Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Mass Communication and Media Arts

First Advisor

Kapur, Jyotsna

Second Advisor

Downing, John


This study explores how the representation of the drug-addict in Hollywood cinema has changed due to governmental and studio policy change, social shifts of opinion, and economic structure. This discussion and exploration primarily focuses upon narrative Hollywood film as this industry has a long and varied history of addiction films. While there have been a variety of shifts in the depiction of drug-addiction due to social changes and industry regulation, perhaps at no other time in cinema history has the culmination of economics, politics, and independent art had such a large impact on the depiction of addiction than in the 1970s. This defining decade did more than alter the social perspective on drug usage; it set the stage for a drastic alteration in the perception of drug-addiction that occurred in the decades to follow. The Seventies were filled with social upheaval and a powerful youth movement that altered the representation greatly. This study discusses three types of drug-addiction representation and the social, political, and economic context in which they reflect and influence. While the social importance placed upon cinema is not questioned in this investigation, the techniques of representation of the addict in film are explored. I examine three characterizations in the addiction films of the 1970s. These phases include, but are not limited to representations of African-Americans, war veterans, and narcissists as drug-addicts in American cinema. I propose that the representation of the addict has shifted due more to sociological impacts rather than an audience-centered and message driven approach. Expounding further, I argue that the sociological impacts, such as federal legislation, are more impacting on the representation of the drug-addict in film rather than a decisive message about addiction for the benefit of the audience. The political-economic, cultural dynamic also plays a significant role in the development of such representation




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