Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 11

Kozirovskiy,David

A12250278
Tuesday6pm

AccessibilityofHardDrugs,withFocusattheHomeLevel,andtheImpactoftheMobCulture

The1950swasaroaringtimefortheUnitedStates,havingjustcomeoutofWWIIwitha
boomingeconomybasedonwarfareandanewsocialstructureasanincreasingnumberof
womenenteredtheworkplace.Asmanyscientistsprovidedmedicalbreakthroughsintosomeof
themostseriouscrisesofthetime,othersmadebreakthroughsinthepsychedelicanddrug
cultures.Followingtheboomofthedruggateinthelate1940s,harddrugsbecamerampant
throughoutthestreets.Asmoreandmorenarcoticsfoundtheirwayintothehome,multiple
aspectsofthemediabegantodepicttheatrocitiescommittedbythecasualtiesofthedrugtrade
andthemobsystemwhichcontrolleditsflow.
TheCocaColabottle(fig.1)isjustoneexampleofthevastavailabilityofdrugsin
Americansocietyduringthisera.ThisproductwasmanufacturedbytheCocaColacompany
duringtheperiodwhenthesodapopincludedtracesofthecocaleaf,thesamematerialusedin
theproductionofcocaine.[1]Althoughtheamountinthedrinkwasnowherenearthelethal
dosage,itwasstillenoughtoinducenumbingandaddictiveeffects.[2]Theadventofthe
televisionandcommercialsshotupsalesofthedrink,leadingtothegoldenageforthe
CocaColacompany.[3]ThisperiodsawtheproductionofnewsizesoftheCocaColabottle,
ranginginsizefroma6.5ouncebottletothekingsizedbottle.CocaColabottlessuchasthis
couldbefoundallovertheplace,rangingfromtheclubtothekitchenrefrigerator.Therefore,it
hasbeennotedthatthegrowthofthedrinkissynonymouswiththegrowingdrugcultureofthe
period.Althoughsimpleindesign,theCocaColabottleisanexampleofhowdrugswere

becomingmoreandmoreprevalentinaplethoraofquotidianaspectsofAmericanculture,most
prominentlyinthoseaffectinglifeinsidethehome.
Asthedrugsdispersedthemselvesthroughoutthestreets,thewrittenworldofthe1950s
begantobefloodedbythetroublesofsubstanceabusealongwithgangviolence.Comicbooks
quicklycametotheforegroundforitsmassdepictionsofthesetwofeatures.Themainconcern
wasbasedaroundthefactthatminorswerethemainaudienceforthismedia:asmanyas80%
ofkidsand90%ofteenagerswerereadingthem[comics](Dooley,CoverYourEyes).Comic
bookswereeasytohanddownfromonepersontothenext,makingthedisseminationofthe
novelsimagesveryrapid.Thiscomposedtheclassicimageofthegroupofschoolgroundkids
capturedbythemystiqueofcomicbookculture.[4]However,insteadofbeinghorrifiedbythe
images,thechildrenwereinterestedmanyofthemexploredthedrugcultureforthemselvesand
gotaddictedtotheverysubstancestheywerewarnedabout(Wertham).
ThismagazinecoverforMurder,Morphine,andMe(TrueCrimeComics#2,May
1947)(fig.2),aclassicexampleofthehorrorgenreofthe1950s,depictsthesetwostaplesofthe
McCarthyera.Theblondewoman,whoisfeaturedprominentlyonthepage,smokesacigarette
withbloodshoteyesandhollowedcheekbones,lendingcredencetothebeliefthatshehas
problemswithmorphine.Thestereotypicalbigmobbossremainshiddenbehindthecommon
talk,whileorderingshootingsthatcanbeseenonthelowerrightcornerofthepage.Hesits
uponastackofcash,whichhereceivesfromhisdrugsalesandwholesalemurders.Onthe
lowerleftisapileofstarvedbodiesbeingburned,alltryingtogetabitofthemorphinewhich
oneoftheleadingmenisstickingintohimself.Thepictureisgrotesque,yetcaptivating.Jack
Cole,whowrotethecomic,wasoriginallyacartoonistforPlayboyMagazine,soheismorethan

familiarwithcontentthatcanbeseenasinappropriateforthemassaudience(Dooley,The
ComicsthatCorruptedOurKids!).Thevividcolorsusedintheprintingofthepage,as
McCloudargues,bringsdramaintothescenealongwithasenseofurgency.[6]Thiscomic,due
toitsprintingbeforethecomiccodeanditsvastavailabilityincomicbookstores,wasalone
responsiblefortheintroductionofchildrentothedrugworldenmasse.
Continuingontheexamplesetbythepreviousimage,thispage(fig.3)ispage6fromthe
samemagazine.Thepageisarrangedincompletefilmnoirstyle(Lupesco),withdramaand
tragedyapparentineachpanel.[7]Onthispage,weseehowTony,theaforementionedmobster
leader,casuallyabusestheblondewoman.Tonysservants,whostandoutsidethedoorlistening
totheirconversation,statehowtheironlyopportunitytomakemoneyistoworkinthemob,
demonstratinghowmostoftheviolenceinthemobwassparkedbymonetarywantsinsteadof
sadisticneeds.Thewoman,whowasfirstdisillusionedbythesuccessandbeautyoftheriches
thatsheexperienceswithherboyfriend,realizesthetroublesthatgoalongwiththistypeof
lifestyle.Coleusesathreebythreeformula.Thepanelsaredense.Everysingleelementthe
drawings,thelettering,thewordandthoughtballoonscontributestothenarrative,creating
intensity,dynamism,anddramaofthescene,makingyoufeelwhatthewomanfeels(Lupescu).
Thepageisasynecdocheofthegreatermagazine,andthereforeofthegreaterdrugcultureofthe
1950singeneral.Likethecoverofthemagazine,thebrightcolorsareusedtocaptivatethe
readerandenticetheindividualintoreadingmore.Anunfortunatesideeffectofthiswasthatan
amplepercentageofthechildrenwhoreadthemagazinewereenticedbyTonyswealth,and
thereforeattemptedtojointhemobcultureforthemselves(Wertham).However,unlikethe
magazinescover,whichcouldbeseenbyanyonethatenteredacomicstore,theimagesfound

onthispagecouldonlybeseenbythechildrenthatboughtthemagazineorreceiveditfroma
friend.Thismeantthatthisimagewasmuchlesswidespreadthanthepreviousone(Fig.2).
Nonetheless,asdescribedbyDooley,mostchildrenwerestillabletogettheirhandsonthis
comic.Althoughitwasmeanttodeterchildrenawayfromthedrugworld,comicssuchasthis
oneironicallyenticedthemtoexperienceitfirsthandandledtothecreationofthecomiccode.
Eventhoughitappearedthatthedrugcultureaffectedmostlyadolescents,childrenunder
fiveyearsofagewerealsohit.Inthis1950scartoonpanelfromMickeyMouseandthe
MedicineMan(fig.4),Mickeyisshownhavingagreatenergyrushafterconsuminganew
drinkknownaspeppo.Althoughcocaineisneverreferenceddirectlyinthecomic,peppohastoo
manysimilareffectscomparedtococaineforittobejustacoincidence.Duetotheirexcitement
fromthedrink,MickeyandGoofygetstuckinAfricawhichresultsinseveralcomedicevents.
Thiscomic,alongwithmanyothercomicsofthetime,werewrittentotryandinformthe
youngergenerationabouttheabusesondrugsandpotentialeffectsnobodyinreallifewouldbe
stuckescortingcamelsinthemiddleoftheSahara,buttheconsequenceswouldbejustas
detrimentaltoboththephysiqueandpsyche(silverstreak).Ascomparedtotheothercomics,this
depictionisfarmorecartoonishandcomedicinnature,lendingreasonforitbeingachildrens
comic.Propitiously,childrenwerenotabletounderstandthefullextentsofthedrugundertones
ofthepiece.Nonetheless,thechildrenweredesensitizedtoextrememoodswingsandtheuseof
medicationforemotionalrushessuchasthoseassociatedwithdruguse.[8]Theuseofthe
cartoonmediumwasimportanttoreachlargeportionsofthechildaudienceandtocontinuethe
rotationofcomicsalongtheneighborhoodculdesac,alongwiththemoregrotesquecomicsof
theera.

Inanotherexampleofa1950scomiccover,ayoungmannamedBrucepleadshisdrug
dealerforashotofadrug,probablycocaine,eventhoughhehasnocash(fig.5).Bruces
mother,meanwhile,triestoholdhimback,begginghimtoquittheaddiction.Thedrugdealer,
dressedintypicalgangstergarb,looksundisturbedatthescene,unwillingtosellthedrugifthe
boydoesnothaveanycash.Thejuxtapositionofthestateflaginthebackgroundandthedrug
dealintheforegroundisarepresentationoftheabandonmentoftypicalallAmericangoals,such
asattendingaprestigiousuniversity,whicharereplacedbythefixationontheepinephrinerush.
Themob,asshowninthiscomic,wasthemainsourceofdrugsinsociety.[9]Also,asshownin
(fig.3),themonetaryreturnofsellingdrugsismoreimportantthantheactualactofgettinga
bunchofyoungpeopleaddictedtococaine.Thiscomic,havingbeenproducedafterthecreation
ofthecomiccodeandthepublicationofWerthamsinfluentialnovel,depictsalotofsocietys
fearsregardingteenagersuseofdrugsinsociety(Dooley,CoverYourEyes).Bythispoint,
drugshadsuccessfullyinfiltratedthehomeandaffectedintrafamilialrelations,tothepointwhere
childrenwerewillingtogiveuptheirfamilytoexperienceonemorehigh.Althoughthefull
extentoftheproblemwasmuchmorelimitedcomparedtotheairtimeitreceivedonthemedia,
thedestructionofthehomesteadwasaseriousissueofthe1950s.[10]Alongwiththepreceding
comics,theuseofthewrittenmediumfacilitatedthespreadofthemediumandcontributedtothe
masseducationofbothparentsandteenagersregardingthethreatofthedrugculturetothe
traditionalAmericanDream.
Lastly,thehighlyadvertiseddrugculturemadeitswayontothesilverscreen.Thisimage
isastillfromthemovie,SomeLikeitHot(1959)(fig.6).Inthisscene,themobsterboss(left)is
seencountingmoneywhilehismobshoots,presumablyatadrugaddict(right).Thefiringisa

resultofapoordrugtrade,inwhichthemobbossbelievesthatthebuyerhastoldthepolice
aboutthetrade.Scenessuchasthisoneemphasizethemobspoweroveranyandeverything
relatedtothedrugmarketofthe1950sandtheircompletemonopolizationofthedrugtrade.The
film,however,wasfeaturedasacomedyandreceivedlargeportionsofitsaudiencefromthe
teenagepopulation.ThecomedicnatureofthefilmcanbecomparedtotheMickeyMousecomic
inthatbothofthemediumsdesensitizetheyoungaudiencetotheworldofthedrugculture.The
film,dueitsmasspopularity,taughtlargeportionsofthepopulation,amuchlargersharethan
comicbooks,abouttherealityofmobruleandthewholesalemurders,suchasthatofJoseph
Ardizzone,thatwerepartofthegangsquotidianactivities.Otherperniciousaspectsofthemob
rulethatwereheavilypresentduringthiseraweretheheavyconcentrationsofdope,themultiple
bookkeepinginterstatetransactioninstancessuchasthoseintheKefauverhearings,etc.[11]Some
LikeitHotwasahitproductionthatparodiedthemobofthe1950sandactivelyportrayedthe
cultureinamorerealisticfashionthananyofthecomics.
Asaprecursortothehippierevolutionofthe1960s,the1950swasfilledwithmob
violenceandheavydrugabuse.Thesetwoaspectswereseeninmultipleviewpointsofsociety,
especiallythroughthecomicandmoviecultures.Meanwhile,theCocaColabottlestandsasa
relicdedicatedtotheabundanceofillicitnarcoticsfoundinsociety.Likewise,thehorrorcomics
andmoviessuchastheonesfeaturedhere,contributedheavilytothecontinuouslygrowingfear
regardingadolescentdrugabuse,whichultimatelyledtothecreationofthecomiccodeandother
constrictionsofthefreedomofpublicationduringtheMcCarthyEra.Nevertheless,the1950sare
rememberedasaperiodofgrowth,recovery,andtransformationfortheUnitedStates,leaving
thedarkeraspectstoberememberedonlythroughthesurvivingartifacts.

References:

Images
1. Digitalimage.RadiolaGuy.com:CokeBottleRadio:TubeTypeCocaColaBottleRadio.
N.p.,n.d.Web.12Dec.2014.
<http://www.radiolaguy.com/Showcase/NoveltyUnusual/CokeBottleRadio.htm>.
2. Dooley,Michael.CoverYourEyes:theGraphicHorrorsof1950sComics.Print.25
Sept.2013.Web.1Dec.2014.
<http://www.printmag.com/uncategorized/1950scomics/>
3. silverstreak.MickeyMousewasaCocaineDon.2OceansVibeNews.23June2010.
Web.2Dec.2014.
<http://www.2oceansvibe.com/2010/06/23/mickeymousewasacocainedon/>.
4. SomelikeItHot.Dir.BillyWilder.Perf.MarilynMonroe,TonyCurtis,andJack
Lemmon.MGM/UAEntertainmentCo.,1959.

Sources
1. May,CliffordD.HowCocaColaObtainsItsCoca.TheNewYorkTimes.30June
1988.Web.11Dec.2014.
<http://www.nytimes.com/1988/07/01/business/howcocacolaobtainsitscoca.html>
2. CocaColaAdvertisement.Digitalimage.CompleteHealthClinic.N.p.,n.d.Web.3Dec.
2014.
<http://www.completehealthclinic.co.uk/healthtips/happensbodydrinkingcocacola/>.
3. Cantwell,VanessaN."1950's:TheGoldenAgeofCocaCola."TheHistoryof
CocaCola.N.p.,Spring2008.Web.11Dec.2014.
<http://iml.jou.ufl.edu/projects/spring08/Cantwell/20thcent/50.html>.
4. Dooley,Michael.TheComicsthatCorruptedOurKids!Print.23Sept.2013.Web.12
Dec.2014.<http://www.printmag.com/uncategorized/comicscorruptedourkids/>
5. Wertham,Fredric.SeductionoftheInnocent.N.p.:Rinehart,1954.Print.
6. McCloud,Scott.UnderstandingComics:TheInvisibleArt.NewYork:HarperPerennial,
1994.Print.
7. Lupescu,Lucian."Synecdoche,PageSix.ACondensationofJackCole's"Murder,
Morphine,andMe"(1947)."Academia.edu.N.p.,n.d.Web.11Dec.2014.
<http://www.academia.edu/5958248/Synecdoche_Page_Six._A_Condensation_of_Jack_
Coles_Murder_Morphine_and_Me_1947_>.
8. "TheMethodsinThisMadness:Desensitization."EncyclopediaofViolence,Peace,and
Conflict.Vol.3.N.p.:Academic,1999.159.Print.
9. "ItalianOrganizedCrime."FBI.FBI,27Aug.2010.Web.11Dec.2014.
<http://www.fbi.gov/aboutus/investigate/organizedcrime/italian_mafia>.

10. Admin."HistoryofDrugAbuse:The50's."PalmPartnersRecoveryCenter.5Aug.
2013.Web.10Dec.2014.<http://blog.palmpartners.com/tag/1950sdrugabuse/>.
11. "LosAngelesCrimeFamily."Wikipedia.WikimediaFoundation,n.d.Web.12Dec.
2014.<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Angeles_crime_family>.

Fig.1

Fig.2

Fig.3

Fig.4

Fig.5

Fig.6