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In Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction , the viewer witnesses characters injecting themselves with narcotics. Pulp Fiction explores two radically different devices of injection. In one scene, Vincent, played by John Travolta, injects himself with heroin using an old-fashioned syringe. We see the needle puncture the skin, the blood plume floating through the barrel and pushed through the needle like a cloud, slowly and beautifully seeping out of the syringe. She loses consciousness and Vincent is forced to plunge an adrenaline injection into her heart Fitzgerald , The scene is rather shocking, with Mia violently awakening from her coma.

While portrayed by Vincent as a brilliant image of medical technology, with Mia the syringe transforms into a rough-handled emergency tool. Both scenes also exemplify feeling alive—literally in the latter, and figuratively in the former. Mia requires an injection to keep her heart beating while Vincent needs heroin to hear his heart beating, to feel alive. Trainspotting also illustrates the duality of the syringe in an artistic visual progression.

He holds the syringe in front of his face, testing the flow of the amber liquid.


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The sudden and overpowering high causes Renton to sink backwards into a carpet as red as the blood that pooled around the injection spot. Anna Powell suggests that here, heroin addiction is literally depicted as a gaping hole in the floor. A tourniquet is tied on his arm as she injects the liquid into his veins. The swift flow of medicine into his veins jerks Renton from the carpet coffin as he gasps for air, his expression one of sheer shock. Trainspotting is packed with gritty, sensuous heroin injection sequences. In several scenes, Renton, Sick Boy, Allison and Spud gather in their favorite heroin shooting gallery, the ill furnished floor often littered with discarded needles and assorted paraphernalia.

The flashes to close-ups of each character as they inject heroin into their veins is chilling. But it is their expressions of utter, unparalleled ecstasy that is both repelling and sensual. After inhaling, she falls back, her expression brimming with satisfaction, on the grimy bed in the dark, ill furnished apartment. Caroline personifies the connection between drugs and sex throughout the entire film. This symbolism ultimately becomes literal when Caroline feeds her addiction by becoming a prostitute under a drug dealer. However, Bert Cardullo defines the film best:.

Trainspotting neither glorifies nor shuns narcotics. Instead, it scrutinizes the absence of a true Scottish national identity. The scum of the fucking Earth! The most wretched, miserable, servile, pathetic trash that was ever shat into civilization. Similarly, Requiem for a Dream offers an intimate account of heroin injection, smoking marijuana and crack, as well as dangers of prescribed amphetamines. This link is also evident for each character in Requiem for a Dream. The more Harry, Tyrone, Marion and Sara surrender to their drug addictions, the more strained their relationships with each other become.

This causes countless violent arguments, as Harry battles his addiction and his failing masculinity. Depictions of such intimate drug use in film have become less censored and more graphic as illegal drug use continues to grow as a global concern, and how society deals with it becomes a more significant debate. In Requiem for a Dream , injecting sequences pay homage to that of Vincent in Pulp Fiction , using extreme close-ups of the lighter flickering, liquid boiling in a spoon, needle sticking, and rush of liquid through the syringe. Illicit drug taking is essentially a private activity but the dispassionate eye of the camera intrudes or violates this at in a voyeuristic manner.

In itself this offers both a lure the voyeurism and repugnance the violation or intrusion which resonates with the more primitive or unconscious concerns about what is acceptable to show and what is not. This relates to whether or not a drug related story should be brought to the silver screen. There is conflict inherent in determining tellabillity versus untellability. On one hand, stories can fall short of tellability due to a lack of significance, while others exceed the spectrum of tellability because they are too intimate and upsetting.

According to Norrick, there are three options for storytellers to navigate between tellabillity and untellability. Norrick says the teller first must choose the personal experiences he or she wishes to narrate. Secondly, the teller has to determine the best ways to relate his or her experiences in either a humorous or serious way, keeping in mind details and perspective. Many factors influence the response to a movie and may not depend entirely on the film itself but on the context in which it is seen — much the same as drug use.

In a similar manner, films carry with them highly personalized symbolic meaning — we all have our favourite films and characters which rarely exactly match anyone else. The filmgoer subjectively selects, attends to and interprets the experience of the movie according to their own world view Cape , It is virtually impossible to create a film that is revered by everyone. Each spectator has his or her own unique expectation, interpretation and appreciation for film. This is especially true in films exploring the taboo topic of drug addiction, the intimacy of which can turn a listener off.

But when done well, a film depicting the gritty realism of drug culture could be admired and have a resounding impact on viewers. What makes films like Trainspotting and Requiem for a Dream so tellable from an audience perception is the visual intimacy of drug use, which creates an oneness with the characters. In their respective films, Renton and Harry are identifiable characters, which essentially personify the innate flaws of humanity. This is also visible in the film Magnolia through Claudia, who uses cocaine as a means to escape psychological problems resulting from suspected sexual abuse from her father years earlier.

This is explicitly portrayed in Traffic when Caroline, Seth and a few friends are drinking and smoking cocaine in a suburban mansion. A heavily intoxicated Caroline states her disgust with cultural conformity: What makes Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting somewhat more tellable than Requiem for a Dream is the use of humor. Jackson have a conversation about cheeseburgers while driving in the car. This complete emotional disregard for the bloody encounter they just facilitated is backwardly comical.

While Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting utilize dark humor to make the dark subject more palatable, Requiem for a Dream rejects this veneer. While there is no fatality in the film, viewers are nonetheless denied any relief from the devastating impact of heroin addiction Powell , In Requiem, the four main characters desire to find their identity and a meaningful life through usage of different substances, but the substances merely give the illusion of satisfaction.

For Harry, his best friend Tyrone, and his girlfriend Marion, heroin is a necessary facet of life. This is similar to Renton in Trainspotting , whose desire to overcome his addiction does not stem from a wish to reform or rehabilitate himself, but to regain his sexual potency.

The moral or ethical stigma attached to drug use is largely missing from the movie, then the only real choice for cinematic Renton being between a speedy euphoric death from heroin overdose and a slow death—punctuated by bouts of sexual stimulation—from bourgeois stupefaction. Persons coming of age since the mids overwhelmingly chose not to use crack and supported each others decisions to not use. During the Heroin Injection Era, users maintained that heroin provided the greatest high. Crack users maintained that smoking crack yields the greatest high. Crack users went on runs or missions, jargon derived from Star Trek, a popular television show and series of movies.

These runs involved continuously hustling money, obtaining crack, and using it without sleep or much food, until extremely exhausted. Users would spend all their money on crack. Purchase small amounts of crack as soon as money was available. Trade labor or skills including sex for small amounts of crack. Abandon friends and family for crack use. Place the purchase and use of crack before all other needs such as food, shelter, clothes, and family.

Crack sellers were active on virtually every block in inner-city New York and at some locations in many middle-class and suburban neighborhoods as well. Potential buyers often had to ward off simultaneous offers from several sellers also see Jacobs, Aggressive sellers often approached total strangers, including those in cars. Some blocks in inner-city New York became crack street markets, with over crack sellers and even more crack buyers simultaneously active.

In the s, youths reacted against the violence, personal devastation, and legal consequences that befell heroin and crack users see Johnson et al. They had directly observed the impact of these drugs on older inner-city residents. Blunts became their drug of choice. They maintained that crackheads are shit! Heroin injection causes AIDS. Drug eras tend to overlap as some members of a drug generation may continue to use their preferred drug throughout adulthood, despite changing times.

There are many possible reasons for this subcultural inertia. Some users develop a dependence. For some, potential desistance represents a radical transformation to their lifestyle, their friendships and their identity — a change they may be unwilling or unable to achieve.

Persons that do not use substances associated with one stage rarely go on to use those associated with a higher stage. It suggests that use of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana predisposes youths to use of other potentially more dangerous illicit drugs. Indeed, some scholars explicitly suggest the link could be biochemical Nash, This pharmacological perspective stands in strong contrast to much of the original research that documented the gateway phenomena.

Yamaguchi and Kandel , p. Many youths stop at a particular stage and do not progress further. In addition, the particular sequence of progression that has been identified may be determined partly by secular trends. Indeed, our theory of subcultural evolution suggests the gateway sequence may be a cultural artifact. Children may start with alcohol and tobacco because use of these licit substances is modeled in the home. The universality of the gateway sequence might therefore be limited to the extent that cultures differ across locations and evolve over time.

Johnson and Gerstein found that use of illicit drugs was virtually nonexistent among Americans born before World War II.

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Golub and Johnson b found that the risks of progression through the gateway sequence changed dramatically over time. Golub and Johnson a documented that despite increased marijuana use in the s, use of hard drugs did not increase. Our theory of subcultural evolution and illicit drug use provides a powerful framework for understanding the prevailing drug use trends and their socio-cultural significance. This theory has served in our empirical study of illicit drug use in the U.

The development of this theory has followed a hermeneutic process over the course of our research careers guiding empirical inquiry, drawing on observations, and always seeking to incorporate insights from other research and theories for enrichment. This frame has helped explain the dynamics of several major phenomena such as drug eras or epidemics , drug generations, and the gateway phenomenon. It has also proven useful to the ethnographic study of the lived experience providing insight into intergenerational transmission of behaviors, the interconnection between behaviors, and the subcultural significance of human activity.

We view our theory as both incomplete and limited. The theory does not specify the nature of trigger events that lead to the expansion or decline of a drug era. Indeed, it may not be possible to accurately identify such conditions, given the multiplicity of possible factors that can effect subcultural evolution. There are various other limitations. The theory does not specify risk and protective factors associated with the etiology of drug use, with the strong exception of birth year, which is often overlooked in other conceptualizations.

The theory does not examine the short- and long-term consequences of use. The theory does not examine how and why social structural impediments render disadvantaged persons at greater risk of drug abuse problems, although not necessarily greater risk of use. By not describing these dynamics, the theory is compatible with other theories that do address these aspects of the drug use experience.

Our subcultural perspective on illicit drug use blends aspects of both classical writing on culture as a comprehensive social system and more recent postmodern writing that emphasizes personal agency along with the flow of ideas without borders. We speculate that the quality of the fit, between this theory and the data we analyzed, owes to an appropriate mix of cultural conformance and plasticity within the populations we have studied. Within inner-city communities, there have been strong peer expectations to conform to the prevailing standards for dress, musical taste, interpersonal behavior, and drug use.

At the same time, these standards have been shifting over time. We suspect that the evolutionary part to our theory would be completely unnecessary to the study of substance use within traditional societies with a persistent dominant culture. On the other side, we suspect the geographically-bound diffusion part to our theory would be less relevant to the study of technologically advanced, wealthier populations with greater access to worldwide communication and a less pronounced affiliation with a single cultural community. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

Author manuscript; available in PMC Jun Author information Copyright and License information Disclaimer. See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract This article articulates a subcultural basis to the evolving popularity for different illicit drugs primarily based on empirical research in the United States, especially among inner-city populations.

Subculture, diffusion, life course, epidemic, era, generation, gateway. Introduction Drug use is often much more than the ingestion of a preparation in order to experience a physical or psychological reaction. A theory of subcultural evolution and drug use Drug use emerges from a dialectic of the prevailing culture and especially drug subcultures with individual identity development.

The structure of culture Different groups across disciplines and over time have operationalized culture in assorted ways to organize their study of human behavior in context Schafer, ; Spillman, Drug subcultures For our purposes, we view culture as simultaneously encompassing multiple subcultures or toolkits that include constellations of connected values, symbols, norms, and behavior patterns.

A culture-identity coproduction dialectic Our theory holds that culture and individual identity engage in a dialectic of coproduction. Incubation phase A drug era typically starts among a highly limited subpopulation participating in a specific social context. Expansion phase Sometimes, the pioneering drug users successfully introduce the practice to wider subgroups of users and to the broader population. Plateau phase Eventually, everyone most at risk of the new drug practice typically users of other illicit drugs has either initiated use or at least had the opportunity to do so.

Decline phase Eventually, the use of an illicit drug tends to go out of favor. Conclusions Our theory of subcultural evolution and illicit drug use provides a powerful framework for understanding the prevailing drug use trends and their socio-cultural significance.

The History of Drug Culture on Screen

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Drugs and popular culture : drugs, media and identity in contemporary society

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