Glamorization of Drugs and Alcohol on the Big Screen

by Chris Otto, Associate Pastor Authentic life Fellowship. Otto serves on the DFG Public Education Committee and is a frequent volunteer.

The movie industry, in many ways, glamorizes and glorifies drug and alcohol use. This is not something that has suddenly occurred over the past few years, but is an issue that has been present since 1966 when the first scene of explicit language was seen. Drug and alcohol use in movies is something that can be quite influential on children and teenagers. Just like adults, they relate to the characters and situations in a personal way. This is the magic of the movie experience.

At first one may think of the issue and say, “Well, isn’t that why we have movie ratings?” Yes, but one thing to remember when it comes to the MPAA movie ratings is that they are designed to act as a vehicle for the industry to police itself. The “official” movie ratings are not backed by federal or state laws, thus they are not legally liable. The MPAA criterion is quite cut and dry about the minimum rating for a movie containing drug use. If there is a scene where drugs are present, albeit brief, the movie will receive a minimum rating of PG-13. Although this may seem like a pretty solid plan for not showing such content to younger viewers, consider first some of the more recent popular movies that fell under this category and received a PG-13 rating. The majority of the summer blockbusters in order to be able to market to a broader audience fall under the PG-13 rating. Some of these big titles include colorful characters, superhero movies, comedies, etc. Although some movies in this category may be rated as such because of mild language and violence, others may be rated in this category because of party scenes, brief nudity, and drug use. Obviously, this is a broad range. It is very common to hear stories from parents who are blindsided by a movie’s content in what they thought would be in a safe rating for their children.

So, what’s the plan of action? How can teenagers experience a great movie experience at home or in the theater and at the same give parents the peace of mind that the content is safe? Educate, educate, educate. First, make yourself very familiar with MPAA ratings and how they decide to rate a movie and the process that is in place. A quick web search of “MPAA Ratings” will pull up more than plenty of information needed. Next, seek out resources that go the extra mile of combing though movies with a very critical eye with children in mind. One online resource that reviews and rates new movies on a moral and child friendly basis is:

It is a challenging thing in today’s times as parents, leaders, and loved ones to be the front line of defense against media exposure to drugs and alcohol. The movies in so many ways are a reflection of our society and the trends that are present. So, just like parents must be diligent in day to day life watching for pitfalls, the same applies for the movie experience. Do the extra due diligence and research new movies and you will ensure a pleasurable and memorable time at the movies that your child deserves.