How Cannabis Has Been Portrayed in The Media
History of Weed in The Media
The media is a powerful tool, it holds influence over a large reign of people and is authoritative to the point of swaying public opinion.
This is why which news network people watch has an impact over their world views. This is also why advertisements in the media work so well, specifically product placement ads that focus on subliminal messaging.
Think about a product placement ad where your favorite character of a TV show you’re watching is eating a certain candy bar all the time. Without even realizing it, you may begin to opt for that candy bar more often when at the store.
This subliminal messaging works for more than just candy bars and buying things though. When the media portrays just about anything in a certain manner, people pick up on it and adopt their views.
The Media Has Influence
When it comes to weed, the media is as influential as ever. Unfortunately, for the most part, the media has had a negative portrayal of weed. This trend started all the way back in 1936 when the movie Reefer Madness came out. Reefer madness was a fear mongering film that was all about pot being a dangerous drug. The movie portrays pot smokers as on their way to becoming murdering criminals.
Luckily, the hit song “If You’re a Viper'' came out that same year and portrayed weed in a positive manner. The song did not overcome all of the negativity in Reefer Madness and what was soon to come after it however.
Additionally, the main trend over the next few decades was to paint weed in a bad light. It was at the time the common thought (that weed was bad), and so there was a feedback loop of the media telling people weed is bad and then people in response agreeing and reassuring the media.
Other somewhat more recent examples of marijuana portrayal in the media are also unfavorable. For example, the classic Cheech and Chong film, while a stoner classic, portrays stoners as dimwitted and to be made fun of, hitting big bongs and all. This is, in fact, the most common portrayal of marijuana, that its users are stupid. The herb is often seen used by intelligent people. Other movies such as Dazed and Confused or Half Baked portray marijuana in the same manner.
In addition to the plentiful occasions where weed is portrayed as making its users stupid, it also is often referred to or portrayed as a gateway drug. The hit TV show 90210 portrayed weed in this manner, in which one of the character's marijuana use slowly turned into abuse of other drugs. He eventually even overdoses on heroin. The idea of weed as a gateway drug is still around, even if less prominent, and it stems from media portrayal like this. Even if it is just with a small pipe.
The fact of the matter though is that most weed users do not use or begin to use harder drugs. And the idea that weed causes people to try harder substances is a conflated one. It does this no more than alcohol or nicotine do.
Music, on the other hand, has been a bit better in its portrayal of marijuana. Especially nowadays where about 70% of the top songs have some mention of weed in a positive light. Still, though, the positive portrayal of the herb has to do with the simple fact that a competent artist is advocating for them. There is still more of a negative connotation to the use of the drug when it comes to affecting intelligence. The caveat to this, however, again in music, is that some songwriters credit the herb for enhanced creativity.
Music, TV, and Weed
Even though the music industry could still do a better job in portraying weed it is doing much better than film. Even recent TV shows like Stranger Things paint marijuana in a bad light. The stoner of the show, Argyle, is a lovable but dumb and clueless character. He often resorts to the use of weed to escape reality. And while everyone loves Argyle, the subliminal message that he is the dumb one still leads people to subconsciously adopt the view that marijuana usage correlates with being stupid.
The best portrayals of marijuana in the media are in current-day social media. Social media is fast moving and much quicker to adopt new notions of right and wrong. And that is the case with marijuana too. There are plenty of marijuana advocates on social media right now and even plenty of positive posts about it.
Social Media and Weed
Even just exposure of marijuana on social media is good. Seeing TikTok videos about how weed can be helpful or the best strains to use for sleep is a great step in the right direction.
Lastly, another great thing about the trend of weed in the media is that of famous people. Now that weed is mostly legal, plenty of famous actors, singers, and even politicians have come out and said they smoke and support weed. Elon Musk, for example, one of the world's richest people, has even gone as far as smoking marijuana on TV.
The fact of the matter is that while weed portrayal in the media has a long way to go it has come a long way. The film industry has been specifically problematic in its portrayal of marijuana but music, social media, and influencers have all been doing their part.
The Real Killers
The reality is that weed is no more harmful than alcohol or tobacco (in fact it’s less). Alcohol kills thousands of people every year and yet people who drink alcohol in movies are not portrayed as idiots or low lifes.
Similarly, tobacco kills and hurts the lives of millions every year and even that substance is portrayed better in the media. The good news is that the recent legalization of marijuana in many states brings hope that marijuana can at least achieve the status of alcohol and nicotine in the media.
Along with hoping that the big companies do their part you can also be an influence, make sure that if you smoke weed on social media it is in a positive light. Hopefully in the future the trend of the media portraying marijuana positively will continue.
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