Today is a day that perennially goes down in cultural infamy. For many of the youth in modern culture, April 20 or “4/20” has become associated with the use and celebration of marijuana.
April 20, as well as marijuana in general, has played a recurring role in popular culture since the days of the 1969 film “Easy Rider,” and more notoriously the “Cheech & Chong” film series, which featured the comedy duo of Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong cleverly lampooning everything from drug trafficking to Mexican stereotypes.
While the “Cheech & Chong” series lost its cultural relevance after several middling sequels, many filmmakers, musicians and even comedians have picked up where they left off, blazing the trail for more intelligent, even thought-provoking takes on marijuana in today’s culture.
Scene & Heard takes a look at a few of the films and television shows that have made marijuana more than just a punch line.
“Dazed and Confused” (1993)
While films like 2008’s “Harold & Kumar: Escape From Guantanamo Bay” where able to adapt the clever social satire found in the early “Cheech & Chong” films, at its heart “Harold & Kumar” still falls into the subgenre of stoner comedies.
In 1993, “Slacker” director Richard Linklater wrote and directed “Dazed & Confused,” a film that set precedent for all stoner comedies to come. “Dazed” broke the mold, acting as a ’70s period piece, a touching coming-of-age story and a satire of high school hierarchy.
“Pulp Fiction” director Quentin Tarantino cited “Dazed” as one of the ten best films of all-time in a 2002 issue of “Sight & Sound,” and “Dazed” has achieved a substantial critical and cult following since its 1993 release. Films like “Harold & Kumar” prove that stoner comedy can still be poignant, it just is hard to duplicate a film like “Dazed.”
“Super High Me” (2007)
Stand-up comedian Doug Benson is well known for talking about pot. His entire set revolves around the idea that he is perpetually stoned, and while it sometimes may feel more like a part of his act than his actual personality, 2007’s “Super High Me” proved that he has an addictive relationship with marijuana.
Following in the footsteps of Morgan Spurlock’s McDonald’s skewing documentary “Super Size Me,” Benson remained marijuana free for thirty days, then spent the following thirty days indulging in the drug he was able to legally obtain from California dispensaries.
“Super High Me” acts as much more than another marijuana joke in Benson’s comedic routine, in the end it actually makes for both a well-made and insightful documentary.
“Chokin’ and Tokin'” Episode of “Freaks & Geeks” (1999-2000)
Long before director Judd Apatow made the 2007 comedy blockbuster “Knocked Up,” which featured a marijuana obsessed Seth Rogen, he wrote the episode “Chokin’ and Tokin'” for the cult television series “Freaks and Geeks.”
In “Chokin’ and Tokin,'” former bookworm Lindsay Weir is pressured into taking marijuana for the first time, and finds little to enjoy about the experience. When she tries it again, she is whirled into a neurotic spiral of forgotten responsibility, irrational fear and a hysteric freak-out.
While the episode plays a little too much like a Public Service Announcement, it offers a subverting message about the drug. Lindsay doesn’t meet her death at the hands of marijuana, she simply realizes that perhaps the peer pressure and side effects just don’t do much for her.
Nancy Botwin, played by Golden Globe-winning actress Mary Louise Parker, wasn’t expecting her husband to die and leave her with two children in the scenic town of Agrestic, California.
Botwin takes up marijuana dealing as a way to maintain her comfortable life in Agrestic, and over the course of a few seasons becomes a prominent international drug cartel.
The show certainly has its moments of hilarity, but besides its unique premise and satirical prowess, it’s also a moving and engaging family drama. “Weeds” will be returning for its seventh season on Showtime June 27.