Do Movies Have a Drinking Problem? Booze in Movies Drives Teens to Binge, Says Study

Angelina and her co-star Johnny Walker.
Angelina and her co-star Johnny Walker.

On Sunday night at the Academy Awards, the movie industry will be giving itself a great big pat on the back.

Not so fast. A newly published study on teen binge drinking blames an overabundance of alcohol on screen.

A two-year study published by the British Medical Journal, of over 6,500 U.S. kids between the ages of 10 and 14, found that watching movies laden with liquor scenes increased teens' likelihood to binge drink.

While having parents who drank at home was one of the factors associated with starting kids early on the habit, the guardians of the big screen were targeted for ratcheting up kids' consumption. According to the report, teens who watched the most movies with alcohol were twice as likely to start drinking and 63 percent more likely to binge drink.

So does that mean the Oscar nominated 'Midnight in Paris' should be re-cut without Hemingway downing absinthe? Should 'Bridesmaids' bachelorette party become a sober affair?

Not necessarily. Films that incorporate drinking into their character study or plot device are different from those who put a product on a pedestal.

The study's researchers take aim at alcohol product placement -an increasingly popular method of bankrolling a big budget movie.

"Product placement in movies is forbidden for cigarettes in the U.S.A., but is legal and commonplace for the alcohol industry, with half of Hollywood films containing at least one alcohol-brand appearance, regardless of film rating," writes James Sargent, of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, Dartmouth Medical School along with his colleagues in the report.

The precedent was firmly set, after Red Stripe made a cameo in the movie 'The Firm,' and shot sales of the beer up by fifty percent. Since then, vodka, whiskey and beer brands have gotten plum roles alongside Hollywood's biggest stars. If a scene calls for Angelina Jolie to drink whiskey, as it did in 'Mr. and Mrs. Smith,' the bottle of Johnny Walker Red gets a couple of seconds facing the audience as Jolie's glamorous body lays alongside it. How's that for attracting the attention of both young and old.

If Carrie Bradshaw hadn't turned candy-colored Cosmos into the drink of choice for young girls trying to be sophisticated, a partnership with Skyy Vodka put the cocktail ingredients over the edge. The liquor brand, featured in both big screen versions of 'Sex and the City', was the "official" drink of the sequel. They even partnered with costume designer Patricia Field for a limited edition bottle design.

Oliver Stone's Wall Street Money Never Sleeps drew criticism for its rampant product placement throughout the movie, particularly one scene where Gordon Gekko offers up a Heineken to a woman at a bar, not a beer, mind you, a Heineken.

Stone seemed to cop to necessity in interviews: "We needed help, and we took it where we could without, I think, prostituting the movie."

Certainly, you can't blame a guy for trying to make a movie, or can you? If multimillion dollar salaries have stymied budgets, and the only way to bankroll a film is by glorifying booze at the risk of younger viewers, is it might be fair to say that nobody's drinking responsibly.

Copyright © 2012 Yahoo Inc.

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