Alcohol in TV shows and movies: is it ever relevant?

The struggle to find a show or movie that doesn’t contain alcohol is quite universal and reflects why alcohol has become central to socialising, glamour, excess and wealth. It’s often what most characters in a movie or show will do when they get home from work, or after a success or a difficult day and you’ll often see them on screen saying to their co-worker ‘F*@k, I need a drink’ or ‘C’mon I’ll buy you a drink’ or ‘let’s all get drinks!’. Now it’s not wrong to enjoy a drink but making alcohol the first thing they have after a hard day or a good day, over time, creates an expectation that this is the norm. I strongly believe this has contributed to a society where it’s often deemed strange or ‘unhelpful’ to not offer or turn to alcohol.

Some shows like Suits I absolutely adore and love, and so do many others, but I often ask myself whether they were being sponsored by a whiskey or Scotch company, based on the sheer number of times they would ALWAYS pour a glass of liquor. Does seeing this repeatedly on our screens from a young age influence us? 

I think it would be ignorant to assume it doesn’t to some degree, whether we are aware of it or not. Now that’s not to say that the movie industry is to blame for the 5,500 deaths due to alcohol that we see every year in Australia, but it certainly plays a role in our drinking culture. High-profile endorsements of a product have always contributed to promoting the use or consumption of that product; this is the fundamental basis of marketing – make a product seem attractive and convince you to buy it. These tactics are similar to what we have seen in the past with tobacco, using celebrities and supermodels to promote a product which aligns itself with what some would consider ‘attractive’ lifestyles. The power of branding is incredibly influential on the human psyche and I would be lying if I did not at one stage think ‘I should have a glass of wine in the shot’ before taking a photo. 

Why is that? 

What does having a glass of wine in a photo represent? 

It represents a cultivation of hundreds of years of short-lived positive experiences which alcohol does provide, contributing to its continued positive public perception for a long period of time. However, as education and human knowledge has improved over the last century, we are becoming more aware than ever of the risks that alcohol poses to our health.

I think we are seeing a shift in Australian drinking cultures as we become aware of our drinking behaviours. Developing an awareness of when and why we consume alcohol as a part of self-care is something that anyone anywhere can do. Doing this myself has already been so helpful because I feel so much more in control around alcohol, rather than being reactive.



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  • Oh yes! I couldn’t agree more. This is even true in kids shows such as Fuller House and Alexis and Katie on Netflix. The parents share a glass of wine at the end of the day, alcohol is served when the family is out to dinner. When bad news is about to be delivered, a big drink of wine is needed for the characters. I think I noticed this more as I’m now not drinking and also you can compare directly to the old “full house” episodes, also on Netflix, where alcohol was not written in the scenes at all.

    By Amanda
    July 3, 2019
  • Thank you for writing this. I have tried to limit alcohol over the years, and find that just about every show or movie I have tried to watch for enjoyment would ultimately be encouraging me to drink – after a good day, bad day, with friends, with family, to celebrate anything, to commiserate over anything, to enjoy any evening meal, etc, etc, etc. You rarely see anyone suggesting a walk in nature or a cup of tea. I really wish the industry would try and reflect our new awareness of alcohol, rather than keep holding us in the past and influencing the young – I want a better life for my teenagers!!!

    By Karen
    July 4, 2019
  • Wow, such an intelligent, well-thought out observation of the drinking culture on movies and TV. I cringe a lot when people are continually turning to drink to relieve stress. See the thriller/policing genres. Why not go for a run or a swim? You just have to read books such as Angela’s Ashes by frank McCourt to see the devastating results of alcoholism on families. It’s winter here and I can just see him as a child with no food, no decent bad and so cold. So glad that hellosundaymorning is doing something positive to change our culture.

    By Robyn Chalmers
    July 4, 2019
  • I’m wondering if Netflicks have looser rules around alcohol and smoking in their content. We recently watched Peaky Blinders and we were both shocked at how much drinking and smoking were a part of every single scene practically!!

    By Lesley
    July 10, 2019
  • I have been reading alot about this. It is referred to as ‘unconscious conditioning’ . For years and years, we have been seeing tv programmes and off course, advertisements that promote the joy of drinking. They are lurking in the background, all sorts of adds, buy 6 wines, get one free! – the person is sipping his wine at a BBQ surrounded by little kids running around having a great time, as daddy sips beer and mam sips wine, he is cooking the steak, they are all smiling- These ads are aired at anytime of the day and are watched by young kids, teens, and adults and they get into the unconscious parts of our brains- and then later when we are older, they become little cues for us to think, ‘i need a drink’, ‘its fun’, ‘sophisticated’. For me, i remember watching ‘Carrie’ (Sarah Jessica Parker’) drinking a ‘Martini’ or a big glass of white/red wine. Crazily, I would associate this act with a great successful exciting life in NY (as a 30 something). I watched alot of epsisodes . The problem is, that with this ‘conditioning’ , it is very difficult for us easily reverse our thinking when we are repeatedly bombarded with assurances that alcohol is harmless and we are convinced by our peers, family and society as a whole that it is safe, in small doses, and that’s what makes us afraid of trying to go AF- We are so bombarded with these images that Alcohol is sophisticated, the person on the street, homeless is’nt drinking the same stuff we are, so we are ok! -seriously? its a chemical- diluted Ethanol ( ETOH) and we are all drinking the same ETOH- just processed and bottled differently. So educating ourselves about the neuroscience behind why we have difficulties in abstaining from alcohol will help us realize that our brains can recover with a little time and we can sit back and ‘unconsciously’ say to the advertisers, you wont get me anymore.

    By Helen
    July 25, 2019
  • Yes! This was one of the hardest things when trying to stop. I would watch my favourite shows and every social setting had booze in it. In many ways, I found this harder!

    By Sam
    August 15, 2019
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