On and off screen, drugs have always seemed to be a big part of the showbiz world. With the pressures of the celebrity status seeing many turn to the world of narcotics and stimulants, do their on screen characters seem to reflect this lifestyle and endorse it?
There are many movies which are clearly attempting to represent the daunting effects of drug misuse. Take Requiem for a Dream for example as a horrifying look into what addiction can really lead to. The most emotionally tugging storyline in that film doesn’t even revolve around an illegal drug, but rather it’s Sara Goldfrab’s (Ellen Burstyn) obsession with diet pills, as she becomes more obsessed with looking good to be on a television show. After one viewing, you’ll want to call up your mum to give her a hug. Just like Trainspotting, it’s a relentless look at how drugs can ruin one’s life. It is ruthless and has left many audience members shaken about this touchy subject despite both involving characters trying to escape the cycle and trying to create a better life for themselves. It ultimately ends in dismay for all, a bleak outlook on the topic of drug use.
Drug dealing too is a topic which seems to engage many film makers. Take some of the most famous mafia movies: Scarface and Goodfellas, and you’ll see the casual use of cocaine. Whilst on one side you see the downfall of a cocaine dealer, who comes to lose everything he had, the other side sees the casual use of drugs is in the world of dodgy dealings and slick suits. Both movies show how power and drugs seem almost synonymous with one another, with a protagonist who deals in drugs in order to help them out, before becoming obsessed themselves. Whilst in Scarface the self-destruction is more evident, both films may appear to be glamorising the lifestyle that can allow one easy access to drugs, whilst condemning the protagonists themselves.
In another world all together, City of God takes the dealing of drugs and injects them into the world of innocent photographer Rocket and his hometown of Rio de Janeiro. This riveting story then follows the adolescent gangs battle it out over territory, in this war torn tale containing romance, deaths and an odd sense of morality. Whilst it certainly does not endorse the lifestyle, it does give an alternative viewpoint of those who get caught up in this whirlwind of an industry.
If looking for an example how to truly glamorise drugs, one doesn’t have to look much further than the classic, Pulp Fiction. The scene of Vincent shooting himself up with heroin shows the audience just how euphoric it can make you feel, and the sense of being untouchable really becomes transparent. However, just a few scenes later, you see the iconic overdose scene, showing how Tarantino knows to balance his madness with a touch of reality, bringing the drug misuse into some perspective. It’s a brilliant turn of events, showing the full spectrum of drug use and misuse.
So whilst films often show illegal drug use to be part of a lifestyle many aspire to have, it seems that a very few characters can escape the consequences of taking a hit.