With the enormous popularity in recent years of Judd Apatow
movies, the image of the stoner in our cultural consciousness is a far cry from the wild, crazed, and fending addict as presented in the movie Reefer Madness
. Reefer Madness, first released in 1936 [via imdb], created a caricature of pot smokers in order to deter people from using marijuana, as well as to deter American youth from embracing the "evil" jazz scene dominated by African-Americans.
The movie constructed an image of pot smokers as similar to that of cocaine addicts or heroin junkies. The drug made you go into a mania, where you lost your sense of self and began to see things. The desire to use was so insurmountable; you became a slave to the drug. Today, we understand that this image is grossly inaccurate. We also know that the reason for marijuana's illegality has to do with a smear campaign in the 1930s by the government and those in the timber industry who feared that hemp would replace timber as the main source of paper. The marijuana ban was all about economics and racism, and had little to do with any concern about the health of those who used it.
It wasn't until the 1960s that smoking marijuana became less taboo. Though it was widely smoked by the youth, it was still seen as unacceptable behaviour to most Americans. This, however, could not stop the growing popularity of hippie culture. Fashion designers were giving nods to hippie style in their collections, mass produced items were covered in psychedelic patterns, and more people were trying marijuana. The image of the stoner changed. Instead of being viewed as a raving lunatic, the stoner was bumbling and benevolent. But the negative stereotypes continued to perpetuate. People who smoked marijuana were painted as lazy, unmotivated, spacey, jobless or working in professions of little consequence-still caricatured. Cheech and Chong
or Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High
are perfect examples of this revamped stoner image of the loveable idiot.
Cheech and Chong: Up in Smoke © Paramount
Today, although these stereotypes remain on some level, we are seeing a change that can especially be seen in Judd Apatow's films. The characters in his films have steady jobs, motivation, and meaningful relationships with others. They smoke marijuana to relax, not because they need to. The main thing that is different about Apatow's stoner and the stoners of old is that their smoking does not interfere with their day-to-day lives. They are not less intelligent or productive because they smoke, and they don't need to smoke all the time. This is a more accurate presentation, one that is becoming increasingly recognizable to Americans. This image of the "new stoner" as a functioning and productive member of society is a result of the growing acceptance of marijuana in our society.
Americans are beginning to realize that this plant that has been so demonized throughout the 20th century, might be better for us than we thought. It's more than just a recreational drug: it's a plant that has proven to provide many medicinal and economic benefits. The reason why this "new stoner" exists is because people are beginning to recognize this and the historical pretext for its illegalization. With 42% of Americans having admitted to using marijuana, it's safe to say that marijuana isn't becoming the mainstream-it already is.
Story by Jihan Forbes
Starpulse contributing writer