As we meet 2013 with open arms, we embrace the changes set to come, such as the 21st century civil rights movement, the increasing tensions between nations across the globe and the evolution of mankind. We must take a reflective look on where; we as a nation and as a species are heading towards. Over the last century technology has advanced the human race beyond the ceiling of our capabilities and opened up a plethora of possibilities to expand. As the saying: one step forward, two steps back goes; it is important to recognize the way human nature is compelled to contradict itself.
The United States of America in the last twenty years has experienced an influx of glamour and notoriety by becoming a juggernaut in the entertainment industry. American media set the precipice for cool, and the worlds playing catch up. Europe has their art, Japan has their fashion and we have our media. For media representations of smoking and drinking and advertisements for alcohol and tobacco products to affect consumer behavior to the point that adverse social, economic, and health consequences occur, two mechanisms are necessary.
1) a means whereby messages carried in the media are observed, processed, and converted into behavior by the viewer; and (2) a mechanism to explain how the incremental consumption attributable, at least in part, to media exposure results in adverse outcomes in aggregate and on an individual basis (Ammerman,235). The media, whether it be television or movies has enjoyed setting the standard for the social norm. The viewer’s revel in the witty remarks made by the movie stars, the clothes worn and the attitude brought on by these movie stars who make life feel dull.
The main objective of film is to weave a story and create timeless stories, to bring written word to life and give it substance. Yet, the contrast between an amazing piece of literature and an amazing piece of film, are the stark examples of product placement laid forth by companies to sell products. Imagine a film as a medium not just for art, but for the visual consumption of a product. Marketing companies purposefully fund film and television to help sell a product. Be it, fashion, cars, companies or alcohol, the media creates a positive subtext to ntice the viewer to enjoy their products.
The media uses film as a means of selling their product; through relatable examples such as camaraderie, coping with problems, creating an atmosphere and elevating a person’s social status the media has found a way to glamourize alcohol to increase sales astronomically. The answer comes from within the numbers, alcohol is everywhere in film. Across the MPAA rating scales, one can find alcohol being intertwined through all kinds of film, rarely being depicted as a bad thing.
Research found alcohol use depicted in 92 percent of the films in a sample of 601 contemporary movies… Alcohol was used in 52 percent of G-rated films, 89 percent for PG, 93 percent for PG-13 and 95 percent for R” (Nordhoff, 2). Typically the use of alcohol is shown as a means for connecting and strengthening relationships with peers. A sense of camaraderie can be instilled through means of alcoholic consumption. The 2003 film Old School, features three middle aged men who feel like all their glory days were experienced during their college years.
Disenchanted one of the leads, Frank; is shown at a party attempting to turn down a beer bong because he promised his wife he would quit drinking. Frank ends up succumbing to the vice and gets black out drunk and incites trouble. The film depicts his struggle with alcoholism as a barrier, keeping him from having fun with his friends and living life. He relapses and is shown enjoying his life more so, than his mid-life malaise he had with his wife and his life being sober. He drops everything for the chance to relive his college years and revel in his new friends.
Old School acts as an excuse for people to forget their reasons for quitting drinking in the pursuit of excitement and friendships. A constant theme throughout films which depict alcohol consumption as a positive role, is the ability for a character to forego all negative consequences for the aberrant pursuit of said positive effects of the vice. A character can completely abstain from alcoholism and it’s constant to pursue the high which comes with enjoying the company of others. The sad truth about social drinking are the times when the friends are not around, when things go bad and there is no one to help you out.
We all know the sad realities of alcoholism, while the responsible use of alcohol can enhance, the abuse can lead to burnt bridges with friends and families. During the point in time when one has no one to turn to, but the bottom of the bottle, alcohol can play devil’s advocate and stunt the coping process of a person. With film, youth are exposed to the practices of using alcohol as a means of coping mechanisms: The earlier young people start drinking, the worse the consequences. People who start drinking before age 15 are five times more likely to suffer alcohol-related problems than those who wait until 21 to drink.
Those who drink heavily in adolescence and early adulthood are more likely to develop a metabolic profile that puts them at greater risk of cardiovascular problems later in life,whether or not they continue drinking (“Youth Exposure to Alcohol Ads on TV Growing Faster than Adults” 4). By viewing these glamorous stars, youths are at risk to depict these as normal situations which adults do when problems arise. Casablancawas released in 1942 and to the day is considered one of the most revered movies of our time. It centers on the oppression of war and the self-deprecation one might experience after it.
In the pivotal saloon scene, the viewer sees Humphrey Bogart chasing down his feelings with a bottle of whiskey. The alcohol serves as a means of advancement when, faced with problems, the characters engage in drinking. When asked what is wrong he asks if the world is so small, how then did the love of his life wind up in the same place as him. All the while he consumes glass after glass of whiskey to help him numb the heartache he is experiencing. The seductive scenes and dialogue paint a vivid alcohol drenched image for the viewer, which sets the stage for a misinterpretation of what is going on.
Bogart is clearly trying to run away from his problems and attempting to forget about his former lover. The scene tattoos the memory to mind and glamorizes the man’s troubles by masking them behind an amber veil of alcohol. Take, for example, cinema before Prohibition Act of 1918, alcohol was almost always cast in a negative light. “A study of 115 films released in 1929-1931 found that 43% of them showed intoxication, 66% showed drinking, and less than 10% had no reference to or display of liquor” (Room, 14).
As the prohibition act would soon be lifted companies saw the revival of societal drinking and set forth to make it seem better than it had been. The industry would choose to display alcohol as humorous and light hearted. Alcohol was predominantly shown as a luxury tax for the rich and a cog in high society. Alcohol became a symbolic jab at government and the binds set in place to protect the public; and as human nature proves, rebellion is inevitable. The prohibition act did nothing but glamorize problem drinking, and paint a picture for alcohol as a treat, a means of turning the dull drudgery of life and creating something extravagant.
Shot by shot, frame by frame, drink by drink, Hollywood has, for over half a century, presented drinking as a normal part of what ordinary and sophisticated people do when they engage in sociable behavior” (Denzin xiii). Hollywood is the mecca for media, the hub of profit through film. The driving force behind the advancement of film and by association, the controlling factor in deciding what is portrayed by what the studios put out. To protect the image of Hollywood, the executives of film studios have to paint a light to alcoholism. From John Barrymore to W.
C. Fields, alcohol related deaths have affected the industry for years. Yet, these stars are lauded for the copious partying and the alcohol infused pieces of work which made them famous. The posthumous works of said artists create an atmosphere, in which alcohol was used as a means of creation; often painted as an artistic crutch. The media paints a picture where there is no such thing as alcoholism, just sad tragedies which happen every day to average Americans and movie stars alike. Movies give us contemporaries to follow and mold our lives after.
The examples are glamourized through love, partying and sophistication and create a stark duality between fact and fiction. Films create and atmosphere through the lens. The visually breathtaking shots give life to everyday rooms, carefully placed steadi-cams make car crashes and gun fights look exotic and exciting. The aperture and focus of a camera lend a helping hand for the viewer to catch the sweat dripping off a cold Collins glass; filled three parts whiskey, two parts bitters, a dash of sugar, shaken, not stirred. Take the British Spy seriesJames Bond.
The series revolves around a handsome man who gallivants around the globe saving the world, having sex with beautiful women and driving fast cars. However, if one were to look deeper, when one takes away the gadgets, the notoriety, the cars and the money, one essentially has the dullest human ever. 007 speaks only in one liners, he rarely has anything to add to society on top of being an inept spy with a debilitating taste for women and liquor. In essence the man becomes nothing more than an image. At which point he equals about two thirds of an actual person and just becomes a symbol of half-assed debauchery.
The man cannot do his job until he has had at least a cocktail or four. The plot generally consists of action, women and booze. Most of the time 007 finds him in all three at once. There is nothing cooler than getting poisoned; driving an Aston Martin at neck breaking speeds to save a girlfriend and crashing said Martin into an empty field. All because it is blasphemous to waste a good martini in Hollywood’s eyes. The ideology behind the atmosphere forces the viewer to believe in the chance of nothing going wrong when someone gets too wasted.
It becomes a nuance to proven facts when imagery supersedes fact nine times out of ten. People tend to respond more so, to images rather than numbers and statistics. Alcohol being glamourized in the media exemplifies a want for the reproduction of the images and depictions being portrayed in movies, television shows and by word of mouth. Case in point, a scene in Casablanca shows Humphrey Bogart being questioned about his nationality—at which point Bogart replies, “My nationality is drunk. ” These characters create a world where there are no rules, they can do whatever they want and it paints them as gods among men.
Gone are the days where alcoholics are the bumbling town drunks, the functional alcoholics whom warm our hearts with dejected humor. We have executives who have created a cocktail culture with their alcohol fueled meetings and stock piled offices with the labels out. Addicts are portrayed as complex characters whom, with the help of booze achieved a heightened social status and sense of self. The ground breaking television show Mad Men, features an ad company in New York who handle high profile clients such as Smirnoff, Luck Strike and Jaguar.
The show has oft been referred as a misogynistic look at the culture of the fifties, bringing light to an era where smoking and drinking was acceptable in business meetings. The show is centered on Don Draper, a callous man who is the creative backbone of the operation. He finds solace behind alcohol and uses it frequently as a means of getting ahead. While the show may show the Draper’s life as one crumbling due to his addiction it does a poor job of sticking to the virtue. Too often, Don finds himself downing drink after drink only to strike gold during a meeting or by sleeping with a woman at ease.
One of the most powerful men in New York can get by through means of alcohol– which poses a contrast to everything said badly about alcoholism. The show features more drinking per minute than most people consume in their lives. It remains hard to imagine anything bad coming of the drinking when the main characters rarely break poise and remain as dapper as possible through the midst of all the self-perpetuating troubles drinking brings their way. The phenomenon of alcohol being glamourized in media has seen no shortage of influence throughout the last century.
As the decades progress and the stars dim and grow old with the audience, the underlying subtext of alcoholism basks in vitality—one which leeches off the minds and hearts of consumerism incarnate worldwide. We, as people, need to recognize the hold media has upon our nation and fight the urge to successfully fall prey to entertainment marketing. Media has set out to glamourize the costly vices of alcohol and such to generate funding and capital. They create these Adonis’ and Aphrodites’ who still our hearts and capture our imaginations with their perceived actions on the screen.
The media takes up an age old tradition like film and weaves in lies to get viewers to buy into the idea; the glamour, the glitz and the fame are all obtainable pursuits which, with the right amount of alcohol can be had. Film is used as a crutch to help sell the dream; the dream in which even the most hopeless drunk can find solace through friends, drown away their problems, don rose colored glasses and achieve the chance to be the center of attention—simply by picking up the bottle.