The Hollywood Reporter: Why Is Hollywood Glamorizing Binge-Drinking for Women?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Illustration by Læmeur

From ‘Girls Trip’ to ‘Bachelor in Paradise,’ a sobering look at why women “keeping up with the guys” when it comes to boozing backfires by portraying female characters as “insecure and needy.”

The success of Wonder Woman may give the impression that this is the Summer of Female Empowerment, with Hollywood firmly leading the feminist charge. Not so fast. While Wonder Woman exhibits the admirable traits of courage, moral commitment and self-reliance, Hollywood has been, in general, less kind with how it portrays average American women, especially their relationship to alcohol. Bad Moms, Rough Night, the women vs. shark film 47 Meters and the upcoming  opens in a new windowGirls Trip (July 21) all feature women for whom alcohol is the obligatory catalyst to fun. When Amy Schumer joked on Stephen Colbert’s show in May that she would go home and drink herself into a blackout, the audience cheered. On Today, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford call Tuesday “Boozeday” and Wednesday “Winesday.” Watch any TV series or movie featuring women over 30, and their default response to stress or boredom often is hitting the bottle. Though these tipsy portrayals may seem all in good fun, there is a sinister consequence that affects all of us.

Relax. This isn’t about booze-shaming or bringing back Tommy gun Prohibition. It’s about how, in the guise of empowerment — “Look, everyone, girls can drink just as hard and act just as stupid as guys” — women are more consistently being portrayed as insecure and needy. It’s about the negative effects of perpetuating gender stereotypes that promote destructive behavior.

One is death. Over the last 18 years, alcohol-related deaths among women 35 to 54 have more than doubled. The Washington Post reported on the proliferation of alcohol-related ads targeting women: “Harried mothers chugging wine to cope with everyday stress. Women embracing quart-sized bottles of whiskey and bellying up to bars to knock back vodka shots.” Equating heavy drinking with women’s lib has resulted, researchers claim, in women drinking more alcohol more often. In 2013, heavy drinking put more than a million women in emergency rooms.

Courtesy of Michele K. Short/Universal
Girls Trip

Another negative effect is depicting women as too fragile to deal with stress or too uptight to have fun without alcohol. As women struggle to overcome a history of being portrayed as weak, bubbly but bubble-headed, dependent sidekicks, Hollywood has obliged by creating more positive role models. Tough, smart female characters fill our screens. But Hollywood also has undermined some of that progress by behaving like an enabling bartender sliding drinks down the bar. Cougar Town used the enormous size of Courteney Cox’s wine glass as a continuing joke. Reality shows such as The Real Housewives, Real World and The Challenge often feature women drinking, and production on Bachelor in Paradise was briefly halted over an alcohol-fueled incident. Sales of Bandit boxed wine — aka “binge in a box” — jumped 22 percent after Schumer drank it in Trainwreck.

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