Back when there was a War on Drugs (a long, long time ago…probably when The Wire was first coming out), there was an idea that you could never show a protagonist getting high on television without some awful, life-altering consequences. Think of Jessie Spano getting “so excited” on Saved By the Bell, or Claire’s trial-run with meth right before learning about her father’s death on Six Feet Under.
But not all drugs are created equally life-ruining, and slowly but surely, American television culture has come to accept this fact. What about the kids on That Seventies Show, getting high in their basement to no ill effects? (Besides Kelso, who was already a goner, and Steven, I guess, who was selling…but that’s a different story.) What about Claire and Frank Underwood, who basically smoked their way to the office on House of Cards, one illicit doobie at a time. (A fact sited by no less a pothead than Seth Rogen during a senate hearing.) And last night’s Togetherness, still a very under-watched show, presented Brett (Mark Duplass) as being one step away from taking a magical hole into a fairyland of LSD (or peyote? Or psilocybin mushroom mushrooms?) with Mary Steenburgen.
Broad City, too, uses drugs to great positive effects, while still remaining as a service reminder about what happens when you get too hopped up on pain pills and maxing out your credit card at the Gowanus Whole Foods because you are listening to your spirit monster. (Been there, done that.)
But of course, the best–and that is to say, most REALISTIC portrayal of both the benefits and drawbacks of taking too much of a psychotropic drug? Transparent, in which Ali Pfefferman’s Ecstasy trip ends up in humiliation, a bomb-ass Uber conversation, and an interaction with her father about Mort’s transition to Moppa-hood that is way too close for comfort. (At least for next-morning’s hangover mind state.)
What’s absolutely perfect about that Transparent episode is how correctly it gets the Ecstasy experience…no, it’s not a drug that’s going to ruin your life by taking it. No, you probably won’t get addicted. Yes, embarrassment and dehydration are the worst side effects you’ll probably experience. But it’s that exact moment of psychic breakthrough, courtesy of the drugs, that Ali will spend the rest of the season back-cycling from, unready and unwilling to accept the acceptance she so easily gave while under the influence.
In my opinion, there’s no better PSA for not taking Ecstasy than the fact that you might end up accidentally talking to your parents about some Real Important Issues, so for that, Transparent just did the War on Drugs a huge favor with that episode.