Why are female stoners notoriously underrepresented in stoner comedies?

Culture

Filmmakers are ignoring half of the community.

Dec 15, 2017
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Photo courtesy of Complex

While men are overflowing in the stoner comedy genre, the female stoner remains ever elusive. Pull the name of any stoner film out of a hat, and you’ll find this to be true: Up in Smoke, Pineapple Express, Harold and Kumar, Half Baked, Dude Where’s My Car, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back—the list goes on. In fact, google “Stoner movies” and try to find one—aside from 2007’s essentially straight-to-DVD Smiley Face staring Anna Faris—that is about female stoners.

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If a woman is seen in a stoner movie at all, it’s usually as the level-headed, semi-prudish adult responsible for reigning in their goofy male counterpart who just wants to smoke weed and have fun (think Katherine Heigl in Knocked Up).

It’s unusual for a comedy genre based on a gender-neutral niche, marijuana. In fact, according to some reports, women actually smoke more weed than men—and can generally out-smoke them too. Yet stoner movies remain stubbornly male-driven

Stoner movies remain popular because audiences like to see “themselves” on the big screen, especially when their typically stigmatized habits are normalized, even glorified. But female stoners rarely get the chance to see themselves as protagonists on the big screen.

On television, women have been making strides in the stoner genre with shows like Weeds, Mary + Jane, and to some extent Broad City. Sarah Silverman has long been an advocate for marijuana, memorably ripping a bong at the end of her 2005 comedy special, Jesus is Magic. But that’s about as far as it goes. We’ve yet to see a pair of goofy, stoner, female friends getting unnecessarily high then going on an outlandish comedic adventure to get fast food, or whatever.

To some, the appearance of female stoners in movies seems trivial. But as cannabis begins the final leg of its slow march to legalization, one of the greatest challenges has been the push to unravel weed from all of its pernicious stereotypes—a big one being that it’s mostly men who enjoy cannabis.

A big theme of the 2010’s has been the importance of on-screen representation in dismantling stereotypes, giving audiences an accurate understanding of the world around them, and allowing viewers of all shades and sizes to envision themselves in positions of success. Studies have even found that a lack of representation on television creates poor self esteem among the viewers who lack representation.

But if you’re a female stoner, you’ve likely seen very few portrayals of yourself on the big screen. It’s a phenomenon that calls to mind the most obnoxious of all female stereotypes. Maybe smoking weed just isn’t “womanly” or “ladylike.”

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It’s also a representational gap that reflects entrenched societal biases against women who use substances in general, such as findings about the “moralistic tone” of reports detailing women’s drinking habits, and the “helpless, immoral” characterization of female binge-drinkers that men often avoid. (Men, in contrast, are often romanticized for their relationships with substance abuse.) The absence of female stoners on the big screen perfectly aligns with societal double standards that generally paint rebellious men as lovingly mischievous, and rebellious women as conniving, crazy or irreparably morally flawed. It’s also a continuation of the infuriating and persistent myth about women’s inability to be funny.

The lack of female stoner movies is but one small component of a massive representational bias in the film industry. It’s a gender gap that persists even though movies produced under the leadership of female casts, staff and executives consistently outperform those of their male counterparts. 

Many look at the cannabis industry as a rare opportunity to establish a more equitable systemic framework. How often is it, cannabis entrepreneurs are fond of saying, that an entire multi-billion dollar industry emerges from the black market into the mainstream seemingly overnight?

But as women continue to push for an equitable stake in the marijuana industry, we can’t lose sight of the importance of on-screen representation. The impact that media, television and film have on our perception of the world can hardly be overstated. And on a less high-brow note, wouldn’t it just be nice to see women blazing up and embarking on hilarious, grandiose, Sativa-inspired exploits?

Women who smoke weed are responsible for some of the greatest comedic performances in recent memory. It’s time to finally put those two things together—weed smoking women and comedy—on the big screen for stoned women, and men, everywhere to enjoy.

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Sarah Silverman in Jesus is Magic (Photo courtesy of Katherina Sadovsky via Youtube)

Dec 15, 2017