Representation Of Illegal Drugs On Television

1174 words - 5 pages

For this analysis, the topic of illegal drugs will be traced across three different television serials that vary in genre. In each programme illegal drugs are a pivotal element to the storyline, with close reference to youth involvement. This analysis will investigate how different televisual forms shape the way illegal drug use is understood and made visible across three different genres of television with reference to youth involvement. In addition, this analysis will discuss to what extent this representation of illegal drugs assists in legitimating themes of drug use and how these representations have shifted throughout history. This analysis will explore the representation of illegal ...view middle of the document...

Therefore, interpretations of programmes and their characters are a product of audience perception and will shift with different audiences (Fiske 22).
The consistent portrayal of illegal drugs in the media has created a demonised image of drug users in a state of moral panic and struggle (Taylor 370). Taylor states that sensationalist representations of drugs in the media has defined what audiences see and understand in terms of drug use and therefore conditions public attitudes about what drug problems are like (370). In general, 90210 and Arrow, represent drug use in this demonised way, however Workaholics, shapes drugs in a comedic hedonistic way rather than problematic.
Across the programmes the central characters that use illegal drugs range from 16-25 years old. Therefore, when the media consistently reproduces the images of young people using illegal drugs can influence audience perception. Minnebo and Eggermont state that adults generally have negative opinions towards adolescents, and they often associate them with rebellious and irresponsible behaviours (130). The characters central to drug use in Arrow and 90210 are both adolescents in high school. This typical representation of youth-centred drug use could then result in older audiences associating this problematic behaviour in the programme with that of the youth in society.
In the Comedy Central sitcom Workaholics, illegal drug use plays a recurring theme throughout the series. The show follows the main characters Adam, Blake and Anders who are friends, roommates and co-workers. The show predominantly takes place at TelAmeriCrorp, their workplace and their house. The way in which Workaholics deals with illegal drug use is through a discourse of hedonism. This discourse explains drug use as “celebrating the pleasurable or humorous experiences of taking illicit substances” (Manning 122)
In the episode “The Business Trip” (season three, episode one) Blake, Anders and Adam are in the process of preparing to experience acid; this episode shows the how the discourse of hedonism operates with regards to drug use within a comedy genre. When dealing with sensitive topics such as illegal drug use Workaholics deviates from ordinary depictions of graphic and sensitive topics and creates a comedic and adventurous tone. In the opening scene of the episode we see Anders and Adam bubble-wrap the house and furniture, while Blake purchases perimeter shock collars to prevent them leaving the house during their acid trip as they believe that “the house is acid proof, but the world is not acid proof”. The way in which they discuss their imminent drug use, reflects how acceptable illegal drug experimentation has become within this genre. Later in the episode...

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