TV and evolving culture

On the show Parenthood (which I previously wrote about for portraying some legal issues (badly), one story arc this season has a character undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer (and doing a great job showing how harrowing that is). In last week’s episode (which we just watched last night), she smokes pot to get some relief–and they show her laying in bed surrounded by the haze of marijuana smoke, clearly feeling better, holding the joint in her hand, and even taking a hit. They also show her husband getting the pot from his younger brother, who has a hidden stash in his bedroom (in the house he shares with his wife and son); the brother admits to having left-over from a trip they took and he talks about the high quality of this pot compared with what they smoked as teenagers. And all of this is happening on network television, not on AMC or HBO. This says something about where we are as a culture with respect to pot. True, it was showing medical rather than recreational use, which is easier to sell to the public. But it clearly showed her feeling better while smoking and saying she wanted more. More importantly, there is a casualness to the way pot is discussed here–the brother is not evil and does not need to be punished for having pot in the house (and since he is not undergoing chemo, presumably he and his wife smoke recreationally) and the seven-year-old son does not find it by mistake, get high, and jump off the roof.

Of course, one could say this is all about the liberal producers of the show. Parenthood‘s show-runner is Jason Katims, who was head writer and executive producer of Friday Night Lights, whose former members (although not Katims) had several shouting matches with the Romney Campaign and the show’s politics. Parenthood has never been explicitly political, although the family is just sort of casually liberal (they live in Berkeley, after all). Even so, all of this had to get through NBC’s standards and practices, which is not known for being progressive on matters such as drugs (and I missed whether the show ran a warning at the top of the episode).

Once again, it all feels like progress. And I highly recommend this show–as long as it stays away from law.

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