Miss Representation: Why Mainstream Cinema And TV Are In Debt With Stoner Women

This article by Lola Sasturain was originally published on El Planteo.

Mainstream cinema and television owe us stoner women. By this I mean: ladies who smoke weed like the real flesh and blood ones do. Not tragic women ruined by drugs, or defenseless little creatures who fearfully take their first toke.

Epics stories of drug trafficking, crime and subsequent redemption such as the movie The Garden of Joy or the TV series Weeds, shall be left out of this ranking. This article praises those female characters who smoke like real women do, just like men: eagerly, because they enjoy it, and as part of their daily lives.

Undoubtedly, the indie universe has portrayed thousands of multidimensional and realistic female characters who smoke weed, much more complex and diverse than those selected here. But this is a whimsical list, based on this writer’s own history as a mass culture and weed consumer. It’s even quasi-biographical.

Here is a select group of women who used marijuana in high-circulation mainstream content that many of us girls grew up with. Movies that came to us, no research needed, and unveiled the world of women who smoke cannabis, and are also ordinary people. Yes, as interesting, funny and empowered as they are, they are ordinary people.

Sex And The City

Although it is not a pot show, it does deserve some recognition. The two episodes where the girls smoke weed meant a lot to many girls of my generation (childhood in the '90s, teen years in the '00s). Why? Because it would be the first time we’d see an absolutely fabulous adult woman smoking a joint on television.

Although it is never implied that they are usual consumers, when the joint pops up it does so naturally, without moral judgments and without being deemed "dangerous." For the time and the target of the series, this was no small feat.

The relationship these women have with marijuana is similar to that of many more-or-less progressive ladies of that generation: they like it, they have respect for it, and whenever they smoke (which is not often) they get very high and have a great time.

There are two famous weed scenes in Sex And The City:

The first scene is from the third season (2000). In it, Carrie smokes with Wade, her ‘boy on duty’ (one of the inconsequential ones). Wade is an eternal teenager who still lives with his parents, and of course, provides the weed.

It is perhaps one of the most memorably round-up scenes in the entire series. The couple spends a weekend of pure marijuana and chill, but when the boy's parents come home, he holds her responsible. Between indignation and perplexity, Carrie takes a master stand: yes, the weed is mine... and since I brought it, I’m taking it with me. In the next scene, we see her smoking with her friends.

Keeping the herb is a deeply symbolic act of empowerment that runs to the core of this article. Weed is for independent women, and not for lazy overgrown babies who don't know what to do with their life.

The second scene is from the last season when Carrie is depressed because her boyfriend left her via post-it note. Samantha offers her a joint, which they smoke in the street and almost go to jail for it. Yes, they are safe because they are white, splendid women, in addition to appealing to pity... But it is still a good scene.

Jackie Brown (1997)

At the start of the millennium, every teenager who wanted to declare themselves a "moviegoer" had to, indispensably, have seen all the Tarantino films so far. Tarantino wouldn't be the first feminist, but those were great movies.

Jackie Brown, the most low-profile of his famous nineties trilogy, was centered on, and held up by, some very interesting female characters.

We are going to focus on the character of Melanie, who seems to embody (more than a decade before legalization) the model of the marijuana-smoking California girl.

Blonde, tanned and super-laid-back, Melanie is a millionaire dealer’s girlfriend, in whose beach house in Baja California she spends her days smoking weed. Everything around her is danger and crime... Yet she is the one who toking non-stop, not the criminals who surround her. Within cinema stereotypes, Melanie is like any male stoner.

Hers is perhaps the best marijuana quote uttered by a woman in all-time mainstream cinema. A phrase written to blow the minds of teenagers from 1997 to eternity. In the scene, her boyfriend tells her that smoking so much weed is going to kill her ambitions, to which she replies: "Not if your ambition is to get high and watch TV."

Broad City (2014 - 2019)

The smoothest, funniest and most relatable series about friends in their late twenties living in New York, in an effective 20-minute episode format.

Broad City is one of the best shows out there to watch while being super-high. In these two girls’ adventures, cannabis appears as an everyday habit. It is impossible to choose a single weed scene among so many great ones.

Broad City's starring duo - the great Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer - did a lot for the acceptance of us women who are funny, ridiculous, awkward, and lovable. It also provided a realistic and tender account of what marijuana is for female users around 30: a little spice to life, a moment to disconnect, something that is shared with friends to have interesting talks or simply laugh until it hurts. It’s neither glamorous nor chic: they smoke roaches, they dwell with dealers, and sometimes argue over who’s scoring. Just like life itself.

The show also has the most precise and refined stoner humor ever performed by women on TV. You can tell that the show was created by the lead characters themselves, and they know very well what they are talking about.

Without a moral angle, cannabis is the protagonist of many memorable scenes where various taboos are broken, such as smoking weed in family. This was immortalized in an episode where the girls travel to Florida and, among other things, share a joint with Ilana's mother and aunt, who are two Jewish ladies.

This is a great scene, full of references to pop culture: it is filmed in the That 70’s Show manner, and Fran Drescher, who plays the aunt, is a pop icon herself.

Smiley Face (2007)

Granted, it is not Gregg Araki’s best movie. Without a doubt, it is one of the most mainstream and superficial in the flagship director of Queer cinema from the early 90s’ catalog. However, his characteristic “f*ck gender roles” vision is very much alive in this comedy.

In the film, a young actress named Jane (played by Anna Faris) has an absolutely psychedelic day, somewhere between funny and terrifying, after accidentally eating a tray of cannabis cupcakes.

Smiley Face is hyperbolic and not very realistic. Still, it gives the exhausting (and often moralizing) tale of a "crazy day after accidentally doing drugs" an interesting twist. Since the woman who gets high is already a stoner and knows how to do drugs propperly, she is prepared to face what comes with such accidental intoxication.

The movie has some of the best portrayed, most realistic scenes about being high in public. It could totally star Seth Rogen but, instead, it stars a young, blonde-haired Britney Spears-type.

The role of John Krasinski, on the other hand, is one usually played by "the girl" in movies. He is a weirdo without charisma who is in love with the leading lady and goes out of his way to help her, even though she is a total mess.

A truly absurd stoner comedy, no more, no less.

Atlanta (2016)

Full disclosure: there are many problems in Van’s life that I cannot possibly conceive from my place in society. She is a young, working-class, African American mother. I am not. And yet, the character, played by Zazie Beetz, is extremely relatable.

Van is always tired, has an acid sense of humor, a very short fuse, and a curious disposition for everything to go wrong. She is also fierce, independent and completely lovable. Like most characters in this great, bittersweet comedy, Van smokes weed, but only occasionally.

In this episode, the profound problem of inequity of the less privileged sectors before the law is portrayed in the act of smoking. Van shares a joint with a friend from her teenage years who is African American as well, but also a millionaire influencer. She represents the path that Van did not take because hardly anyone could.

The inequity is noticeable: Van cannot smoke as freely as her rich friend because she does not have the same privileges. In fact, she has forgotten that the next day she has an interview for a job at a school, and therefore has to take a drug test. A thousand tragicomic contraptions follow, in order to try and pass that test, ultimately without success.

Van reminds us that it doesn't matter how beautiful, friendly, open and intelligent you are. Being a girl who smokes weed is difficult, but being a lower-class African American girl who smokes weed is way harder.

Photo Via unsplash

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