real people in our society who have access to highly addictive drugs, like prescription painkillers?
Breaking Bad almost makes crystal meth production and distribution seem like a real career choice, Mad Men is the ultimate glamorization of alcoholism, no matter what time of day it is, and Californication makes alcohol seem like part of everyday life. Weeds and The Wire are not as much about drug use as they are about the lives of those who make a living off the sale of drugs to the millions of people are are substance-dependent and addicted.
Works of nonfiction, like Intervention are also available to show people what really happens when drugs and alcohol engulf your life.
Rappers and other musicians have been writing songs about drug abuse, alcoholism, and addiction since the beginning of music as we know it. If the artist is chronicling his or her own life choices, is it art, or is it spreading a message that getting high, drunk, and messed up is cool, and part of the creative process?
Countless people, who reach a certain level of fame in Hollywood, succumb to drug addiction and alcoholism. When we, as a society, follow the real lives of actors, comedians, singers, and other performers so closely, are we adding pressure that can lead to drugs and alcohol, or is our glamorization of substance use simply giving the green light?
When Britney Spears shaved her head, do you think she was sober? We know Lindsay Lohan was not sober during her various car accidents and arrests, and we recognize that painkillers (heroin, Vicodin, OxyContin, and codeine) have been responsible for the deaths, and near-deaths, of people like Cory Monteith, Heath Ledger, Amy Winehouse, Lil Wayne, and many, many more.
When will it stop? When will Hollywood stop glamorizing the life of a drug and alcohol abuser? Can we, instead, view the disease of addiction as curable, and show the next generation that a life of chemical dependency leads to death when left untreated?