Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Why Don't Women Smoke Pot With Each Other in Movies and on TV?

I just saw the terrific documentary This Changes Everything about the exclusion of women in the film industry, particularly as directors.  One segment was about "The Bechdel Test" for a film, something that came from a comic book in the 1980s.

To pass the Bechdel Test: 

• It must have at least two female characters 
• They must both have names 
• They must talk to each other about something other than a man. 

My version of the test for films with Tokin' Women would be:  

• It must have at least two female characters 
• They must smoke marijuana with each other 
• They must talk about something meaningful while stoned 

I just went through my fairly comprehensive list of Tokin' Women in Movies and TV and found that only in rare cases do women smoke pot together in film or on TV.  
In 1968, Leigh Taylor-Young baked Peter Sellers brownies in I Love You Alice B. Toklas, and actresses Jo Van Fleet and Joyce Van Patten inadvertently get baked in the film. But the story is entirely told from a male perspective, with pot a loosener for women getting sexy, or silly. The same is true for Woody Allen's Annie Hall (1977) and subsequent Allen films, like A Rainy Day in New York.

In 1969, Natalie Wood and Dyan Cannon got in on the pot-smoking in Bob & Carol & Ted  & Alice  but they don't have much fun with it, nor do they relate to each other.  In 1970, Ruth Gordon played an 80-year-old woman who opens up her young, troubled (male) friend with the aid of a hookah in Harold and Maude, and Barbra Streisand tells an uptight George Segal, "Now I'm going to make you happy" as she lights a joint to share with him in The Owl and the Pussycat. But neither character smokes with another woman.  
In 1978 Jamie Lee Curtis briefly shares a joint with Nancy Kyes in Halloween (but then they pay). Also in '78, Karen Allen puffs in Animal House with a group of college boys and her (male) professor. This is typical of many films, as detailed in the Changes documentary, that focus on men and have only a single female character, usually someone's girlfriend. Allen later puffs in a tub in Scrooged, where she saves Bill Murray's sorry soul, while focusing on him instead of herself, much like Gordon and Streisand's characters.

Finally, starting in 1980,  I found a some films and shows that pass my test,
starting with the "old fashioned ladies pot party" that office workers played by Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton have in 9-5 (1980).  In that breakthrough film, the women raise their consciousness and take action to improve their lives, something that is the subject of a second Netflix documentary, 9to5: The Story of a Movement.
There were a few other female bonding moments involving weed in movies in 1983. Debra Winger as Emma and pal Patsy (Lisa Hart Carroll) toke up the night before Emma's wedding in Terms of Endearment. JoBeth Williams tokes along with Mary Kay Place, Gwen Close and their male friends in The Big Chill, and Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood passes a joint to Cher in Silkwood 

In 1985 Molly Ringwald bonds with The Breakfast Club gang with the aid of a joint, but she and female co-star Ally Sheedy don't smoke together. Madonna turns on a New Jersey spa salesman in Desperately Seeking Susan, but she doesn't get to enjoy it with Rosanna Arquette, her co-star. In 1986 Kathleen Turner goes back in time to high school in Peggy Sue Got Married and smokes reefer with the town beatnik (but not her female high school chums). Susan Sarandon, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Cher smoke pot with the devilish Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick, but it's more like an male-fantasy orgy than a pot party. In 1988, Sarandon plays the philosophical pot smoker Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, who smokes alone or with Kevin Costner only. 

In the 90s, Milla Jovovich plays with a lighter in the dopey Dazed and Confused, where the boys smoke pot together and the girls mostly only get in on the hazing. Liv Tyler and Rachel Weisz toke in Stealing Beauty (1996), but not together. Bridget Fonda's rotten character tokes alone in a bikini in Jackie Brown in 1997, the year Candice Bergen as TV's Murphy Brown uses medical marijuana.  

In 1999, girls were partying like it was. Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn and Winona Ryder share an intergenerational joint on the front porch in How to Make an American Quilt, and teenagers Mena Suvari and Thora Burch smoke a joint in their car and talk about life in American Beauty.  Parker Posey puffs and learns to be a librarian in Party Girl, and brownies are shared with her older mentor at the end of the film. Hillary Swank, Chloe Sevingy, Alicia Goranson, and Alison Folland smoke pipes & bongs in Boys Don't Cry, but I don't recall any bonding moments between or among them.  

Around this time, Donna (Laura Prepon) moves into "The Circle" in the basement in That 70s Show, and Jackie (Mila Kunis) soon joins in, on the episode titled, "Cat Fight Club" (hm...).  In the Series 2 premiere ("Garage Sale"), Mrs. Forman (Debra Jo Rupp) and Donna's mom (Tanya Roberts) have some fun with brownies as the adults make a circle of their own.

Opening the new millennium, Brenda Blethyn grows weed to save her home in Saving Grace (2000), but she gets sick when she tries it. A couple of her garden club ladies have fun with some cannabis tea, though. The movie was doubtlessly an inspiration for TV's Weeds, where Mary-Louise Parker sells pot but doesn't smoke it. In 2002, Susan Sarandon loosens up with Goldie Hawn in The Banger Sisters and McDormand and Kate Beckinsale smoke in the dreary Laurel Canyon. And Sandra Oh passes a joint to Virginia Madsen in Sideways (2004). (It's subtle, and they do it under the table to hide it from the kids.)

Linda Cardellini is the life of the party in Grandma's Boy (2006), where Shirley JonesShirley Knight, and Doris Roberts drink some cannabis tea. But Cardellini's younger character is surrounded by men and doesn't have any female toking buddies. Similarly, in TV's Entourage, Sloan (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and her friend Tori (Malin Akerman) smoke and giggle together (pictured), then suggest a possible threesome with Sloan's boyfriend Eric, a typical male fantasy. In 2007, Anna Faris stumbles superstoned smoking solo through the worst script ever in Smiley Face.
A few more meaningful "marijuana mama" films followed: 

 - Meg Ryan puffs pot proffered by shamaness Bette Midler in The Women (2008) at a women's retreat, following Ryan's character learning that her husband is cheating on her. Ryan's character subsequently finds her way to her bliss as a fashion designer. But you have to rent the DVD with deleted scenes to hear her say, "I'm really stoned." The Women is a remake of a Clare Booth Luce play with an all-female cast; Luce and her husband famously took LSD (but thought it wasn't for the masses). Posters for the 1939 film version claimed, "It's all about men!"

Jane Fonda shines as a hippie grandmother in Peace, Love and Misunderstanding (2011), where she thoughtfully turns her granddaughter (Elizabeth Olsen) onto the pleasures of pot. That same year, Cameron Diaz opens up a coworker (Phyllis Smith) to marijuana in Bad Teacher, and in No Strings Attached bride-to-be Olivia Thirlby gets stoned when her bridesmaids bring her weed.

- Meryl Streep opens up communication with her daughter (played by her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer) and ex-husband (Kevin Kline) with the aid of some pot she finds in the freezer in Ricki and the Flash (2015). Soon they're sharing music and mellow vibes, which get crushed when the stepmom finds out about it. This movie is written by a woman, Diablo Cody (Juno), who just won a Tony award for writing the libretto to "Jagged Little Pill," based on pot-lover Alanis Morissette's music.  

Also in 2015, older actresses Blythe Danner, Rhea Perlman, Mary Kay Place and June Squibb have a pot party followed by a munchie run in I’ll See You in My Dreams, and Cloris Leachman has a blast smoking pot for pain with her granddaughter (Mickey Sumner) in This Is Happening.  

"Broad City," which debuted on 2014 on Comedy Central, has besties played by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson smoking weed and getting into trouble together. The 2016 Oakland Museum "Altered State" exhibit put them on a trajectory of "best buds" starting with Cheech & Chong (shown). Meanwhile, Tomlin and Fonda have returned in the Netflix series Grace and Frankie (2015-2021) where they smoke pot together (when Fonda's character Grace isn't downing martinis or making fun of Frankie for her  healthier habit). Tomlin is much more powerful in Grandma, but she only smokes with an ex-boyfriend in it. 

In Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016) some renegade, pot-smoking sorority girls menace their neighbor, ironically played by pot-lover Seth Rogen. Tiffany Haddish smuggles pot as only a woman can in Girls Trip (2017); in the final scene over the credits, the girls (Haddish, Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, and Jada Pinkett Smith, pictured) finally smoke ganja.

Lady Bird (2018) won Greta Gerwig a scriptwriting Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination for best director. In it, Saoirse Ronan and Beanie Feldstein smoke on a dark street, have some fun, get the munchees, and giggle. Julianne Moore plays a divorced woman who smokes pot as part of her new life in Gloria Bell (2018); the twist here is that she's lead to it with the help of her ex-husband's new wife, played by Jeanne Tripplehorn, who pulls out a vape pen after a family dinner.

In 2019, Linda Cardellini "reacquaints" Christina Applegate with weed on Dead to Me in 2019, but Applegate's character soon reverts back to wine, and anger. Olympia Dukakis and Laura Linney smoke together again in Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City. On the big screen, Billie Lourd asks her fellow high school girls, "Not even pot? Because I think it would relax you," in Booksmart, directed by Olivia Wilde.

In the 2021 film Queen Bees, Loretta Devine says to Ellen Burstyn, "You've got to live every day. Do you want to get baked?" The two have a cute scene smoking together, but for the rest of the film the characters revert to wine, which is too bad because at least two of the women have anger problems (Jane Curtin's character and Burstyn's uptight daughter). 

Have I missed any films where females bond and have revelations while smoking pot? Any ideas about why we don't see more of this? Here's one example: Natalie Portman, who is featured in This Changes Everything, planned to make a film called Best Buds about friends who save their girlfriend from marriage by bringing her weed. But instead she made the creepy ballet/slasher flick Black Swan, got pregnant by her choreographer, and abandoned the project. This changes nothing. 

UPDATE: In 2022, Jean Smart and Hanna Einbinder take weed gummies together on "Hacks," but only in the episode where Smart's character has plastic surgery. On "The White Lotus," two college girls (Sydney Sweeney & Brittany O'Grady) share a shotgun from a bong. And Hadley Robinson and Molly Gordon share a bonding joint as co-workers in "Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty" on Max. In 2023, "That 90s Show," a Netflix reboot of "That 70s Show," puts a new generation of high school stoners in the basement, including Leah (Callie Haverda) and Gwen (Ashley Aufderheide). "Survival of the Thickest" on Netflix features a pre-jog vape sesh with Mavis (Michelle Buteau) and Marley (Tasha Smith). 

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