A few weeks ago Saturday Night Live aired a seemingly witty, suggestive, and highly controversial satire. The skit advertised what was a fake product, called “Heroin AM”. The concept being that it helped people to remain productive while using heroin. The ad mocked, jeered, minimized, trivialized and portrayed this epidemic as a over sensationalized drama. I’m sure it got lots of laughs but for every person who found it funny, there were probably three more who it hurt and deeply offended. When an issue destroys lives and has taken a devastating hold on our communities, it is not a laughing matter. Trivialising issues such as racism and rape is no longer accepted as humorous by the majority. We have seen and experienced the damage this ignorance has caused for far too long. Addiction in general is a serious disease that requires sensitivity, understanding and awareness. Heroin addiction presently at it’s height, requires this consideration and attention even more. The addiction rate and death rate continues to rise and we know from previous research on this site that this is a consequence of greedy pharmaceutical companies and blasè legislation and business as opposed to people centred, health promoting regulation.
Non atypical individuals and groups around the country are turning to street heroin as a result of opiate addiction through potent and oversubscribed prescription medication. The stories we have shared here at Drug Rehab Comparison of mother’s, father’s and family members who have watched their children and loved ones slip away, one day at a time until they are left with a person they do not recognise. A person who cares about nothing except where their next hit of heroin is coming from. If Saturday Night Live and the “comedians” involved in this skit find this comedic it may be worthwhile for them to meet with these families, attend the rehab units, go on patrol with preventative initiatives and teams or attend one of the many funerals as a result of overdose and addiction.
Comedians try to push the envelope and humour is subjective but what is really shocking about this skit is that people in the medical profession and other news stations have approved, justified and obediently accepted this form of humor. Some think we need to be able laugh at the scary issues, others feel it is a highly enlightened, intelligent piece, raising awareness of the number of seemingly normal people addicted to heroin. Personally I don’t believe that this was the purpose, or the result and even if it was, it’s still a tasteless, crude and insensitive way to achieve it.
“This skit is a savvy satire that portrays the medicalization and commercialization of a “street drug,” and that seemingly absurd scenario speaks to the underlying truth that a haywire medical system ruled by corporate greed, bad regulations and complacent doctors actually generated this problem in the first place.” – Ford Vox
I would question how many people perceived the skit in the way Ford Vox a physician and journalist outlined above. This is why the skit is so dangerous, most will not interpret it as a ridiculing of the medicalization and commercialization of this street drug. Most people who watched and laughed, did so because they found the mocking of high functioning, successful addicts amusing. Some find the idea that there is a heroin epidemic amusing. This is my issue with the skit and why I believe it is so damaging. The acceptance of racism, sexism, homophobia and other toxic behaviors in our society is what allows them to thrive, and prevents us from genuinely tackling them. These behaviors, jokes and slurs become more frequent, and slowly they take a place in our lives that seems totally normal and what becomes offensive is actually challenging them.
One Twitter user summed up this utter fail by Saturday Night Live perfectly;
“Making fun of the #heroin epidemic is bad satire #snl. If you were poking the drug companies, the families are the ones who felt it.”
The skit was not an ingenious means of highlighting the issue, it was ignorant and insensitive. This cannot be what the national conversation looks like, we cannot just laugh at something that is killing thousands of Americans every year. Recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control shows that every 19 minutes someone in this country dies from an opioid overdose. No we can’t all be expected to live under a dark cloud and feel bad for every bad choice or mistake another person makes but we can be respectful and informed. We don’t have to be complicit in the epidemic to the point that heroin is normalized and accepted as just another issue in American society. If we are all laughing can we really expect that politicians and those in positions of power will step up and take action. We all have a responsibility and we all have the potential to be touched by this epidemic.
Heroin AM Skit- Saturday Night Live