Addiction in Film
Hollywood has a long history of putting addiction on display on both the silver and small screens. To their credit they tend to avoid glamorizing addictions, showing the eventual crash of the addicted person. So which movies and television shows have famously portrayed addiction to the masses?
In the most realistic case, the TV series “Intervention” showcases the struggles of real people with various addictions, but also the effect that it has on their friends and families. The program shows their loved ones trying to get them to seek help for their diseases and is one of the few reality shows dealing with addiction that looks beyond the person dealing with addiction to those effected by them and their addiction.
While the show certainly has its critics, mostly surrounding the lack of follow-up with those featured, the fact that it isn’t glamorizing the addictions of those it features should be lauded, despite the sometimes “edited” nature of the show to focus on the more dramatic parts of the interventions.
Films in particular seem to have done a worse job of glamorizing addiction, though even they do eventually have the characters realize consequences related to their addictions. While some films deal specifically with addiction, others feature it, but don’t make it the focus of the film.
Films like “Blow”, “Trainspotting”, and “Leaving Las Vegas” have addiction and substance abuse as core themes throughout with the characters having to deal with harsh consequences of their addictions to drugs and alcohol, while films like “21” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” do less to show the terrible side of addiction, in fact having their characters seemingly benefit in the end from their addictions. That’s not to say that the characters don’t run in to problems associated with their addictions, only that they’re less severe than in the aforementioned films.
So has Hollywood done a good enough job of portraying addiction in a realistic fashion? I would argue not, as for every film depicting somebody going through painful withdrawal symptoms there are three that show the loveable charmer with a drinking problem that always comes out ahead and never suffers for his addiction (looking at you “Two and a Half Men”). This needs to improve to give people a better appreciation of what addicts and their loved ones struggle with and to not glamorize addiction and make it something that people think is funny or easy to overcome.