This study analysed news media content to examine the role played by celebrity drug use in young people's perceptions of drug use. We know that young people have access to discourses of drug use through music and other media which may emphasise short term gains (of pleasure or sexual success) over longer term health and social problems. This study goes beyond a simple modelling approach by using Media Framing Analysis (MFA) to take an in-depth look at the messages themselves and how they are 'framed'. New stories about Amy Winehouse's drug use were used and we conducted focus groups with young people asking them questions about drugs, celebrity and the media. Frames identified include: 'troubled genius', 'losing patience' and 'glamorization or gritty realism'. Initially, the press championed Winehouse's musical talent but soon began to tire of her recklessness; the participants tended to be unimpressed with Winehouse's drug use, characterising her as a promising artist who had 'gone off the rails'. Young people were far more critical of Winehouse than might be expected, demonstrating that concerns about the influence of celebrity drug use and its impact on future health risk behaviour among young people may have been over-simplified and exaggerated. This study illustrates the need to understand young people and their frames of reference within popular culture when designing drug awareness information relevant to them. Furthermore, it indicates that critical media skills analysis may contribute to health risk education programmes related to drug use.
Bibliographical noteThis is an electronic version of an article published in Shaw, Rachel L.; Whitehead, Claire and Giles, David (2010). "Crack down on the celebrity junkies": does media coverage of celebrity drug use pose a risk to young people? Health Risk and Society, 12 (6), pp. 575-589. Health Risk and Society is available online at http://www.informaworld.com/openurl?genre=article&issn=1369-8575&volume=12&issue=6&spage=575
- media framing
- health risk behaviour
- young adults
- qualitative research