From a sociological perspective, one of the more interesting things about the comedies of Judd Apatow and his usual collaborators—This Is the End being the latest—is their casual attitude towards marijuana. Even the outright stoners in these movies aren’t dropouts or members of a selective counterculture, a la Cheech and Chong. If they aren’t gainfully employed, then at least they’re conversant with the mainstream—in fact they tend to be the films’ most relatable characters. It likely isn’t the filmmakers’ intentions, but the movies have the effect of normalizing marijuana consumption to the point of seeming banal. Perhaps future generations will see them as emblematic of a larger shift in U.S. culture.
Of course, American movies have long acknowledged the experience of getting high. In his essay “What Dope Does to Movies,” Jonathan Rosenbaum considered the relationship between pot culture and formally innovative films of the 60s and 70s such as 2001, Woodstock, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Movies in this period “were becoming environments to wonder about and wallow in,” he wrote, “not merely compulsive plots that you had to follow, and sustaining certain contradictions—two-tiered forms of thinking where the mind could drift off in opposite directions at once—was part of the fun they were offering.” This kind of filmmaking is still going strong; Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder (arguably more of a traditional stoner movie than This Is the End) is a notable recent example.