Amy Poehler and Netflix, Please Tell Better Stories

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We woke up this morning to this headline: "Amy Poehler Starring & Directing A Movie About Getting Wine Drunk In Napa." 

Seriously? Are we still laughing at these jokes?

First, Amy Poehler is a badass. We consider her memoir, "Yes Please" to be part of the modern feminist cannon.  Her "Smart Girls" Foundation is dedicated to helping" young people cultivate their authentic selves. We emphasize intelligence and imagination over 'fitting in.'" We will follow just about any project she does. 

Except this one. 

We're in this seminal moment of women rising up against all of the institutions that have kept us down. We're waking up and calling bullshit on the organizational power structures and old beliefs that have kept us silent and small.

But somehow Hollywood, center of the #MeToo movement, hasn't gotten the memo that says this:

  • Reckoning with our cultural attitudes around alcohol is part of the movement.
  • We're in a public health crisis around substance use, abuse, dependence, and addiction. There's an outcry around opioid addiction (rightly so) but alcohol still kills more people. But we keep acting like it's a joke. Problematic drinking is dramatically on the rise, particularly among women. Yet we still keep making, consuming, and sharing content that glorifies drinking. 
  • More and more women are starting to question not just their alcohol use, but the messaging around alcohol in media, marketing, and pop culture. More women are lifting their voices when it comes the link between how the culture glorifies alcohol as an accessory for women, but turns its head to the consequences.

From Eater SF: "The premise is a tale as old as time: A crew of female friends flock to the country’s most famous wine region for a wine-soaked 50th birthday party. True to life, the group will ride around the valley, visiting wineries and stirring up hilarious trouble (though tasting room employees may find that trouble less amusing)." So sort of like "Sideways" but with women? Um, OK.

Sideways came out in 2004. Some things have changed since then.

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Here are some facts about women and alcohol from a Washington Post story

"White women are particularly likely to drink dangerously, with more than a quarter drinking multiple times a week and the share of binge drinking up 40 percent since 1997, according to a Washington Post analysis of federal health data. In 2013, more than a million women of all races wound up in emergency rooms as a result of heavy drinking, with women in middle age most likely to suffer severe intoxication.

This behavior has contributed to a startling increase in early mortality. The rate of alcohol-related­ deaths for white women ages 35 to 54 has more than doubled since 1999, according to The Post analysis, accounting for 8 percent of deaths in this age group in 2015."

That particular story went on to mention another film and its connection to the dialogue around alcohol and marketing to women, as well as the bigger potential health impact:

"...When girl-power heroine Amy Schumer guzzled Bandit boxed wine in the movie “Trainwreck,” Bandit’s producer, Trinchero Family Estates, promoted the scene on social media. Young women responded with photos of themselves chugging Bandit. Within months, Trinchero said, sales of boxed wines — sometimes called “binge in a box” — jumped 22 percent.

'We saw it first with tobacco, marketing it to women as their right to smoke. Then we saw lung cancer deaths surpass deaths from breast cancer,' said Rear Adm. Susan Blumenthal, a former U.S. assistant surgeon general and an expert on women’s health issues. 'Now it’s happening with alcohol, and it’s become an equal rights tragedy.”

So why, in 2018, with more women speaking up and out about these issues, is Hollywood making a film that still glorifies "Bad Moms" and getting trashed in Napa? 

And why is someone who is such a strong role model signing on to a project like this? Yes, it's her directorial debut and that is fantastic. But why a project like this? This is not 2015, when "Trainwreck" was filmed. It's 2018. Everything has changed.

And perhaps nothing has. 

This is the part of the post where we clarify that yes, every person has a right to drink or not drink. We are not prohibitionists. And obviously, Amy Poehler can sign on to any project she pleases. But we believe that media -- film, television, social, marketing -- isn't made in a vacuum. This kind of project feels tone deaf to the greater conversations that are taking place in this country.



Would I have gone to see this movie years ago? You bet. Would I have laughed at the jokes. Yep. But not anymore. Two years of sobriety, of meeting countless women who are fighting for their lives has change everything. Each day I get calls, messages, and texts from women saying "I think I might need help." They are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your aunts. They are women in the carpool line, in the board room, and in positions in leadership across your communities. Then there are the ones who might not need help yet, but are starting to question what alcohol adds to their lives. There are more resources than ever to help all of these women, thank God. 

Will a film make you drink? Probably not. Were their problems caused by a Netflix release? Nope. But films like this don't help. 

If this project concerns you, we'd encourage you to share your voice. Please join us in expressing your concern and by telling Netflix and Amy Poehler why a film like this is problematic. Please join us in asking Poehler and Netflix to be more sensitive and thoughtful to the greater cultural conversations. 

We need your help in raising our voices and encouraging media to #TellBetterStories.

Related Links:

I Hid Three Years of Shame In My Clothing and Nobody Noticed

13 Things You Should Know About Women And Alcohol/ Hip Sobriety

I'm Sorry, But What The F Is Going On / Laura McKowen





Pop CultureErin Street