Sunday, March 22, 2009

Drugs in the Media

Posted on behalf of Marlaina Luciano:

Chapter 27 of McQuail’s Reader in Mass Communication Theory explains that “advertisements are one of the most important cultural factors molding and reflecting our life today. They are ubiquitous and inevitable part of everyone’s lives: even if you do not read a newspaper or watch television, the images posted over our urban surroundings are inescapable” (299). McQuail also explains that the signification of advertising is intentional by saying, “in advertising the signification of the image is undoubtedly intentional; the signifieds of the advertising message are formed a priori by certain attributes of the product and these signifieds have to be transmitted clearly as possible” (290). Advertisements have made a huge impact on each and every one of our lives whether we realize it or not. It is happening every day because we are constantly being surrounded by advertisements even if we do not read newspapers or magazines, or watch television.

I will be connecting ideology, hegemony, and semiotics to the effect of drugs that are being used in the media. Because drugs are constantly being placed in the media everywhere we look, is that making it more socially acceptable for people to be doing drugs more? Can you think of any media outlet that is constantly showing drug usage by celebrities? There are plenty to choose from. Many celebrity gossip websites are constantly making jokes about celebrities who use drugs. For example, Perez Hilton often makes remarks about Lindsay Lohan being too skinny from the fact that she has been doing too much cocaine. The reason why he is on her case is because she has been in and out of rehab before. In the article,, he talks about how Jackass star Steve-O claims that Lindsay Lohan is a “drug thief” and has stolen his coke before. This may be hard for some to believe but they are many teenagers that look up to Lindsay Lohan as a role model. What kind of effect is this having on those teenagers if Perez Hilton is often writing about Lindsay Lohan and her drug addiction? Is it making them want to experiment new things too?

In the article,, the article discusses a controversial article that was printed in the Washington Post. The reason why it was so controversial was because it talked about an eight year old boy named Jimmy who was a third generation heroin addict. It talked about his home life and what he planned on doing when he grew up. Unfortunately, his home life was not a very good one and it was described as there being drug addicts “casually” buying heroin from his family every day. Jimmy talked about his future drug dealing career which was of concern for many after reading this article.
After this story was printed, the controversy sparked and many people called and wrote letters to the Washington Post and to local officials claiming that something needed to be done in order to find Jimmy. Many people were worried for his well-being, especially because of his young age.

I chose to look at this story also because it was different in the sense that drugs may have had the opposite effect on the reader’s of this media outlet. The people who were reading this outlet were much more concerned about the child’s well-being and took action on trying to find him.
Do you think that all of the media outlets that are covering drugs are having a negative effect on it’s readers or not?


  1. A great example of drugs in the media is the music and movie industries. ever since the first movies were filmed, and television aired, people have smoking in them and eventually people have mentioned how smoking is bad for your health and the movie industry changed to not have as many people smoke especially when it is the main character and/or the hero/protagonist. Lately however, things have been changing and becoming more loose. you see more characters smoking again, even if they are the good guys. It is more socially acceptable to smoke. While this is no heroin addict and not real life, it shows how we are affected by the media and how much of an influence we have on it and the type of subliminal messaging and advertising that they can produce. I agree with Williamson when she writes "it is too simple to say that advertising reduces people to the status of things, though clearly this is what happens when both are used symbolically." (Williamson in McQuail pg. 300) The music industry is teeming with artists that talk about drugs, especially in rap lyrics. Eminem has been one of the most controversial artists ever and half of his lyrics have to do with drugs and drug use while all of the music videos have someone smoking and drinking. While i don't think this and the rest of media make is more socially acceptable, i do think that it makes us more aware of what out there and perhaps peaks our curiosity. While they are not directly advertisements and promoting the drugs, they are still in the media and shown to the audience.

  2. Sadly, I do not believe that all of the media outlets covering drug use are making it out to be a negative thing. There are sites like Perez Hilton which make Lindsay Lohan out to be someone to admire (not in my opinion but how it is conveyed much of the time) because she is the ideal skinny which so many girls in our society strive to be. It is not as though he is coming right out and telling young girls to start doing enough cocaine to kill a small horse so they can be skinny and popular like Lindsay, but there is an underlying context that gives girls the idea that they need to look like they have been doing heroine for years to make them pretty.
    There are not many legitimate news sources which condone this type of writing or behavior, actually, I can't think of any, but the idea that there are advertisers and popular culture icons insinuating that this type of behavior is alright is just wrong. Take Kate Moss for example, in the 90s the woman was a fashion icon and the only reason she was as small as she was was because of the amount of drugs she was doing while she was becoming a giant star.
    On page 300 of the McQuail Reader, Judith Williamson states, "The components of advertisments are variable and not necessarily all part of one 'language' or social discourse. Advertisements rather provide a structure that is capable of transforming the language of objects to that of people, and vise versa". By looking at this passage and looking at the advertisements of Kate Moss during her heavy drug using stage, we are able to ask, what was she really selling? Was she selling clothes and cosmetics or was she selling a lifestyle? A lifestyle that is not suited for the young girls who were undoubtedly looking up to Kate Moss as a role model. The same thing can be said about Britney Spears, yes back when she first came out there was a nice Southern girl quality about her, but look at her now. How many mothers would allow their daughters to follow in the footsteps of the Britney we now all know and love? I'm guessing not many.
    Drugs in the media, especially in advertising, are there without even being shown, it is the idea of them that is either being shown in a positive light through gossip sites or in a negative light, by seeing how it has destroyed some extremely successful lives.