What are some sociopolitical themes in the film Reefer Madness?

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belarafon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Reefer Madness is a 1936 propaganda film about the perceived hazards and tragedies resulting from the use of Marijuana as a recreational drug. The film had little-to-no effect on public opinion but is now regarded as a comedic cult classic.

The study of Political Sociology focuses on the relationship between the State and Society, specifically between those occupying governmental or ruling positions and the common citizenry. It generally attempts to answer a specific question using research and historical trends.

To analyze Reefer Madness from a sociopolitical stance, one must understand the times in which the film was made. The 1930s were a time of social repression, coming out of the Roaring 20s and the failure of Prohibition. To combat the new surge of teenage rebellion and partying, the Moral Majority focused on Marijuana, as Alcohol became legal again. Marijuana was new and exciting, and since its use was very similar to the culturally accepted practice of smoking tobacco, it easily became part of the underground culture. Since at any given time the Moral Majority is in fact a very vocal Minority of the public, they resort to propaganda instead of research and fact. The effects of marijuana use in the film were highly overblown and stylized, to discourage any use or experimentation; the idea that a single smoke can cause complete and immediate addiction was never true, but constant repetition became a correlation in many people's minds.

Reefer Madness is a classic propaganda film, but it ultimately failed in its actual goals, and became known more for its over-the-top style and grimly serious lectures than as an educational tool.

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