I wanted to take a quick look at the movies that taught me how to drink alcohol or what would do to a person who did. Like so many teens alcohol use was not discussed at my house. My source of information came from friends and the movies. Here I examine 4 classic movies that most people know, but the comparison can be adapted to any selection of movies. While I don't want to be a Debbie Downer about the movies I love, the lessons they taught me affected my decisions.
Star Wars (1977) : We first meet the our hero, Han Solo, (Harrison Ford) drinking at a bar full of rebels. He taught me that men drank at bars and that was where all the great guys were. No matter how inebriated they got they could still: kill a bounty hunter, out maneuver Storm Troopers, and escort Luke Skywalker and friends to Darth Vader. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g6PDcBhODqo THE TRUTH IS: Tough guys don’t need to drink alcohol at all. Romanticizing alcohol seems so innocent, but the fact is Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) (formerly known as alcoholism) is associated with violence, destructiveness, and other criminal and antisocial behavior. Spoiler Alert: Heroes are not typically found in a booth at a sleazy bar full of delinquent aliens.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): The famous scene of a Nepal bar shows Marion (Karen Allen) out drinking a large local man in order to show herself as being just as tough as any man. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yUAueFkVYvA What this taught me was no matter how many shots I may drink I would be able to function and help save myself from a vicious attack by Nazis. The TRUTH IS: If anyone drank that much liquor in one sitting they would experience a blackout or alcohol poisoning. A black out is the body's inability to create new memories. The person cannot remember what has happened because the memory was never created. It would take our heroine, Marion, about 15 hours to metabolize that many shots of alcohol. Sobriety is not going to happen until the body has had time to processes the alcohol.
Animal House (1978) : From this movie I learned what happens at a frat house. The message I picked up was that the cool frat house, Delta Tau Chi, allowed underage drinking while the prestigious frat house,Omega Theta Pi, didn't know how to party very well. From the scene of Pinto trying to hook up with the mayor's daughter, but doesn't because she passes out, I learned it was perfectly acceptable to leave someone passed out from drinking too much alcohol alone in order to allow them to sober up. The famous scene of Bluto (John Belushi) downing a bottle of whiskey in under a minute seemed almost a challenge to my younger self. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3G7UJXkGjMI The TRUTH IS: Many Frat houses still do have parties like this, but the consequences are in the news almost weekly. People are sexually assaulted, experience blackouts, and suffer many dangerous real life consequences. And alcohol poisoning would be a real result of anyone drinking an entire bottle of whiskey. If a friend is passed out from drinking too much call 911 immediately, move that person onto their side, and do not leave them alone. Alcohol depresses the bodily functions making it hard for the victim to breathe and death may result. Alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people under age 21 each year.
Blazing Saddles (1974): In this Western Comedy gunslinger Jim, the Waco Kid (Gene Wilder) is a beloved intoxicated ex-gunman at the beginning of the movie. He drinks volumes of alcohol and is constantly inebriated until the moment he decides he doesn’t want to drink anymore and joins Bart, the Sheriff of Rock Ridge, in fighting evil with his amazing ability to be the fastest gun handler in the West. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nI-v4o2HKkQ The message I took away was people can quit drinking alcohol anytime and become a completely sober individual able to save the day. The TRUTH IS: It is actually life threatening to stop drinking suddenly by someone who is abuses alcohol. Coordination is compromised the more alcohol one drinks and alcohol is a depressant that affects every part of your body. Even with a legal limit of 0.08 the body requires 5 hours to get back to a 0 Blood Alcohol Concentration. AUD is a chronic progressive relapsing brain disease. Jim, the Waco Kid, would have suffered from a variety of health issues after long term alcohol abuse. Victims of AUD may develop Wernicke's syndrome resulting in disordered eye movements, very poor balance, and difficulty walking or Korsakoff's syndrome (Wet Brain) which affects memory and prevents new learning from taking place.
While I did not suffer long term consequences after watching my favorite characters drinking styles, my younger self's decisions were still greatly affected by the movies as I tried to reenact my favorite scenes with real life results. It never seemed to work out as it had in the movies.
Today’s teens are being fed the same message of consequence free alcohol use. What can be done to help teens understand that what Hollywood presents as "facts" about alcohol often have nothing to do with reality? Parents might want to watch a movie with their teen and share the next day how alcohol actually affects an individual as compared to what the movie portrayed. Having a brief fact driven conversation about alcohol myths shown in the movie may empower your teen to make a far more educated decision about alcohol use and develop a clearer picture about the real effects of drinking alcohol. If a parent needs to learn the facts themselves they can check out our Alcohol facts sheet before speaking with their teen.
Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Nadine Knapp