Cannabis has been around for hundreds of thousands of years, yet it has only been in the past couple of decades that the plant has become more understood, and less looked down upon. While there is still a long way to go yet, there has been a huge shift in attitudes when it comes to our favorite flower!
However, with progress also comes those who can’t quite come around to modern ways of thinking, and while there may be plenty of reputable sources of information about weed, many will believe the things they see on the big (or small) screen to help argue their case against marijuana.
From famous Hollywood movies like Trainspotting and The Pineapple Express to the small screen and other popular culture, there seems to be slow progress when it comes to moving away from those old stereotypes around cannabis use!
Cannabis Use In The Media
There are no two ways around the fact that cannabis is a controversial plant, and over the years it has gained a reputation that has been impossible to shake. The ‘stoner’ stereotypes that we have grown up watching in movies, television, music, and even on some documentaries have paved the way for anti-weed campaigns throughout history.
Rightly or wrongly, weed is often represented across popular media to send a message, whether that be an accurate one or not depends on the creators, and there have been some pretty shocking representations over the years!
While cannabis advocates and those fighting the good fight continue to work hard to break down those lazy stoner stereotypes, it is no doubt an on-going battle when it comes to the media and their cannabis portrayal.
But can television really influence someone’s viewpoint on marijuana, or is it all just in good fun? It is important to remember that those who understand what weed is, often have a sense of humor about it when it comes to TV and film (I mean, the iconic portrayal of the insatiably hungry blazed stoner will always be hilarious).
Nevertheless, it is important to consider the long-term harm of these types of shows that continue to portray just one side of weed.
With those thoughts in mind, let’s take a look at our top five worst portrayals of weed in television shows! And bear in mind that while some of these are just a bit of fun, others are downright unrealistic!
#1 Hotel Hell
The name itself doesn’t give much hope to those looking to this show for an accurate or positive portrayal of cannabis! Indeed, the hit USA reality TV series starring Gordon Ramsey featured the star visiting a variety of run-down and struggling hotels across America, with the intent to revive them to their former glory.
In perhaps the five-year-long series’ most controversial and well-known episode, Ramsey visited a medical marijuana establishment in Oregon – and it was pretty shocking!
The show relied heavily on the well-known stereotypes of the lazy stoner, with the owner, Richard, being a cannabis enthusiast and the general spin on things being that his establishment’s downfall was due to his love of weed.
The show is super dramatic and over the top right from the moment Ramsey steps across the threshold, with a lot of emphasis being put on the TV presenter’s feigned naivety in order to make the cannabis use seem more shocking (at one point Ramsey claims he “loves fresh herbs” as if he doesn’t know what they are referring to – Yeah right!)
Overall the show plays up the stoner persona to portray a lazy and failed business as a result of the bud we know and love!
#2 The Simpsons
Now bear with us here, we all know and love The Simpsons, and given the fact that it is the longest running American adult cartoon show, can appreciate the fact that it holds a pretty legendary status amongst many! That being said, while the show has been running since 1989 and is classed as an ‘adult cartoon,’ many children the world over also enjoy the show–which is bad news for giving off cannabis impressions as it airs on the reckless side when it comes to representing weed!
While there have been a number of subtle references to marijuana (along with other substances such as alcohol), there are also plenty of occurrences where pot is shown to be incredibly mind-altering – and at times even dangerous!
Now, of course, it has to be taken with a sense of humor but characters such as Otto play up the ultimate stoner – which does come with its downsides! Otto, the bus driver, is permanently stoned (or worse) during every episode, and while this may not be an issue for many, the stoner who drives the children of Springfield around and often has some near misses while doing so, is not cutting a great image for the cannabis plant!
We have to appreciate the humor and consistency of The Simpsons, but it would be great to see another side to showcase how marijuana can play a safe part of someone’s everyday life!
Netflix is one of the most subscribed to platforms for watching TV and film, and has grown to astronomical heights since its inception! So imagine our joy when they released a Netflix original series solely dedicated to weed!
Well, Disjointed was just that . . . And then it was gone! The failure that was Disjointed (it was canceled after just one series) likely stemmed from the fact that people really couldn’t get on board with the subject matter, and frankly many felt it represented cannabis users in a bad light.
The show that was filmed in front of a live audience starred the well known Kathy Bates as an LA-based cannabis dispensary owner, but what could have been a brilliant comedy shedding some reality on the much-misrepresented cannabis industry, instead was poorly executed and left many cannabis users pretty angry!
With the characters portraying the ultimate lazy stoner (do you see the running theme here?) it held little reputability within the cannabis community, and scored low ratings from critics worldwide. Major disappointment.
#4 The Inbetweeners
The hit UK comedy series ‘The Inbetweeners’ centers around four schoolboys on their journey through love, school and growing up. Among a host of awkward and embarrassing scenarios, there is one famous episode where one of the main characters, Will, eats some cannabis. What ensues is an incredibly unrealistic and over the top ‘high’ that would never happen in real life! The show that was even replicated in America (but didn’t last long!) was so popular that it led to two feature-length movies, so with an audience reach so big, the way they handled cannabis use didn’t do the industry any favors!
While very amusing, the scene left many cannabis users open-mouthed at just how ridiculous the scenario was. Despite the fact that Will didn’t actually eat an edible (it was the flower), he was left hallucinating, and without any sense of control at all – which as we all know is impossible!
We don’t want to remove the fun factor here, but those who may be watching the show knowing very little about the realities of marijuana, may get a very inaccurate idea about what the plant can do for their health!
#5 South Park
If you are of a certain age, you will have probably seen at least one episode of South Park. The adult cartoon show has been around since 1997, and has certainly made some waves during that time!
Covering political issues along with all manner of racial and sexual themes, it is perhaps one of the less ‘child-friendly’ shows on our list. One of the major subjects that the show often turns to is marijuana, which of course is consistently in the USA news. So of course, we had to include the long-running cartoon here because along with some innocent fun and generalized stereotyping, there is also a sense of making light about what should be taken rather seriously!
From Mr Mackey’s famous line “Drugs are bad, mkay?’ all the way through to the lab-modified stoner towel that is Towelie (yes, it is a pot smoking towel that vanquishes his enemies, and saves the day!), the show certainly doesn’t take the subject of marijuana all that seriously.
While we love that South Park doesn’t shy away from controversial subject matter, we do feel that it could use its platform to portray weed in a more realistic way.
Final Thoughts on Weed in TV
There are certainly two ways of looking at the argument of how weed is portrayed on TV; on the one hand it is a positive that so many highly-viewed shows are representing cannabis use in some way or another, and at least making the subject matter funny and entertaining. On the other hand, it is often times vastly misrepresented, sometimes to a degree where the on-screen depiction defies all logic.
So whether you appreciate the shows we have mentioned or not, the basic fact is that all of them have at one point or another generalized cannabis as a mind-altering, detrimental ‘drug’ – which we know is not the case. And of course, the fear is that this negative portrayal will only set us back in terms of our progress to legalization.