A team of medical researchers has found plenty of sex but only one reference to condoms among the top-grossing films of the past two decades, concluding that blockbuster movies paint a worryingly consequence-free view of sex and drug-use.
Australian researchers who studied 87 of the biggest box-office hits since 1983 found they contained no depictions of unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease. Drug-use also tended to be portrayed "without negative consequences," they reported in a study published Monday in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
"The social norm being presented is concerning, given the HIV and illicit drug pandemics in developing and industrialized countries," said Dr. Hasantha Gunasekera of the School of Public Health at the University of Sydney, the study's lead author.
The researchers studied a September 2003 list of the 200 most successful movies of all time as ranked by the Internet Movie Database on the basis of world box-office takings. They excluded animated features, films with G and PG ratings, and movies released or set before the start of the AIDS pandemic in 1983.
Of the 87 movies remaining, 28 contained sex scenes _ a total of 53 scenes in all. Only one film _ the 1990 romance "Pretty Woman," in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute _ contained a "suggestion of condom use, which was the only reference to any form of birth control."
Eight percent of the films studied contained depictions of marijuana use, and 7 percent other non-injected drugs, the researchers said.
Just over half the marijuana scenes _ 52 percent _ showed use of the drug in a positive light. In the other 48 percent of cases it was depicted in a neutral light with no negative consequences.
Only a quarter of the movies _ including spooky drama "The Sixth Sense" and Tom Hanks survival adventure "Cast Away" _ were entirely free of behavior such as unprotected sex, drug use, smoking and drinking, the researchers said. AM