I’m watching an old movie made in the 1930s. A man in a top hot and tuxedo weaves down the hall carrying a big key. He can barely stand upright as he tries to unlock several doors with one hand while clinging to a bottle with the other. After several unsuccessful stabs at gaining entrance, it’s obviously too much effort. He leans against the wall and slides down to the floor and falls asleep. His butler discovers the unconscious heap of humanity and dutifully drags him in to the right apartment and puts him to bed.
The next morning, the playboy-reveler demands quiet as he tries to stave off a hangover headache. His staunch and supportive employee asks, with a correct British accent, “Did you have a good time at the party, Sir?”
The ailing, rich, young male answers, “Well, I must have. I can’t remember a thing.”
From the beginning of comedy genre in moviedom, foolish behavior spurred by blithering intoxication is supposed to be uproariously funny. I try to figure out why these inebriated people who reel on foot or in vehicles, doing inappropriate things they cannot remember, is a standard of amusement? I’m sure no one who has been hurt by another’s drunkenness finds any comfort in the hollow laughter that echoes through the decades, legitimizing the numbing effects of bottled mind management. Some things never change.
A slow stroll, or a fast forward, through stories from the little screen to the big screen, from silent performances to electonically enhanced loud ones, makes it obvious how mankind has embraced being drunk as acceptable humorous conduct. Somehow, the fun does not begin until the brain is disengaged and jettisons all its good sense. The ticket to losing control is merely a few swallows away. It’s depicted as glamorous, sophisticated, and necessary. The question is, does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?
There’s no debate that film of the last 80 plus years has wielded a big stick of influence, presenting alcoholic beverages as everything from a rite of passage to the base of celebratory social events. Granted, there’s a sprinkling of sad stories that depict ruined families and jobs and opportunities; of lives ended in tragedy almost before they’ve begun. In general though, somehow the masked truth of alcohol seems lost on every generation.
Our local paper prints long lists of driving under the influence arrests. More than a few of these charges include operating a vehicle with a suspended license. That tells me that the addiction to that "feeling” is worth entering the metal confines of car, a lethal weapon that weighs a ton, and heading off into a possible future of despair and felonious behavior that will conceivably kill and destroy countless lives.
There is nothing hilarious about the reality of alcohol. It wasn’t funny in those old movies made before my mother was born; it is not funny now.
Smoking, another ridiculous and unhealthy habit is becoming socially unacceptable. Illegal drugs of all kinds continue to turn good minds into senseless mush. And yet, one of the worst substances ever concocted, swallowed from an old fruit jar or from an elegant long stemmed glass, disguised and served with fruit or little umbrellas or swilled from a cheap bottle or can, is not illegal to buy or sell.
Alcohol is still the mainstay in many celebrations around the world. It’s offered as a panacea for frustration, exhaustion, fear, and sadness. Glasses are raised in congratulations, or in defiance, or as some kind of answer to emotional and unbearable pain.
In the end, that compulsion to drink fermentation to dull the senses and wreak havoc on one’s liver and brain, as well as on society in general, is still personified by the old black and white flick. A human, hiding behind a fancy suit, stumbles through life clinging to the wrong key, trying to find the right door but ending up unconscious and vulnerable to any passing evil.
Why do we laugh?
Proverbs 23:21 (KJV)
For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
1 Corinthians 6:10 (KJV)
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
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