The Romanticization of Alcohol in American Media

2 Jan, 2021

In much of the contemporary mainstream media, that’s put out in the United States, alcohol is romanticized in a variety of ways. It cannot be denied that the media that we see each day seems to let us know that drinking should be perceived as fundamentally beneficial to our lives. Whether or not this is the case can certainly be held accountable for the conversation that is had about alcoholism in the U.S., as well as incidents of drunk driving. When the sheen and romanticism of drinking as it’s painted in songs, reality television, and advertisements are washed away, we see how many of these images of consistently great experiences that people might be having with alcohol can be lies. Particularly in a context of fun-loving actors showing off how easy it is to have sex with alcohol involved, what is typically undermined in these media depictions is how much alcohol can cause suffering in daily life—both on and offscreen.

Alcohol’s Role in Pop Music

In pop music, there is almost a constant stream of messages enforcing an idea that drinking alcohol makes you more apt to fall in love and have generally more fulfilling sexual experiences when inebriated. This has been true for the past century and perhaps throughout the entirety of pop music’s history since its inception: even holiday songs such as “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” promote the idea that alcohol betters every situation, no matter the potential consequences. The theme of pop songs generally (but not always) has to do with love and relationships; in the context of these relationships, there is usually a scenario depicted in which alcohol enforces a bond between the two parties involved in the song which strengthens their bond. This narrative is misleading, particularly to the youth of America, because it implies that people can only be honest or “real” with each other after a few drinks. Not only do these messages marginalize people in recovery, but they actively promote negative messages about having positive, open relationships that are based on healthy communication, not alcohol.

Alcohol Inciting Conflict on Reality-TV

Similar to pop music, alcoholism is a topic that weighs heavily upon the zeitgeist of reality television. On shows such as Jersey Shore and all iterations of the Real Housewives franchise, the members of the cast are generally shown to be (somewhat) civil with each other, until they begin drinking. The core drama of the shows typically is inciting cast members to confront each other regarding underlying issues in their relationships after having had a few drinks. Usually, after this happens the drama that ensues is so over-the-top and bombastic that some of these programs should actually be seen as an example of the negative results of overconsumption of alcohol in social settings. The entire theme of many reality shows centers around group conflicts and without these, there really would be no point to most of the shows. Reality shows like these actually seem to romanticize what can happen when relationships implode due to people drinking. If these examples of inebriation are meant to be entertaining and funny, then they are setting very negative examples for how to handle conflict. 

Inherent Romanticism in Advertisements

Advertisements for alcoholic drinks are the most confusing in terms of positive imagery depicting drinking because they imply that drinking is some sort of given in life, an important asset to cherish and always have in the house. Clearly, any company looking to advertise their product would feel the need to make their consumption appear positive; however, in ads for alcoholic beverages there is usually some sort of ultimatum struck between the consumer and the beverage company: enjoy our alcohol and we’ll improve every aspect of your life. This is pervasive messaging that is usually bolstered by images of people drinking with friends and at home, carrying on the traditions of drinking as part of American life. These ads promote ideas about alcohol consumption that suggest that without alcohol in your life, or in this case a certain brand of alcohol in your life, you’ll be missing out. This certainly cannot be a positive message for anyone to really take lightly, especially for someone hoping to leave alcohol behind if it’s had a negative impact on their life. Overall, the idea that drinking is fun and has to be a part of your life is clearly very beneficial to these companies as they’re trying to market their product, but without the awareness that they could be perpetuating not only negative messages but stereotypes about American nightlife that doesn’t have to include alcohol is very misleading.

There are so many other examples of how alcohol exists in the media that are glossed over due to the privilege it holds in society by encouraging people to “let loose” and “show their true emotions”. However, it can cause fights, lead people down the road to alcoholism, and ultimately be a major liability to those consuming it at any time.

Sober Life addresses substance use and alcohol addiction in a context that allows people going through recovery to focus on what the right means of getting sober is for them. At Sober Life, an emphasis on discipline and general wellness leads those in the program towards a more holistic lifestyle that detracts alcohol and drugs from their lives. The consensus at SoberLife is that one’s quality of life should not be affected by a dependency on substances, but by their own means of executing what one truly wants and expects from a happy life. Knowing that there are options in life and that a person does not have to be limited by their addiction is something that Sober Life strives to teach the members of its program. If you identify with these sentiments, call (619) 542-9542 as soon as possible. We may be able to help you understand and heal in the process of recovery. 

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