Saturday, January 1, 2011

Alcohol at the Movies

More booze scenes in European flicks.

Films popular in Europe feature more drinking episodes per movie than their equally popular American counterparts, according to a report by the European Centre for Monitoring Alcohol Marketing (EUCAM).

The trend toward incorporating name brand alcohol in movie scenes as a form of product placement took off more than a decade ago. In 1999, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission reported that in the two previous years, “eight reporting alcohol companies placed alcoholic products in 233 motion pictures and in one or more episodes of 181 different television series.”

Given this background, it is scarcely surprising that watchdog groups like EUCAM in Europe and the Marin Institute in the U.S. have hammered at this issue for years. The Marin Institute was particularly peeved that Carlsberg beer was all over the “Spider-Man” film franchise, despite that film’s popularity with children and preteens.

EUCAM looked at the amount of “alcohol portrayal” in about 30 popular movies playing in 27 European countries in 2009. Eight of the movies were accessible to all ages, including “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” “Angels and Demons,” and “The Hangover.”

Overall, 12% of the movies examined by the group contained alcohol portrayals or promotions. Surprisingly, Hollywood movies came out looking pretty good. Seven of the 17 Hollywood movies examined contained no alcohol references at all. “In contrast,” says the report, “all of the European movies depicted alcohol or referred to it in the dialogue.”

The report notes that the “highest number of alcohol portrayals of the Hollywood movies was found in ‘Inglorious Bastards’ (eighteen scenes), (a movie that takes place almost entirely in Europe).” And what about second place, I can hear you asking. That honor went to “The Final Destination 4,” with eleven drinking scenes.

One striking difference noted by the report was “the prevalence of drinking while working” in European movies, compared to Hollywood films. And while the Hollywood movies portrayed what the EUCAM defined as “binge drinking” eight times, the group found fifteen instances of binge drinking in the popular European films. This finding may be the most interesting of all, given the public problems with binge drinking that have been reported in parts of Europe and the UK.

“While the alcohol flowed freely in much of the most popular films of Europe,” the report states, “product placement of alcohol was not used in many productions.” Very view of the European drinking scenes employed recognizable logos or brand names.

Finally, only 1% of intoxications scenes in Hollywood movies showed characters passing out, while “in the European movies, this percentage is eight times higher.”


Recently, I watched an old episode of TV's "Gunsmoke," in which Doc Adams tries to help Dan the Drunk, finding him a new job and a new set of clothes.

“He’s an awful nice feller,” says Chester, “until he ain’t.”

And Doc responds, “When he gets a sniff of the stuff, he drinks till he drops.” And then Doc offers the following thoughts:

"He’s only got one weakness. It sure is a whopper, but it’s the only one he’s got.  Wouldn’t it be something if you could cut it out of him, or patch it up, or something? Wouldn’t that be real doctorin’, though? Wouldn’t it?”

Picture credit:

1 comment:

rachelrachel said...

Thanks for posting. Like the authors of the linked article, I also noticed that US films are less likely to show drinkers acting tipsy than their Euro counterparts. However, unlike them, I don't see that as indicating a lesser amount of alcohol being drunk. When, in a Hollywood film, I see people drinking and remaining clear-eyed and alert, I see that as an unrealistic portrayal of alcohol use. In real life, if a person has one or two drinks, they act differently, even if they claim not to be getting drunk. That's something that has always bothered me about Hollywood movies.

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