You’d most likely answer, ‘children’, if we asked you who the target audience was for Alvin and the Chipmunks. With that in mind, how often does alcohol appear in that film? The answer – a whopping 62 times – most would have said there was no reference to alcohol.
The romantic comedy Fifty First Dates, starring Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, has 41.
A movie that alcohol is expected in, just by the title itself, that centres on dating, but a movie about singing chipmunks features more alcohol.
In context, watching the G-rated film, some scenes are of two adults drinking wine with dinner, but another shows Alvin with a bottle of champagne saying: “Let’s pop the bubbly!”
Research says that alcohol is present in 85 to 90 per cent of movies and that 52 per cent show specific brands. Some evidence also says there is a link between alcohol in media and increased alcohol consumption.
One study found that adolescents exposed to the highest amount of alcohol in films were 2.4 times more likely to drink weekly and twice as likely to experience alcohol-related problems compared to adolescents least exposed.
Currently, there is no regulation on alcohol exposure in film, and it does not get considered in classifications like drugs, violence and sexual references.
Led by PhD candidate Maree Patsouras, the study, published in Drug and Alcohol Review, asked 252 Australians if they would support eight proposed policies and whether they would be more supportive if info about how much exposure was given.
Two policies supported by the majority were that alcohol and its consumption should not be shown in a G or PG-rated film and that alcohol should not be glorified.
The least supported policies were that alcohol should not be shown within any film, regardless of classification, and that information about how much alcohol is depicted should be provided at the beginning of each film.
Patsouras says her study was one of the first of its kind and believes it was published and got outside interest because it focused on children’s films.
“I don’t believe a lot of people know that alcohol is not included in Australia’s classification system, and that’s one policy that people supported,” she told Neos Kosmos.
“Maybe more information can be given to people so that they can choose whether they want to view the film or not, especially for people who are very against alcohol being glorified.
“If they didn’t want to see it, there may be a straightforward solution, just giving them the information before they choose to watch the film.”
She was shocked to see movies featuring that much alcohol. She said when she was coding in Incredibles 2, another kids’ movie, she had to pause it almost every five minutes at one point to note down alcohol she spotted.
In 1998, the US implemented the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, which removed paid product placement for tobacco in media, including film. Smoking can still be depicted, just no branding.
Patsouras says she doesn’t know if that will ever happen for alcohol because of how normalised it is.
“You wouldn’t see that with smoking, or other drugs. Alcohol is normalised, especially in Australia and the wider society as well, and that’s likely why we found that so many people underestimated it.”
She thinks people would find smoking in a kid’s movie to be more confronting than someone drinking alcohol.
There are also cultural differences, with many Greeks, for example, letting their kids sip alcohol at family get-togethers. Many countries also don’t strictly follow restrictions.
When asked about cultural differences, especially Western vs European’s with alcohol, she gave her perspective as a young Greek Australian who sees both cultures.
“The Australian mentality has been you drink to get drunk, whereas the Greek mentality is more casual, we drink during dinner and so on.”
“I think cultural attitude changes things, and keep in mind this is an Australian study, so we wonder if other countries agree.
“It would be a great idea to see this replicated. For example, we said that alcoholic beverages should not be glorified in film, but is that an Australian-specific result because we tend to drink to get drunk? What would Greece think?”