Women and illicit drug use in cinema

After analysing more than sixty films for a MSc in Medical Humanities entitled “Women and Illicit Substance Use in Cinema”, I am starting a series of posts on filmic representations of female drug users.

Part 1 – Female drug users in Woody Allen’s films

After cocaine resurgence in the 1970s, Woody Allen was probably one of the first filmmakers to depict the expensive substance – used at that time by wealthy bohemian people – in a comic scene in ‘Anne Hall’ (1977). Annie, by the way, smokes weed, dresses in an unconventional style, and is open to drug experimentation:

Another interesting reference of cocaine use in the 1980s appears in ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ (1986). The movie depicts Holly (Dianne Wiest), a struggling actress with a former cocaine habit. Holly appears snorting cocaine openly in the audience of a punk rock band in a legendary club in New York,  a reference to 1980s cocaine abuse in that scene. Her date Mickey (Allen) says to her that she will develop ‘a third nostril’, takes her to a jazz club, but she continues restlessly snorting coke there:

Holly wears bold outfits, but is insecure. When she stops using cocaine she has difficulties to adjust to an occupation, has a novelty-seeker nature and a competitive relationship with a female friend. Her parents are alcoholic and narcissistic, and her sister attends Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and has a clandestine affair with Hannah’s husband, showing a complicated family dynamic.

Hannah is apparently a successful woman, who has a co-dependent relationship with Holly, supporting financially her new schemes to make money. However, along her self-analysis and determination, Holly grows up, becomes a successful playwright and marries Mickey. Her former cocaine abuse appears as a rite of passage, as she becomes more integrated with herself

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