Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mental Hygiene Anti-Drug Movies: A Reminiscence

Back in the days when I was an impressionable young teenager who watched tons of television, I saw a show starring Helen Hunt and Doug McKeon called Desperate Lives (1982). "Who's killing young kids with drugs and crime?" asks the tagline. You know these teens are headed for a bad ending when Helen Hunt jumps through the second-story glass window of her high school right after her boyfriend successfully pressures her to try LSD. You can't trust drugs--not even once--and you can't trust boys either.

Desperate Lives was one of several mental hygiene made-for-television films that came out before and during the "just-say-no" era. Who could forget Scott Baio as high school hockey star Buff Sanders in The Boy Who Drank Too Much (1980)? "He's 15. A star athlete. And an alcoholic." Or Robbie Benson as a sensitive and confused teenager who turns to drugs in The Death of Richie (1977). You didn't even have to watch the whole thing to know he was doomed. Both of these films also starred Lance Kerwin, who had a successful run playing a string of blond "The Good Boy" characters. You could trust Lance Kerwin.

I thought of Desperate Lives this afternoon because, as we were loading the wood kiln, one of my Loafer's Glory chickens fell from a ware board and crashed onto the bricks below. It broke into pieces, and its eggs fell out. Always the optimist, my friend Dianne said, "well, she had a good life, and then she decided she would fly!" Di did a joyful little balletic leap to illustrate her point. But I know that when clay chickens think they're flying, they're really just high, like Doug McKeon and his girlfriend at the end of Desperate Lives. The wayward teens are driving and smooching (no! no! Don't take your eyes off the road! Rule #1 in Drivers' Ed!) while high (no! no! Don't do drugs and drive! Never mentioned explicitly in my Drivers' Ed class, but it's surely a stupid thing to do!), and they go flying off a rocky California cliff. "Wheeee!" they shout happily, thinking it's way cool to sail above the scrub, but then gravity kicks in, and when Doug McKeon, in his hospital bed, learns that his girlfriend died, he goes insane and has to be tied down. So I prefer to think the chicken just fell.

1 comment:

Gramma Jean said...

Oy! Have a nice Proustian madeleine and some tea.