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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Part IV of "Why I Don't Drink"

My disdain for Glamorized Alcoholism:
[This post contains at least 5 red Youtube links as "proof clips" .]

We live in a society that has long glamorized drinking. The history of Hollywood, both on and off the screen, is the story of going to bed with martinis and “waking up in Margaritaville.” For decades, advertisers have directly connected "good drinking" with good friends, but they never show us who drives them home. The "movies" have been glamorizing elegant drinking with our favorite classic stars for decades. From these films, we're taught that sophisticated drinking can be a regular part of our day with no problems, and then (if someone has too much) we're taught to laugh at its effect.

Take a moment to think of the last time you saw a typical depiction of drunkenness on the stage, film, or TV screen, and you’ll probably see humorous, laughable, lovable lost souls. Do they show drunks puking and hung over the next morning and yelling at their wife and kids? (Okay. Homer Simpson may be the exception. Go beyond him.) Or do they just entertain us at the drunk person's expense?

I realize that it’s natural for us to laugh at what we fear, but I think laughing at drunkenness serves a different purpose: it lowers the standard of "too much" by implying that as long as we're not "that drunk," we're okay. As long as there is someone "drunker" within eyesight, we're drinking "responsibly." The facts in Part V [next post below] will bear out that we have problems (and for instance shouldn't drive) when we are far short of "being drunk." Beyond the fact that temporary loss of motor skills is funny (like seeing a dizzy kid), I think we laugh at drunks because few people see themselves as one.

Here are a few examples of drunks that help us feel "responsible."

The drunk buffoon is in theater from Greek comedy/tragedy to Shakespeare (e.g. Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night)

I mentioned W.C. Fields in the 30's. In the sixties, we watched a similar "have a drink" character every week on The Dean Martin Show.

Or Otis stumbling in to Mayberry. [He evidently only attempted to drive while drunk in this episode. I am a huge Mayberry fan, but I must confess Andy Griffith's writers were caught up in the "let's laugh at a drunk" rut. Scroll down this article from Drunkard Magazine to see their favorite episodes.]
More recent sitcoms are no better. Seems like I vaguely remember some "Friends" getting married in Vegas (but not remembering a thing).

We wink at drunk sports casters (like this clip of Joe Namath).

We laugh at the notion that many "singles" rely on drunkenness to lead to casual one-night stands.

Perhaps the lush we feel the least guilty about laughing at is "the accidental drunk." You know the little rascal who got into the wrong cabinet or Disney’s Dumbo when he drinks the clown’s spilled whisky, and sees “pink elephants on parade.” Even his rat friend is drunk with him. Here's a more pathetic Youtube clip of a real rodent who accidentally got drunk on fermented pumpkins. Sad that we feel sorry for a dead-drunk squirrel but laugh when it's a fellow human being.
Who could forget when Rob Williams' Mrs. Doubtfire gets unintentionally wasted? There's nothing more amusing than a disastrous moment for the dysfunctional familyof a divorced couple fighting over custody of the kids. Perhaps, the classic accidental drunk of all time is Lucile Ball during her filming of a “Vitameatavegiman” commercial. I'll admit, this is a humorous 6-minute sketch, but that simply proves my point!

Some of you may be thinking… “Come on, Tom. Don’t be a Ned Flanders. So what if we glamorize drinking. So what if kids have been exposed to hundreds of humorous drunks by the time they’re 13. Kids are smart enough to know that real drinking in real life isn’t funny.” I wish the mounting evidence touched on in the second half of Part V, confirmed that. In gathering it, I did meet one young man who knows it's not funny to lose motor skills. His name is Brandon. (Watch this powerful one minute video)
Assignment: We tend not to leave comments on "old posts," but if you see a blatant example of glamorized irresponsible drinking and drunkenness viewed largely by an under-aged audience, please share it here. Please include the date of your observation; title of the show or film; a brief description of the "funny drunk" scene; and the age of the young audience who may have viewed it. Thank you.

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Blogger SusieQ said...

Patterns, you have given several good reasons why you, as an individual, should not drink. In fact, you have given several good reasons why anyone should think twice about drinking especially anyone who suspects they are genetically predisposed to becoming an alcoholic.

The fact that you abstain in order to serve as an example to others, especially the young, is admirable.

My maternal grandfather had a drinking problem. He quit drinking later in life once it became apparent to him that he really could not handle drinking and it was causing problems in his life. My mother developed a drinking problem too. It started when her doctor suggested she have a martini at night after work to relax. One martini led to two, then three and pretty soon she had a drinking problem. Eventually, she acknowledged that she could not handle drinking and she quit as well. Although my father drank, he never developed a problem.

My paternal grandmother wouldn't touch the stuff except on New Year's Day when she would serve wine to her dinner guests in these teeny-tiny glasses that were smaller than a shot glass. One was all they got, too. Grandma hated it when Grandpa brought beer into the house. He drank a bottle in the evening. She used to make him drink it in the basement though. She was so cautious of alcohol that she even suspected it was in Cola drinks. She swore that pop made her woozy.

Except for a few occasions as a young adult, I abstained from drinking until I was in my early forties. Then I discovered that a glass of wine with my evening meal did wonders for my digestion. It relaxed me. I have allowed myself that small pleasure at dinner time ever since. I come from a Catholic background, so my view of drinking is moderate compared to yours. I didn't have the advantage of a Baptist upbringing.

What I dislike is the culture of drinking that exists in our, well, culture. I have no problem with a person enjoying one or two drinks at a social function or in the evening with a meal. To me that is responsible drinking. What I hate to see is the binge drinking that sometimes goes on especially with younger people. It is dangerous. As you pointed out, there can be all sorts of undesirable consequences. Neither do I like the idea of people hanging out at bars and becoming bar flies.

I don't think you addressed this aspect of drinking to a great extent, but a good percentage of auto accidents involve alcohol. So, I am very much in favor of cracking down on drunk drivers. And good for MADD which has done so much toward getting drunks off the road. Like I tell people, if you are going to drink, then don't drive.

I remember that Lucille Ball episode. I have to admit that I laughed, but in reality I do not like drunks. I do not like to be around a drunk.

4/4/07 11:58 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Thank you for this helpful and well presented comment. I was genuinely hoping that some thoughtful people would be brave enough to credibly represent the "responsible inclusion" side. I use that term rather than "responsible drinking" because when we use the present, progressive tense of the verb "drinking" it sounds frequent and on-going (as if young people should bring alcohol into their lives in small doses at first so they can learn to detect when they're approaching the line of intoxication--I'd prefer to set a higher "bar" for our young people... pun intended.=)
Whereas "inclusion" implies a measured (not literally but implicitly small and "limited") amount for specific purposes at a specific time and never for a perceptible amount of "elevation" (as Ben Franklin called it) or to "forget your problems" or "loosen up your inhibitions" or “make the strange date cuter” or "prove you can hold your liquor with the good ol' boys," etc.
The wine you mention, obviously comes closer to Paul's "medicinal" admonition to Timothy than did your mother's doctor's advice which led to problems. (I fear, I would be more like the latter example even if it started out "for my stomach's sake." More about that in Part VI.)
As for the drunk driving... that's at the end of part V. I finished that last night.
Thanks again for your thoughts.

5/4/07 6:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a different anonymous. I haven't been here for a while. This is interesting. It does seem like getting drunk is usually funny on TV, and people who believe the Bible are usually scary wackos or nurds like Ned. Thank you for not being like that here.

5/4/07 8:37 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I would agree with you. It is almost as predictable as alcohol being glamorized that the character who quotes the Bible will portrayed as either annoying or a nut. Fact is most of the people I know are "real, down-to-earth" people, but TV and film paints Christians with the same broad brush of prejudice. I feel an idea for a post coming out of this. Hmmmm...
I've not presented these posts as a Biblical position and even the next post will not be like that. It's an individual decision, but those who are "role models" for youth are wise to err on the side of caution.
Thanks for stopping by

5/4/07 9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had a little trouble opening the Brandon video clip but it just took an extra click. How sad. he is very brave to want to share his story. Is there more to the video?

6/4/07 2:27 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I wish it had been a Youtube clip to avoid that additional step, but you're right. My heart broke thinking of how Brandon's life changed and how motivated he was to use his tragedy to help prevent someone else's.

6/4/07 9:46 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

I just got back from taking my youngest daughter to "Open Season." It is typical post-Shrek animated film that gives parents plenty to laugh at with the kids.
One part didn't make me laugh.
In the opening half hour, the two main characters break into a closed "convenience store" eating and drinking everything in sight as score lyrics sing "I want to lose control." The two get horribly drunk before the police come and get them. Many humorous "drunk" gags and dialogue follows until the bear pukes. We were sitting with at least 200 children below age ten and they all found the drunk scenes--especially the puke-- very funny. I invite you to add examples as you see them through the weeks and months ahead.

7/4/07 4:27 PM  

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