Are recreational drug users a new target audience?


Stereotypes and subgenres often develop into target audiences for media industries – however, are there certain subgenres of audiences that should be avoided as major consumers? Arguably, recreational drug users are frowned upon; specifically as in Britain (much like a majority of places) it is illegal, yet it would seem that the expansion of the recreational drug user type within youth subgenres has in fact become a major target audience.

Within contemporary cinema, the use of drugs has become thematic. British motion pictures such as Attack The Block (2011, Joe Cornish.) and Kidulthood (2006, Menhaj Huda.) portraying clear use of drugs, both comically and seriously, explicitly present this nonchalantly within the narrative. Attack The Block shows a group of young teenagers sitting in a flat-full of marijuana plants growing and searching for ‘kings’ to smoke it, and Kidulthood frequently showing characters smoking – and glamorizing this to a certain audience who may aspire to these character types. This normalization of usage could somewhat reflect a developing lenience towards this, however when considered that it remains illegal, should it really be portrayed in this way? Personally, I think not. I myself am not defined within this stereotype, and although as many have, I have dabbled within the culture of smoking and see no particular issue with now-and-again smoking, I can only question whether it is something that should be encouraged by media’s.

Limited not only to British texts, the Harold and Kumar movie franchise presents exactly the same issues, explicitly targeted towards this audience with its high-as-a-kite narratives. Problematic? Perhaps. This is an issue however which also appears in almost all media forms – although film may be the most explicit, the subtlety of drug use within television can be overtly observed within How I Met Your Mother (TV Series, 2005+) as repeated references to smoking comes in the form of ‘sandwiches’, passing around said ‘sandwich’ and giggling – obvious to audiences the sandwich is simply a child friendly metaphor for a joint as Ted recounts these tales to his children. Indeed, it is rather nice of the creators of HIMYM to use this metaphor as this is a daytime show, however the true meaning remains so explicit to anyone over the age of 14 as it normalizes this culture although subtly much like the film industry.

Modern culture itself plays a massive part of this development into this new target audience, particular paraphernalia and such were once simply a novelty of Camden Town, yet now as Britain see’s the sudden introduction and growth of the ‘Skunkworks’ franchise the lenience becomes even more notable. You may have to be eighteen to purchase items from these stores, and you may not be able to ask how to ‘smoke weed’ in the vaporizer designed to look like an asthma inhaler, yet ask how to smoke tobacco with it and the sales assistant is more than happy to tell. With this ease of access and the legal loop-holes allowing these stores existence, these could be seen as either promoting this consumer as a major target audience to media, or perhaps simply taking advantage of the already existing target audience the media has defined. A matter much like the ‘chicken or the egg’ riddle.

Thus perhaps this normalization is simply a reflection of developing lifestyles and culture, but it is no longer questionable that these recreation drug users are now a major target audience. And with a market now created for these consumers, there is now an overbearing acceptance which seems to over-ride the laws against it; so can we really question why there are problems with drug use anymore?


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