Movies About Marijuana Are Sprouting Like Weeds

Movies About Marijuana Are Sprouting Like Weeds
Posted by FoM on August 20, 2000 at 08:19:50 PT
By Joe Williams, Post-Dispatch Film Critic
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
There's something in the air at local movie theaters, and it's marijuana. On Friday, two reefer-themed movies opened in St. Louis: "Saving Grace," a British comedy about a bankrupt widow who grows pot to pay the mortgage, and "Grass," a documentary history of marijuana in America. But beyond these two high-spirited movies, the past year has brought a boatload of important films in which pot is an integral part of the story line, including "Eyes Wide Shut," "Wonder Boys" and "American Beauty."
In almost every case, the drug is depicted in a positive light, or at least as a deep-rooted reality that thrives in the tall shadow of unpopular laws. As more states approve medical-marijuana laws and more politicians acknowlege that the war on drugs is not working, it is likely that Hollywood will both reflect and shape a more tolerant attitude toward this hearty weed.The resurgence of marijuana imagery in recent movies coincides with several grass-roots political developments. In the last two years, voters in several states have passed medical-marijuana initiatives, to the relief of cancer and AIDS patients and to the displeasure of the federal government. Meanwhile, a generation of neo-hippies is promoting alternative uses for the humble plant. As a recent documentary called "The Emperor of Hemp" points out, marijuana was one of the most important and versatile crops in America from the days of hemp farmer George Washington until the era of prohibition. The recent movement to promote hemp as a source of fiber, fuel and food is surely a backdoor strategy to liberalize the laws against the recreational use of the drug. But it's also a reflection of an undeniable reality: that our laws can't eradicate nature, human or otherwise.Studies estimate that 60 million Americans have tried marijuana, and most of them discovered that the official warnings about the demonic properties of this common plant were a lot of hot air. Some of those skeptics are now running movie studios, and some of them are running for political office. When Bill Clinton said that he tried marijuana once in college but did not inhale, it wasn't the taint of drugs that hurt his credibility but the preposterous notion that a child of the '60s might have repudiated grass after a single flirtation. This year, candidiate Al Gore was quick to acknowlege that he had smoked marijuana on many occasions, an admission he wisely made on MTV, where it generated little controversy. On the other hand, fellow baby boomer George W. Bush looks evasive and prissy when he refuses to say whether he has ever used illegal drugs. In Bush's case, the rumors involve cocaine, which is nearly as common as pot but harder to justify as a youthful pursuit of wisdom.Stoner comedies have been sporadically popular since the heyday of Cheech and Chong. In 1998, the movie "Half Baked" tried and failed to recapture the shaggy magic of doper humor, while a year later an atrocious horror parody called "Idle Hands" combined druggie stereotypes with enough gore to make Joe Lieberman faint.But in recent movies, as in life, most marijuana users are not irresponsible slackers but productive members of society. In many films, the casual use of marijuana is a way of underscoring that a character is unpretentious or likable. In the visually opulent new thriller "The Cell," our first glimpse of researcher Jennifer Lopez in her civilian guise is a scene in which she smokes a joint while surfing the Internet. It is clear that the character is not a screw-up, and her use of drugs is never again mentioned. In "Eyes Wide Shut," a successful doctor played by Tom Cruise smokes pot to relax with his wife, which precipitates a confession of infidelity that sets the movie in motion. In the under-appreciated "Wonder Boys," a professor played by Michael Douglas is a daily user of marijuana, and the character maintains that pot was the inspiration for the award-winning novel that has cemented his reputation.However, the moral of "Wonder Boys" relies on the negative attitude toward marijuana that prevailed in the just-say-no era when Michael Chabon wrote the novel on which the movie was based. A comely student points out to the middle-aged professor that his unwieldy and unfinished second book is being undermined by his constant intake of dope, and the professor's pregnant lover refuses to marry him until he empties his stash. He complies, and thus the movie ends happily.Likewise, in "American Beauty" the role of marijuana is not a cut-and-dried issue. When frustrated everyman Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) buys pot from a young neighbor, it kick-starts a radical change in his lifestyle. Marijuana is the agent of Lester's transformation, the elixir that restores his lost vitality and idealism. But his walk on the wild side also incites his murder by a drug-busting homophobe.Ten years ago, the television networks couldn't broadcast a movie like "American Beauty" without editing out the positive references to marijuana. Now, thanks to a new wave of '60s nostalgia, a posse of dope-smoking rappers and the emergence of celebrity hemp activists like Woody Harrelson (who narrates the common-sensical "Grass"), marijuana is trendy again. In the near future, it's likely to become as common in the mass media as it is in real life.Pubdate: Sun, 20 Aug 2000Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)Copyright: 2000 St. Louis Post-DispatchContact: letters postnet.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Grass The Movie - A Ron Mann Film Grace Your Garden Grow Emperor of Hemp Pot Documentary Grass Not Just for Chronic Fan Grace Delivers Delightful Comic High Search - GRASS The Movie:
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #2 posted by Ray Hall on August 16, 2001 at 19:35:33 PT:
pot in movies
I co-wrote a script were in the first three scenes a young woman smokes pot to get back at her father because he can't spent as much time as she would like with her due to his busy work load being a famose movie director. My co- writer is ok but the original person who came up with the concept feels it will hurt the script- someone please email me with what you think about it all -thank you.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on August 20, 2000 at 12:21:03 PT:
Culture Wars, Phase 4
Phase One was the Anslingerian assult on minorites via the anti-cannabis laws. Phase Two was the escalation of the War by that paragon of law & order, Tricky Dick, himself. Phase 3 began when Ronnie Ray-gun, seeking to bolster a flagging military industrial complex, 'Cried "Havoc" and let slip the dogs of the DEA and the rest of the unholy federal alphabet agencies upon the likes of you and me.Phase 4? Now, that's going to be interesting. Because now the gatekeepers of popular culture are getting their backs up. As has been pointed out, too many people know the truth about cannabis. And some of them are in a position to tell the truth, via their access of the popular media. And their ability to shape the perceptions of many through that access. Barry knows all about this, from his half-clumsy attempt to inject his propaganda into popular TV shows. He knows the inherent danger of leaving such a vulnerable flank as cultural perceptions of his precious DrugWar exposed; that's why he tried to stick his bureaucratic nose into Hollywood and straight-arm producers and writers into parroting his cause.Needless to say, some of them resented it. A lot. These movies are a small way of returning the favor. In a way, none of this should be surprising; things do indeed come in cycles. The last time we were close to decrim was the late 70's. But many of us around then thought that decrim would be a natural progression; that, like night following day, reason would win out over prejudice. No one counted on the resurgence of the faux-Puritanism of the self-proclaimed Moral Majority coupled with ambitious Republicans. So the chance was lost.Now it is presenting itself, again. I hope we don't blow it again. 
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: