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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bill W. Goes to Hollywood: The Rise and Fall of Recovering Addiction Experts

Although historians of addiction have long debated whether an oral culture of “sharing” or “Big Book”-based reading practices are foundational to 12-step recovery culture, the role other types of media have played in the development of contemporary recovery discourse has remained largely unexplored. 

This essay compares the production, reception and formal elements of the films The Lost Weekend and Smash Up in relation to the popularization of the disease concept of alcoholism. 

Through an analysis of archival sources, addiction narratives, and nascent alcoholism research, this paper argues that, by emphasizing the importance of popular representations of alcoholics above scientific inquiry, early recovering “experts” successfully promulgated the disease concept of alcoholism, but the testimonials of later recovering alcoholics became relegated to the sphere of popular culture. 

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