In May, we cross-posted a special edition of Office Hours from the all new Contexts Podcast. In this interview, Jessica Streeter speaks with Henry H. Brownstein and Timothy M. Mulcahy, co-authors of the Winter 2012 Contexts feature, Home Cooking: Marketing Meth.
This podcast or feature article (check if your university library has access to Contexts) would work well on its own in any criminal justice or deviance course. But what really struck me while listening to this podcast is how similar their findings are to the show Breaking Bad.
For those not familiar with the show, Breaking Bad tells the story of a square high school chemistry teacher who, when diagnosed with lung cancer, turns to a life of crime and begins to cook and sell meth to ensure his family’s financial security after he dies.
The authors of Home Cooking: Marketing Meth set up an interesting sociological question of why meth markets are so different from other drug markets. You could show an episode of the Breaking Bad in class and have a discussion about the social worlds of meth users and sellers compared to other drug markets. Or have students watch it at home and do their own analysis for a course paper.
For a comparison, check out “The wire goes to college” from the Summer 2011 issue of Contexts, an exchange between graduate students on the Contexts board and four scholars about the HBO crime drama The Wire, which examined Baltimore’s drug trade.
Also check out Maria Kefalas‘ book review of the New York Times bestseller Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, entitled “from the music man to methland.“
Rebecca Tiger’s culture review “They Tried to Make Her Go to Rehab” (about the reaction to Lindsay Lohan’s struggles with drugs and alcohol) would be useful in any deviancy course or for organizing a discussion on addiction discourses or media/online interaction.
We recommend having the students read the article and then conducting their own review of comments about celebrity addiction that they can find online (like Rebecca Tiger’s review of Perez Hilton’s coverage). Have them bring examples of what they find to class to get a discussion going on how celebrity addiction is portrayed and how these discourses relates to drug policy and rehabilitation for the rest of us.
You could also bring up Amy Winehouse, whose recent death reinvigorated the public discussion of the causes, cures, and consequences of addiction.
Today, it is not uncommon for children to regularly take prescription medicine. To some, this is normal. Others question what has been deemed a disorder and corresponding treatment. “The Prescription of a New Generation” (Contexts, Spring 2008) takes a closer look at these and related issues. Here are some questions to help students think about normalcy, disorders, and medicine today.
1) Discuss how medical “breakthroughs” like the anti-depressants described in this article or the introduction of a drug like Latisse (which is supposed to treat short eyelashes) are changing ideas of normalcy and self-identity. Is there a stigma attached to either taking such medications or seeking alternative treatments?
2) The article says that we spend more time and effort getting people onto medications than off of them. What social functions do medications serve?
3) Near the end of the article, a student questions whether ADD and ADHD are actual problems or normal responses to the increasing—and sometimes overwhelming—demands of work and school. What do you think?
ACTIVITY: Find examples online or in the mainstream media where drugs or medications are being advertised. How do these ads explain and promote their products? To what extent do you think pharmaceutical companies help define “normal” behaviors and states?
Questions and activities like these will be featured in the upcoming Contexts Reader!