Depictions of Substance Abuse in Pop Culture and Its Impact on Our Society 

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Alcoholism and drug abuse have a huge impact on our society today. Of particular concern to policymakers is an addiction in minors. Understanding the factors that influence these behaviors can certainly help in eradicating them.

The influence of Hollywood in the prevalence of alcoholism and drug addiction is a factor that is not often explored. One study that examined the top 200 Hollywood films suggests the depicting alcoholism and tobacco use positively. Perhaps pop culture adopts these kinds of depiction without the caveat of reality for entertainment purposes. But it is important to look at how it impacts society.

Role Models

Albert Bandura’s social cognitive theory suggests that influential role models affect our action and behavior. Celebrities and public figures approach to an issue tend to influence the individual’s own confidence in overcoming their own challenges.

Depiction of tobacco and alcohol use is often carried out by the protagonists. Even though sometimes it is done as much by the bad guys in the movie. Nevertheless, these movies do not try to address the negative effects of using these substances either subtly or explicitly. Smoking and drinking may come across as cool, especially to a young impressionable mind. Has the film industry including the actors and producers, done enough to understand the impact of the negative depictions?

Pop Culture and Normalization of Substance Abuse

We also know that social norms also heavily influence an individual’s behavior. Scientific research tells us that pop culture has a huge influence on our identity. One way it shapes our identity is to give us a sense of what is trendy and popular at a given point in time.

Even though researchers acknowledge that pop culture is distinct from folk culture, pop culture can become part of our day-to-day life. For example, events in a popular film may be shared by word of mouth. Depending on its popularity it can influence language, fashion trends, and adoption of certain behaviors. Movies depicting tobacco, alcohol, or drug use, without negative consequences, are in effect advancing a norm. Even if this was not intentional and could just be lacking foresight.

Realistic Depiction in Pop Culture

Movies that attempt to create awareness may end up coming across as preachy. In any case, many awareness campaigns do not address the social norm angle of substance abuse or irresponsible sexual behavior. Some movie makers have created films that are compelling but attempt to show the reality of these social challenges.

In the case of substance abuse, some of the negative consequences of using drugs such as Fentanyl effects and overdose, financial ruin, death, amongst others. The challenge for filmmakers has been to come up with a realistic and ethical portrayal of the social nature of substance abuse. Some films in recent times have managed to portray a more realistic picture.

Last Days: A film inspired by the events that happened on the last days of Kurt Cobain. An influential rock artist who was a leading artist for the rock group Nirvana. He struggled with health issues during these last days. This was besides struggling with Heroin addiction.

The Wire: This is a TV show about the life of drug dealers, their relationship with kingpins and higher-ups, as well as law enforcement response to drug abuse. The TV show, although explicit and brutal in its depictions, does not attempt to portray the business of dealing drugs as rosy. It does not ignore consequences such as how drug sales promote drive-by shootings.

For today’s filmmakers looking for content, there are lots of topics to discuss. The Opioid crisis has had a significant impact on society on so many levels. There are also other subjects such as drug trade across the border, fentanyl effects, prescription opioids, and their negative effects, etc.

There is room for the film industry to not only reduce the positive depiction of drugs and irresponsible sex but to promote a more realistic view of their consequences. The TV series is becoming popular and they have greater space to examine these issues at length. This should serve as a starting point to reverse the effects of normalization that Hollywood films and shows have been promoted. Policymakers and the public should also not underestimate the impact that these movies have on society.

Cite this paper

Depictions of Substance Abuse in Pop Culture and Its Impact on Our Society . (2021, Jan 24). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/depictions-of-substance-abuse-in-pop-culture-and-its-impact-on-our-society/

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