Drugstore Cowboy: How the Film Denigrates Drug Use

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"Drugstore Cowboy" is a film that portrays the story of the life of a group of people who are seriously addicted to various drugs. The film begins when Bob, the main character, is lying in an ambulance telling the story of how he became a dope fiend and how difficult this lifestyle became for him and his group of friends. He tells how they were able to steal from pharmacies in order to obtain various drugs such as morphine and Dilaudid both of which are controlled substances. Although many may feel that the film glorifies drug use, it seems obvious that issues such as crime, drugs, and betrayal are denigrated by the film maker. These three issues, as depicted in the film, show how deeply they affect the both the actions and decisions of the four main characters.

Bob is the leader of a group of drug addicts.

They wander from place to place, robbing pharmacies to get whatever drugs they can find. They use some of the drugs and sell others. Bob is married to Dianne, a fellow drug addict, and drugs appear to definitely be the most important thing in their lives. Rick, a friend of Bob's, tries to learn the ropes of drug dealing while his teenaged girlfriend, Nadine, annoys and constantly hinders Bob deals. All of these characters are like a big, happy family. One of the ways in which the film denigrates crime in society is depicted in a scene where the four characters enter a store separately. Nandine creates a diversion by pretending she has epilepsy in order to distract the owner of the shop. As a consequence, the owner calls an ambulance. Meanwhile, Bob tries to steal drugs. After this scene, the police are constantly searching for Bob, and they obtain a warrant in order to search inside Bob's house. Unfortunately they find nothing. They continue to steal from other stores during the night. They are lucky because no one sees them. Afterward, Bob steals drugs from a hospital. The characters in the film are not necessarily bad people; however, their addictions lead them to continue committing crimes.

The film strongly denigrates drugs by using Bob as an example of how drugs negatively affect his life. In Bob's case, he realizes that he no longer wants drugs in this life after Natalie dies from an overdose of Dilaudid. He is strongly affected not only by her death, but also by a hat that is lying on the bed which he views as a symbol of bad luck. Bob is superstitious and believes that the hat will bring him fifteen years of bad luck or even death. For this reason, he becomes afraid, especially when he realizes that a sheriff's convention is taking place in town and that many officers are staying in the same hotel in which Nandine is lying dead. He becomes very was nervous, and he has several flashbacks bringing back bad memories of time he once spent in jail. He does not know how he will be able to remove Nandine's body from the hotel room without bring attention to himself. At this point, Bob makes a promise to God that if he can get away with this, he will never consume drugs again. For instance, there is a scene in which Bob describes the cycle of addiction by explaining that nobody can really talk to an addict and tell them not to use drugs because they sooner or later the addict will return to his old habits. For example, these habits might be dope, booze, glue, gasoline, or even a gunshot in the head. They can be anything that releases the addict from the pressures in their lives. He further explains to a woman in a methadone clinic that guys like him would not be likely to give up drugs. However, he is one of the few who had the courage to confront his reality. At this point, he is no longer able to continue with drugs because he realizes that the drugs would probably have ended up killing him, and they just brought him more troubles. For this reason, he wants to rebuild his life, so he gets a job, rents a room, drinks tea, and prays to wake up with the feeling that something good might happen. Later, Bob comes to realize that his greatest fear is the challenge brought by the next minute. As Bob notes, the best thing about being a junkie was always knowing what to expect in the future; all you had to do was "read the labels on the bottles" (Drugstore Cowboy). Through the characters he meets in rehabilitation, Bob recognizes that most junkies never stop using drugs. He figures out that they just change or replace drugs for religion or love. Bob, marked by signs and the refusal of Dianne to join him in the straight life, cannot find a replacement drug to help him in his new place in the world. In the end of the movie, it becomes apparent that no matter how hard he tries; Bob simply cannot extricate himself from drugs because they will follow him and, eventually kill him.

The movie also denigrates loyalty as Bob's relationship with Diane falls apart since the death of Nandine. Bob realizes that he loves Diane; however, she loves dope. Bob looks at himself and realizes that he is more turned on by drugs than sex. He also realizes his relationship with Diane is unproductive in his new life. For this reason, he leaves Diane and cleans his hands of the drug life. Close to the end of the movie, Diane visited Bob in his apartment. Bob one last time asks her if she wants to quit her habit and join him. Nevertheless, she does not want to change her life because drugs are still more important that her relationship with Bob. The last scene shows the how loyalty is denigrated as Bob appears to be murdered by one of his friends, David. The movie also strongly emphasizes that drugs can lead to betrayal and disloyalty even among thieves.

"Drugstore Cowboy" is an interesting film which denigrates such issues as crime, drugs, and loyalty. This is not necessarily a film about bad people, but about sick people. Bob and his friends stick together and try to help one another in the face of the increasing desperation of their lives. One of the most interesting lines in the film is when Bob talks of understanding life. He says that people never know how life is going to go from minute to minute, or how they are going to feel. For this reason, everyone make his own choice in life in order to accomplish his or her own needs.

Works Cited Drugstore Cowboy.Dir.Gus Van Sant. Avenue Pictures,1989. Videocassette.