Addiction Awareness Scholarship Campaign 2020 Round 2 – Romanticizing Addiction in the Media

Name: David Brauet Jimenez

Romanticizing Addiction in the Media

Romanticizing Addiction in the Media

By David Brauet

The often unrealistic portrayal of addiction in the mass media is a real and concerning problem that we face as a society. Drugs are romanticized and idealized in music, television shows, movies, and even books. The effects of these toxic substances are glamourized to fit an aesthetic which is extremely unethical given the current crisis with substance abuse that we face as a society.

The first example I want to bring forth is the HBO series “Euphoria” which garnered extreme popularity upon its 2019 release. The series focuses on Rue, portrayed by Zendaya, an addict that has returned from rehab and her struggles to stay sober as a junior in high school. Although the show is very realistic on its portrayal of addiction and its repercussions not only for the addict but also their family and those that surround them, I cannot help but point out where the show falls short. “Euphoria” relies on the bright, neon and often disorienting effects in order to depict the effects of the drugs that Rue abuses which include Oxycodone, Xanax and Fentanyl. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can give the viewer the wrong impression about drugs and may lead to an oversimplified view of drugs and their effects on humans. The use of drugs is so normalized in the media that it creates a toxic mindset in the audience and indirectly encourages substance abuse and addiction. Furthermore, the blind glorification of addiction and substance abuse is prominent in today’s music especially in the hip hop and pop genres. Artists such as The Weeknd, Lorde, Nicki Minaj, among others continuously use themes relating to drug use in their music. These popular singers and pop stars are almost idolized by their fans which can vary in age. It cannot be argued that such messages in music are not a positive influence in today’s youth. While it is crucial to illustrate and provide visibility to these real life occurrences, there is a fine line between realism and idealism.

The media runs our society and controls the minds of the younger generations, and for this reason it is dire to be aware of these messages that are encoded into the music we hear on the radio and the shows we watch on TV. There is a lot of change that needs to happen if we want to stop this blatant romanticization of drug use and addiction and that first step is up to us as a society trying to battle this immense threat.