A terse and simple article that makes the point well about how much of a negative effect mainstream media immersion has on kids in terms of alcohol consumption. Citing many troubling statistics including the massive amount of money spent annually by alcohol-selling companies on advertising, the fact that about 50% of the presentations of alcohol consumption in mainstream media show it in a humorous light, and only about 23% show a downside, the article makes some very well-known points about the causative connection of media imagery to kids being influenced to drink.
But the article remains stuck in the level of telling kids not to drink and not to be influenced by the media they love. It might be more helpful to look more closely at mainstream media depiction of alcohol use.
Just a few evenings ago, in a film writing class we watched segments of the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark. In it, we meet a young American woman who is the owner of a drinking establishment in Nepal. We meet her as she is engaged with a drinking contest with a salty older guy. Eyeing each other, they shoot down shots of what we assume is a very strong liquor. Ultimately, she drinks the guy under the table. Moments later, Indiana arrives on his way to Egypt, intent on enlisting her help in finding the lost arc. Eventually a gun battle ensues with Nazis. In it the woman and Indiana join forces. The shoot out is a fast, furious adrenalin-pumping display of daring-do. But it’s also kind of comical as at one point, when a bullet breaks a container of good booze, the young woman sidles below the leaking decanter and catches the precious stuff in her mouth. The shoot-out continues.
On a subliminal level, a kid watching this scene can only conclude that drinking is fun,that one’s reflexes for instance are not impacted negatively by the stuff, and that girls can drink guys under the table if they’re tough enough. In short, the message is an upbeat one about the fun and excitement that a good alcoholic binge can bring. No negative effects her.
Yet let me say squarely that for every happy alcoholic I’ve seen in my work as a psychiatrist, I’ve seen 20 raging and destructive drunks. This outcome is much less frequently depicted in the media.