Alcohol in Prime Time: 10 Guidelines for Writers


This article originally appeared in Issue# 54-55

The following set of guidelines for the entertainment community about the use of alcohol in TV entertainment shows has helped to raise the consciousness of producers and writers for over a decade. Use it in your own viewing at home, or in a class or group to evaluate the depiction of alcohol use in the programs you watch. Check to see that shows don't:

  1. Glamorize the drinking or serving of alcohol as a sophisticated or adult pursuit;
  2. Show the use of alcohol gratuitously-in those cases where another beverage might easily and fittingly be substituted;
  3. Omit the grim consequences of alcohol misuse or alcoholism;
  4. Deny characters a chance to refuse an alcoholic drink by statements such as "What will you have?:" or "Do you want a drink with the rest of the guys?"
  5. Show drinking as an activity that is so normal everyone must indulge; allow for decision making by the character;
  6. Show excessive drinking without consequences or with only pleasant consequences;
  7. Show miraculous recoveries from alcoholism; normally, it is a difficult task;
  8. Show children "lusting after" alcohol and the time when they are adult enough to drink it;
  9. Associate drinking alcohol with macho pursuits in such a way that heavy drinking is a requirement for proving oneself as a man;
  10. Omit the reaction of others to heavy alcoholic drinking especially when it may be a criticism.

From Target: Prime Time. Advocacy Groups and the Struggle Over Entertainment Television.

Author Bio: 

Kathryn C. Montgomery, Ph.D., is a professor in the Public Communication division of American University in Washington, DC where she directs the Project on Youth, Media and Democracy through AU's Center for Social Media. For 12 years, she was President of the DC-bsed Center for Media Education (CME) which she co-founded in 1991. She is the author of Target Prime Time: Advocacy Groups and the Struggle over Entertainment Television. The author wishes to thank the U. S. Office for Substance Abuse Prevention for a grant which partially funded this research.