On Scriptnotes Episode 412: Writing About Mental Health and Addiction, John August initiated a new feature, which you can hear by following that link and listening to the whole episode (which I encourage you to do because it’s a great episode), or you can just listen to this excerpt:
Here’s the excerpt from the transcript of that episode:
John: Now usually on the podcast we would do a One Cool Thing, but for tonight I wanted to do a new segment called Please Stop. And so I asked everyone to prepare a Please Stop for something that they see in films and television that they wish they would not see ever again, or that people would cut way back on.
So, here’s my Please Stop. Can we please stop with the actual quantity of alcohol we see characters drinking in movies and TV shows? Because it’s physically impossible. You see these characters, I mean, this is really an appeal to writers and directors, but also like the prop people. Because people will drink these massive quantities. And we all know that it’s like tea or something in there, so they’re not actually drinking bourbon. But characters drink so much that they would be dead in some of these things.
So if we could keep an extra eye out for the actual volume of alcohol we’re having our characters drink that would be my appeal and ask to Please Stop overdoing the alcohol.
I’d second that, but I’d take it a big step further. How about severely limiting or even eliminating alcohol altogether in movies and shows that are intended for children or expected to have a big appeal to children and/or teenagers?
As an example, I’ll offer ABC’s fairy tale-based TV series Once Upon a Time. Since it was built around fairy tale characters, I can only assume it was intended to appeal to young people. Now I only saw the first season, but every time one of the characters had a stressful experience, one of the other characters would immediately say, “You need a drink!” and plop a big glass of bourbon in front of them. Or sometimes for variety the stressed out character would say, “I need a drink!”
And this happened in practically every episode. What kind of message about alcohol was that sending to impressionable young minds?
Please Stop using alcohol as the all-purpose remedy for stress in shows that appeal to kids!
And another thing.
The problem here is that it’s been demonstrated that seeing characters smoking, even if it’s in a clearly negative context, influences teens to give it a try. And with teenagers, smoking as little as one cigarette can be enough to get them hooked.
So Please Stop showing characters smoking in movies and TV shows with teenage audiences!
I’d actually like to see films and shows stop depicting smoking altogether unless it’s important to the plot, but ya gotta start somewhere.