Hollywood and its tired stoner stereotype is a relic of the past
Except, someone forgot to inform Tinseltown.
From Cheech and Chong to Pineapple Express, Dazed and Confused, Half Baked and the airhead Jeff Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, it’s safe to say Hollywood has an idea of what weed users are supposed to be.
Marijuana stereotypes are quickly and easily resorted to when creating the image of what a “Cannabis Consumer” looks and sounds like. But according to a new survey done by NYC-based media and brand consultancy Miner and Co. Studio, stoners are getting pissed over this airhead, out-of-it portrayal.
Results of the survey show that stoners are anything but a group of high school kids zoning out in a basement via That 70s Show. Out of 800 legal cannabis consumers, almost every single one self-identified with being “present” and “mindful” but also “professional.”
Seven out of 10 respondents went on to add that they feel too many TV shows portray Cannabis users as forgetful stoners. Even more surveyors (8 out of 10) expressed appreciation for shows that flip the script and offer positive portrayals of users and culture. (i.e. the films Celeste & Jesse Forever and The Skeleton Twins.)
The gist of all these stoners rising up to protect their image has to do with stigmas and the power of TV to dictate what exactly one type of person looks like, acts like, and should be treated as. In essence, a prejudice.
“Media has played an incredibly important role in the societal acceptance of cannabis consumption, but there’s still work to do” says Robert Miner, president of Miner & Co. Studio. “The same recognizable trope of the harmless silly stoner that drove normalization has now become an impediment to acceptance for productive and engaged consumers of cannabis. Recreational consumers feel concern that non-consumers of cannabis will take them less seriously and question their judgement, and consumers of medical marijuana too often find that they need to be careful discussing their use with some peers or employers who may see them as unreliable or lazy based on ingrained stereotypes of cannabis use — even for medical needs.”
Miner goes on to compare a bowl to a beer, saying, “When a character on a show drinks a beer or a glass of wine, they aren’t presented as an out of control drunk or an alcoholic — but consumption of cannabis in any amount far too consistently turns that character into a zoned out bumbling stoner.”
Indeed, the vast majority of marijuana users (I sound like such a mom) that were surveyed agreed cannabis consumption on TV should be no different than seeing a character consume wine, beer, or a cocktail, and that more shows should make an effort to portray characters for whom cannabis is a legitimate and positive medical option.
Of millennial respondents (ages 21-38), 73 percent said they would prefer seeing characters smoke weed over drinking … which might explain the success of Seth Rogan.
Will popular TV shows change their approach to personifying stoners? It’d be a lot cooler if they did, but since most sitcom TV is built around stereotypes, it might take a hot second for NBC and CBS to jump on the pro-cannabis train.
At the same time, networks like Comedy Central and various film studios have already entered the “Age of the Smart Stoner,” showing characters that have real, responsible jobs, families, mortgages, and even children (yes, female and mother stoners are in!) — using marijuana as one would a cold beer.
So I guess the moral of the smoky story is that the old stoner trope is boring now and Hollywood will catch-up eventually. Networks like NBC can keep shitting out crappy sitcom shows if they want, or start embracing a new kind of pothead who doesn’t own a closet of tie dye shirts.