Does Popular Culture Encourage Drinking?


More and more researchers over time are studying the role of alcohol within American popular culture, especially when it comes to the effects it has upon its audience. The amount of movies, TV shows and commercials promoting and glorifying drinking is ever on the increase, and many studies are presenting a correlation between these positive portrayals of alcohol on our screens and a change in the drinking behavior of the audience. This is now leading to the claim that increasing images of alcohol that we are subject to, act as a prompt to therefore make you more inclined to drink yourself.

Popular Culture and Alcohol:

Most studies that are centered on the analysis of movies and TV shows, are predominantly interested in two main factors; The beliefs related to drinking of the population as a whole, and what impact these beliefs have upon the American population. One large U.S study linked the escalating statistics of binge drinking directly to the exposure of alcohol in Hollywood movies. The study also stated that young adults are even twice as likely to start drinking after watching movies with high exposure to alcohol, compared to those who do not watch as many movies with drinking involved.

Their findings concluded that the link was not just with watching the characters drink, but also the alcohol product placement. Alcohol in movies was also ranked as the third highest influence factor in teen drinking, above access to drink at home and having parents who drink. More worryingly, Sargent also found that young adults who watched movies which mostly feature alcohol were 63% more likely to go on to binge drinking.Does Popular Culture Encourage Drinking

Alcohol and the Underage Drinker:

It’s no surprise in the modern day to often come across teen movies where drinking, especially excess drinking, is considered the norm and even as a social ritual. The depictions of college parties and even high school parties include the glorification of underage drinking, often causing a misperception of the excess use of alcohol to the young teen audience. Arguing that it is the Hollywood blockbuster that is encouraging teenagers to turn to drink, as they aim to mirror the behavior they are witnessing on their screens.

However, it is often questioned whether popular perceptions actually match reality, as excess drinking is often depicted as humorous and a way of enhancing your lifestyle. Within the journal Shifting Perspectives on Drinking: Alcohol Portrayals in American Films Finn examines the “comic drunk” character as a well recognized stereotype within American popular culture by stating that ‘The tradition of comic drunkenness continues to the present in popular culture, retaining many of its traditional features, despite the best efforts of the alcoholism movement to convey the message that drunkenness is not funny’.

Many studies have often used the obvious example of the American Pie film series, where alcohol is drank 18 times throughout just one film and is depicted an additional 23 times. Television shows such as Gossip Girl, One Tree Hill, and Beverly Hills 90210 also often feature scenes of underage drinking. However, due to the fact that it is no shock anymore to witness these types of scenes, it could also be argued that young teens have actually become desensitized to the thought of underage drinking, seeing it as no issue of law.
It’s Not Only Movies and TV:

In a study published in international journal Addiction, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh considered the exposure that teenagers have to alcohol brands in popular music. They noted that the references to alcohol and drinking are mostly found within rap, R&B and hip-hop music, where singers and rappers glorify their extravagant lifestyle of drinking alongside wealth, violence and drugs.

After analyzing nearly 800 songs within the popular youth market from 2005 to 2007, they found that around 41.5% of mentions of alcohol are presented as positive, compared to only 17.1% of negative alcohol portrayals. They also found that around 25% of the songs which mention alcohol, also directly mention the brand name, therefore effectively using music as a means of advertising of alcohol and creating links between the music and the alcohol industry. They investigated these direct brand mentions and found the most common brands included Patron Tequila, Grey Goose Vodka and Hennessy Congac, consequently the same spirits that are frequently favored by teenagers.

Despite the fact that music guidelines ban marketing to audiences below legal drinking age, this particular genre of music is most popular with teenagers, arguably rendering these laws impractical, as artists are unable to avoid their mostly underage audience. Therefore also suggesting that the alcohol industry gains or profits from teenagers’ drinking.

This is a guest post provided by Stanley Martinson. A part time writer, stanley is currently focused on alcohol related issues, and how to solve them. For more information on the subject, look at this!