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FIRST-PERSON: A pot-headed idea

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–“We’re presenting this as something that’s everywhere and cuts across political and religious lines,” is how Jenji Kohan, creator and executive producer of a new cable comedy/drama, described her program to USA Today.

Kevin Nealon, a co-star in Kohan’s production, stressed that the show simply underscores the prevalence of the program’s central theme in American society.

“Weeds” is the title of Showtime’s newest offering, and it features a widowed suburban soccer mom who turns marijuana-dealer in order to bolster the family’s finances. According to USA Today, “Weeds” joins a growing list of television programs that regularly feature marijuana consumption.

Among the pot-positive programs cited by USA Today that already grace the airwaves are: HBO’s “Entourage” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” FX’s “Over There” and “Rescue Me,” and FOX’s “That ’70s Show.”

While the aforementioned programs regularly include marijuana usage, “Weeds” represents a new level of dope depiction. For the first time an illegal substance will be the central theme and driving force for an entire television series.

Pot apologists believe it is high time (no pun intended) for a program fueled by marijuana. They are quick to cite a 2003 study that found approximately one-third of Americans said they had tried marijuana during their lifetime while around 5 percent indicated they had used it in the previous month (which could indicate regular usage).

“With so many people having tried marijuana, it would be bizarre not to expect that reality wouldn’t be depicted on films and on TV,” Bruce Mirken of the Marijuana Polity Project told USA Today.

Pot is becoming a fixture on television because, we are told, so many people have tried it or are using it.

Those who produce entertainment for mass consumption constantly defend controversial subject matter on the ground that it is simply part and parcel of society, so therefore they are justified in addressing it. To ignore something so pervasive, some say, would be to deny reality.

If a significant percentage of the population showing an affinity for an idea or a behavior is all it takes, where are the shows that take seriously America’s people of faith — particularly those with a conservative religious orientation?

A 2004 ABC poll discovered that 61 percent of the U.S. populace believe the biblical account of creation, 60 percent believe Noah’s flood took place and 64 percent believe Moses parted the Red Sea.

At the very least, the ABC poll indicates that a majority of Americans take the Bible very seriously and a significant number view it as true.

Other polls have found that in America 60 percent of the population attend church regularly, 60 percent say that religion is very important in their lives and 61 percent believe religion can answer all or most of today’s problems.

According to the numbers, it appears that conservative religious orientation in America has pot use significantly outnumbered. So where are the programs that depict people with conservative religious values applying their faith in positive terms?

In the past decade a scant few programs have attempted to cater to the “religious” tastes of Americans. And of them, only one or two featured believable characters seriously seeking to apply faith to life.

If, to borrow Bruce Mirken’s line, so many people are conservative in their religious orientation, it would be bizarre not to expect that reality wouldn’t be depicted on films and on TV.

The claim that the current marijuana crop on television is due to the popularity of pot is bogus at best. The motivation is more about seeking to influence public attitude toward the acceptance of marijuana than anything else.

Television has become a prime tool for socialization. Once a behavior forges its way into America’s homes via the ubiquitous tube, it is only a matter of time before acceptance or indifference toward said behavior is achieved. Either way, the purveyors of the behavior win.

Homosexual behavior, once a major societal taboo in America and today practiced by perhaps 4 percent of the population, has gained in acceptance in the past decade due, in part, to the presence of “gay” characters on television.

Thirty percent of Americans have “tried” marijuana sometime in their lives and 5 percent might be regular users. According to some producers, these numbers warrant including pot usage in television programs.

On the other hand, approximately 60 percent of Americans identify themselves as possessing a conservative religious orientation and yet television programs depicting them are all but non-existent.

Do media moguls attempt to reflect society or influence it? You tell me.

    About the Author

  • Kelly Boggs