Traffic, Directed by Steven Soderbergh Essay

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Traffic. Dir. Steven Soderbergh. Perf. Michael Douglas, Benicio Del Toro, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid. USA Films, 2000. Blow. Dir. Ted Demme. Perf. Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz, Paul Reubens, Ray Liotta. New Line Cinema, 2001. 1. Just as the intoxicating sensations of different drugs are incommensurable with one another, so films about different drugs tend to have radically different themes and effects. In American popular culture perhaps the illegal drug with the longest cinema history is marijuana. From propaganda films of the '30s to Cheech and Chong's Up in Smoke, or the more recent revisions such as Half-Baked, these films are, or have become, comedies. Further,…show more content…
The almost universal mainstream acclaim for Traffic indicates just how much the worst kinds of conservative ideologies continue to inform even purportedly liberal attitudes toward drugs, while the dismissal of Blow as anything more than a decadent fantasy or simplistic cautionary tale misses its much more accurate indictment of the American idealization of capitalist conquest. 2. That cocaine is the drug of the ruling class in America is undoubtedly more than a function of its high price in comparison to other drugs. After all, the effect of cocaine is much closer to the effects of the most popular of the legal drugs of choice: caffeine and nicotine. (Not surprisingly, caffeine and cocaine were once combined in Coca-Cola.) Like these other speedy substances, cocaine heightens the senses and gives the user a great deal of energy. However, unlike other forms of speed, cocaine also gives its user the sensation of mastery and invulnerability. Rather than the ego death of heroin or LSD, cocaine legitimates the preferred modality of capitalist subjectivity--radical and inviolate individuality. If there were any doubt about the relationship of cocaine to capitalism, the case is eloquently made by Tony Montana
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