You guys, the times are a’changin’. Whether you like it or not, whether you believe it’ll ever happen, statistics and polls collectively show that a certain hashtag is trending in this country:
Oh, you don’t believe that most people are getting behind legalizing marijuana? Let the Pew Research Center convince you, then:
“Support for marijuana legalization is rapidly outpacing opposition. A slim majority (53%) of Americans say the drug should be made legal, compared with 44% who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed drastically since 1969, when Gallup first asked the question and found that just 12% favored legalizing marijuana use. Much of the change in opinion has occurred over the past few years — support rose 11 points between 2010 and 2013 (although it has remained relatively unchanged since then).”
So it’s not only becoming a trend to support the legalization of marijuana—it’s quickly becoming the norm. States (Washington, Colorado) are making it legal; 69 percent of Americans believe alcohol is more harmful; and almost half (half!) of Americans have tried cannabis in their lifetimes.
So that’s it? The argument is done? Dispensaries will start showing up on every corner like Starbucks, right?
Mmmmmm…not so fast. Turns out, not everybody is on board.
Also from Pew:
“Only about four-in-ten Republicans (39%) [support the legalization of marijuana]. While most non-Hispanic whites and blacks say marijuana should be made legal, only 40% of Hispanics share that view. Among generations, 68% of Millennials say marijuana should be legal while only 29% of the Silent Generation (those 70 to 87) share that view. Baby Boomers, who were the most supportive generation in the 1970s before becoming opponents during the “Just Say No” 1980s, are now about as likely to favor (50%) as oppose (47%) legalization.”
Major bummer mannnnnn. Why are these guys cramping our style? Why won’t they just let us have our ganja? Why are they so close-minded?!
But wait…maybe there’s another way of looking at this. There’s no way you’re gonna convince your grandpa that smoking weed is super cool and not harmful and that, come on, the whole country is shifting towards this, so why don’t you get on board, already? Because no: Your grandpa is old. He’s WAY too old to be changing his mind about things that he’s believed for 60+ years just because you showed him some statistics that pretty convincingly proved your point.
No, we need help. We need the ultimate tool. We need the ultimate superhero—we need what binds Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and all the other Mans together: We need stories.
Let me explain! Science has shown that stories have this super-cool ability to shape how we view the world (you can read more about it in our Suffragette piece, or by visiting this NY Times link). When you’re really connecting with a character or a set of characters who have deep ambitions and goals and ideologies, you, in turn, buy into their deep ambitions and goals and ideologies. Your mind’s emotional capacity is widened and you become more empathetic to a person/collection of people’s journey. Witnessing a story is much more likely to shape your worldview than reading a bunch of statistics and numbers.
So, a movie like Brokeback Mountain has the ability to convince someone that homosexual love is every bit as true and real as heterosexual love; a movie like Groundhog Day could help you realize that you should live every day to its fullest; a movie like It’s a Wonderful Life could make you realize the true meaning of Christmas and how important it is to give back…
…and a movie like The Night Before could convince your grandpa that America should legalize marijuana.
Look, I’m just going off science here. It’s apparent that statistics and research about the positive effects of marijuana won’t convince many people in this country that legalizing marijuana is OK. You need a story to really make the argument.
Think about a movie like Blackfish! There were probably people petitioning SeaWorld for years, trying to get the statistics out to the public about how terribly SeaWorld treated its killer whales—yet the mainstream never seemed to pay attention. But if you give people a story? If you arrange all of that data into a linear structure that has a beginning, middle, and end, and you unflinchingly show killer whales being tortured? That will get people talking—that will make you empathetic towards the cause.
Not that I’m comparing legalizing marijuana to saving the killer whales…but I think you get what I mean: Stories are better at convincing people to take action.
Which is why, in retrospect, stoner movies have really done a pretty bad job of convincing people about the positive effects of marijuana. Cheech and Chong? Dazed and Confused? Harold and Kumar? Ted? Fucking Bio-Dome? What have any of those characters or stories done on a deeper level to prove that marijuana can change your life for the better? How does smoking change them or the people around them? For the most part, smoking is just a way of life, and, often, smoking is a hindrance on their day-to-day.
Even movies like Super High Me, which features a man smoking weed for 30 straight days and proves with a case study that marijuana almost has zero negative effects, do almost nothing to advance the cause.
And wanna know why? Fittingly, stoner movies tend to be lazy, thrown together, aimless, and meandering. And Super High Me’s story is pretty straightforward and not hard-hitting—there’s no connection to the average viewer who isn’t passionate about the cause, who doesn’t smoke marijuana often.
In steps The Night Before—a movie that SHOWS us the supernatural capabilities of marijuana. The film is chaotic, heartfelt, funny, and gives the motif of “smoking marijuana” an arc that coincides with the characters’ journey.
As evidence, I present various ways The Night Before could connect with a viewer more than your average stoner movie:
The movie embodies the spirit of Christmas! And who doesn’t love Christmas? And who doesn’t love discovering the meaning of Christmas? And what helps these characters discover the meaning of Christmas? Marijuana. #legalizeit
Various forms of weed represent the classic “Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future” storyline we’ve grown up with and probably connect with on an intrinsic level. So if you connect with “A Christmas Carol”—one of the most popular and beloved Christmas stories of all time—at all, you might automatically connect with The Night Before. #legalizeit
Acting as the “Ghost of Christmas Present,” weed helps Chris realize how he’s lying to himself by pumping himself full of steroids to become better at football. So let me get this straight: Weed has the ability to uncloud my mind and help me realize the consequences my unethical decisions could hold? #legalizeit
Doing drugs is what causes Isaac to stop pretending he’s not scared about being a dad (the “Ghost of Christmas Future”), and to not feel pressured to play “the man” in a patriarchal household structure, thus allowing his wife, who is much stronger than him, to be “The Rock” in their relationship. Because of all of this, Isaac will become a better parent with more realistic expectations living in a more stable household—something we can all aspire for. #legalizeit
Ethan’s “past” is revealed after smoking marijuana, and it shows how he, Isaac, and Chris formed a family unit after Ethan’s parents were killed in a car crash. Smoking marijuana literally allows the magic of storytelling to occur before our eyes and portray a family structure we can all relate to, giving dramatic weight throughout the film to the central group of friends who use weed to enable themselves. #legalizeit
Now think about it: If your average viewer connected with any of these storylines, wouldn’t he or she be more inclined to support the legalization of marijuana? These characters experience life-changing events—and you could too! If you just smoked marijuana, right?
Or maybe you’ll realize that other people using it…isn’t so bad? That it could help people who feel shitty about themselves or need a helping hand or just, I don’t know, want to feel good? All because The Night Before showed us all the good marijuana can do in a defamiliarized, exaggerated, fictional format?
Pretty cool, right?