Date of Award
Master of Social Work (MSW)
Much of our knowledge about drug users is gleaned from popular culture representations. Representations in popular culture films are not neutral however, only certain representations of women, drugs and drug use are allowed to appear as a coherent narrative of drug user's lives. This study presents the popular film Requiem for a Dream to explore how women who use drugs for pleasure have become known as mad (sick), bad (deviant) and sad (victims), in contemporary Western culture. Using a Foucauldian analysis, this study takes up Foucault's notion of the embodied subject as historically and culturally contingent as an analytic tool to challenge popular screen images of women, drugs and pleasure.
This exploration offers an historical account of dominant discourses on drugs, the subject, women and pleasure which highlights the processes by which contemporary ideas about women who use drugs for pleasure have emerged. These discourses are repeated and reproduced across multiple sites of knowledge production and meaning making including popular culture, which become the basis for representations of drug use in film.
Introducing popular culture in social work classrooms is a means by which to talk about the politics of difference, and to interrogate the tensions of our own professional values and practices. Requiem for a Dream is a means by which to interrogate our professional knowledge that in embracing values that rest on the liberal human subject has a paradoxical effect of rendering women who use drugs for pleasure as profoundly irrational, immoral and unfree.
Sladek, Jennifer, "Reading for Pleasure: Women and drug Use in Popular Culture" (2008). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 4736.
McMaster University Library