RECOVERY ON TV – Shedding Good Light (and Bad) On a Tough Issue
RECOVERY ON TV
Back in December, my kids started watching Gossip Girl on Netflix. I don’t allow TV in my house, but they discovered that old seasons are on Netflix, and it was on like Donkey Kong. 87 episodes. And wouldn’t you know, inveterate television snob that I am, I got sucked in. They would laugh at me, because they thought it was weird that a 43 year old woman would be so interested in a show about spoiled teenagers and their endless drama. Fast forward to now, and I come home and they have discovered Desperate Housewives, of all things. Now I think it’s hilarious that they, as teenagers, are so into a show about spoiled 40 year old housewives and their drama. And I am appalled to report, I have been sucked into this show, too.
Why I even bring all of this up is that on a recent episode, one of the main characters begins to struggle with alcoholism. She goes through all the same things we all go through: denial, waking up in weird places not knowing what she has done, putting on a happy face like nothing is wrong, and hiding her bottles. She even goes to meetings and goes home and drinks afterwards. She becomes friends with someone who is in recovery, but is also a sex addict.
While I love it when movies and TV deal with the nature of addiction and mental disorders and how it disrupts or destroys lives, as it does to this character, Bree, I hate it when they show meetings and alcoholics in an unsavory way. When she goes to the meetings, everyone else in the room looks like truck drivers, especially the women. Her sponsor is a frightening woman who looks like she could rip a telephone book in half. The guy who she befriends in AA is also a sex addict who ends up getting seduced by her son in her own bed. His addiction is depicted wrongly, as if he is a time bomb and the least provocation will send him on a sexual spree with anyone and anything, regardless of the consequences. This is rarely true, and is usually a lot more subtle than that. There is a lot more to understand about sex and love addiction, and this depiction just adds to the stigma and the shame for those who are struggling with it.
If I was struggling with sex addiction, I would have maybe been offended. The sex addicts I know are not perverts. If I was an undeclared alcoholic and was at home watching that show, cocktail in hand, I might have been surprised that I related so much to the character’s addiction and suffering. I might have recognized having a similar issue. But I would have also seen the way meetings and other alcoholics were depicted, and I might have decided that was not an option for me. At the meetings I have attended over the past 5.5 years, there is incredible diversity. All walks of life are there, from the unwashed street person to top models, from housewives to rock stars, and everything in between. I know that doesn’t exist everywhere–this is definitely an LA phenomenon–but it is fair to say that, well…all the cool kids are doing it. That being said, when it is made to look so incredibly uncool, it’s not a fair representation of the kinds of people who seek treatment and find relief in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.
When I attended the Prism Awards in Los Angeles, I got to see the people who are trying expose fallacies about addiction, mental disorders, and other pertinent and often misunderstood social issues such as these. Directors, writers, actors, producers- a full range of talent who want to depict these scenarios in a way that helps the general public understand more about what these issues are, how they affect people, impact families, and often also show how one struggles in society due to the very lack of understanding they are trying to address. Had I not attended the Prism Awards, I might not have been so poised to notice the mishandling of recovery in Desperate Housewives, and how they missed an opportunity to shed some light on something that is a real problem in today’s society. People are riveted to their entertainment, and its the best occasion to embed a little education into the entertainment and into the minds of the viewers. That is the kind of responsible entertainment I want to see more of, and I am now even more grateful for the Prism Awards for recognizing the brave souls who endeavor to enlighten the masses.
Look for the 2012 Prism Awards on FX in September!