Dr. Drew Pinsky’s long running call-in show Loveline, with Adam Carolla, aired on MTV for 32 years and pioneered a pop culture adaptation of relationship and safe sex education.
The show, featuring an assortment of celebrity guest hosts, served as a lifeline to multiple generations. Dr. Drew’s Teen Mom franchise, also an MTV staple, opened the eyes of television viewers to the trials of teen pregnancy and teen parenthood where previous methods had fallen short. Dr. Drew’s critically acclaimed VH1 docu-series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and it spinoffs Sex Rehab with Dr. Drew and Sober House, allowed viewers an intimate look inside the causes of addiction and the arduous road to addiction recovery.
With his HLN show, Dr. Drew On Call, which aired from 2011 to 2016, he broadened his television audience, delving into the behavioral components behind the headlines of the day. Dr. Drew’s New York Times bestselling book, The Mirror Effect: How Celebrity Narcissism is Seducing America (Harper Collins), examines the widespread adoption of celebrity narcissism within our culture.
A true advocate who has spent decades bringing once-taboo health matters to the forefront of public discussion, he now hosts MTV’s Teen Mom OG, KABC’s Dr. Drew Midday Live and The Dr. Drew Podcast, the #1 health podcast on iTunes.
A health crisis that is gripping our nation is that of adolescent mental health and gun violence. This generation is dealing with a problem that goes far beyond typical teenage angst, as it deals with the frightening fallout from a broken healthcare system and gun control laws that have failed to address our societal landscape. These issues intersect at the corner of one of our biggest political and social quagmires. Unfortunately, gun violence is nothing new to young people from America’s poorer urban pockets who have been living under its threat for decades. Gun-related injuries and fatalities in school settings date back to the 18th century, with the first American school shooting on record taking place on July 26, 1764 in the town of Greencastle, Pennsylvania.
The epidemic of mass shootings in more affluent suburban enclaves entered the public’s consciousness on April 20, 1999 in Littleton, Colorado, at Columbine High School. The most recent school shooting that took place on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has left an encouraging and unstoppable movement in its wake, reminiscent of the social and political mobilization of the 1960s and 1970s.
The courage, clarity, and strength the students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have demonstrated in the face of unspeakable tragedy, and their ability to mobilize a nation, inspired me to sit down with Dr. Drew Pinsky for a frank discussion about the state of adolescent mental health and its intersection with gun violence in America.
TME: Why are school shootings a recent phenomenon over the last 19/20 years?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: There’s a multiplicity of factors and no simple answer. Obviously, it’s guns and the type of guns. But in addition, it’s the access that people have; people who have a proclivity towards self-harm or harming others (The Florida state Senate just passed a bill upping the legal age to purchase a fire arm from 18 to 21 and mandating a 3-day waiting period. It now falls on Florida state Congress to vote). We all know that adolescent males will complete suicide because of their use of fire arms. It’s not a far reach from feeling that your own life doesn’t have meaning to other people’s lives not having meaning. We’ve connected that bridge now.
TME: What leads a young man to get to the point where they no longer value their own life?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: Within adolescent depression it becomes a special case when they have this sort of magical thinking that this will solve their problems, and they’ll be around to see the solution after they’re gone. But we’re seeing this in young adults, not just adolescents. I happen to believe, and this is one man’s opinion and it’s hard to substantiate the data, but we’ve been through an epidemic staring in the 1960s of adverse childhood experience. Our families are unhealthy.
My work in media has been almost exclusively dealing with people with addiction issues and addiction medicine; people with issues of physical abuse, sexual abuse and neglect in their childhood. These are profound injuries. Among those injured are people who don’t have the ability to regulate their emotions or really have any sense of empathy for others. We have a growing population of people who have difficulty with empathy and difficulty with emotional regulation… and a firearm. It’s a pretty potent combination. And we have drugs and alcohol; we have a massive problem with that. I’ve begun to think of it all as sort of this spiritual bankruptcy.
TME: When I am speaking with a physician, like yourself, I always wonder how you feel about the intangible factors, like a spiritual component.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I am always challenged by my patients in that regard. They will tell me that their recovery from drug and alcohol addiction, that I turned them towards it, but really it’s the spiritual connection they make that actually leads them into a full recovery. I’m okay with that. Whatever gets them there! I think there can be a stigma with words like “soul” or “spiritual” because people tend to equate them with religion. But I think [spiritual] is a word people can understand without indoctrinating religion into it. Whatever it is, we need to feed our souls and feed our spiritual life in a much better way. It starts with our families and our relationships, and our communities.
TME: Do you think social media and being tied into this Matrix-like existence instead of being more community oriented like in generations past, do you feel it’s leading to a spiritual breakdown?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I think it has accelerated the mob, and mob-like behavior. It gives people a sense of pseudo-intimacy, which is quasi-pathological. It’s not real. There is a sense of connection, with no real connection. It gratifies only the most basest of emotions – envy, aggression, arousal, and all of these addictive emotions. It doesn’t do anything for empathy, nurturing, service, making a difference. I don’t see it as the cause, but as an amplifier of these problems. When I wrote my book about narcissism years ago (The Mirror Effect), I wanted to include a chapter on previous moments in history where narcissism had prevailed and where childhood trauma has been prevalent. Wherever I found those trends, I found mob action, guillotines and mob aggression. We’re seeing it now, and it just happens to be in social media.
TME: What are your thoughts about how media chooses to cover these mass shootings and other large scale violent crimes?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: There’s contagion, not doubt about it. There’s contagion with things like suicide, all sorts of violent acts, and with pathological behaviors like cutting. All these things have contagion associated with them. I almost feel like it’s a double-edged sword. Yes, there’s contagion, but we also have to take a good hard look at the realities we face.
TME: And when you say “contagion” you’re talking about the copy-cat effect, just to clarify for people. Personally, I feel that releasing the person’s picture and their name, and analyzing their motives is playing into their pathological desire to gain attention for their act.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: There’s no doubt that the thinking of the perpetrator includes things like that, but not saying their name also gives it a kind of energy that I think is weird. I’d like to see the evidence that holding back the name somehow reduces the contagion effect. I just don’t see it.
TME: Let’s talk about you. When you were in high school and college, what coping skills did you cultivate to deal with things like anxiety, depression, stress and peer pressure?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I had a problem with that. I had panic attacks. I’m still formally diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I was depressed when I was nineteen and there were no services for adolescents at that time. I think that’s what got me interested in helping that population with mental health, in general. I was so mishandled, it was egregious. I thought maybe I was having a seizure when I was having a panic attack; I wasn’t sure what it was. But I understood there was a mental health issue.
I went for help and I was told that I needed to get my act together, and I should take long walks in the woods. I would have happily gotten my act together (laughs)! And I was socially awkward, I was living in New England in college and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. What got me out of that was finding purpose. Finding medicine and science, getting turned on by that and getting into it, and feeling good about what I was doing. That’s what helped me climb out. And I had therapy, though the therapy I had in college wasn’t very good
TME: In the late seventies, wasn’t the field of mental health first really understanding what anxiety was, and first beginning to treat it?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: They knew what anxiety was. They didn’t really understand the developmental phenomenology and psychiatry of adolescents. That was poorly understood, and certainly what to do with it was even more poorly understood. My wife and I have triplets, and we’ve used mental health services all the way through in raising our family, every step of the way, and it’s yielded dividends. We used behavioral therapists when our kids were very young, and it’s always yielded results and been positive for us.
TME: What kind of support system did you have around you in those early years?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I had very limited support. I was connected, but not intimately connected, and I didn’t understand really what I was feeling, I didn’t have that insight. I remember reading a lot of material that really didn’t help. There was nowhere to turn at that time, and I’m angry about it to this day. But again, it’s what made me interested in mental health, and in adolescent mental health.
TME: Is that why you’ve cultivated this public platform? As Dr. Drew, you are very much looked up to by young people as a valuable source of information.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: It was actually more of a fortunate accident in my life. I’d always been interested in public speaking, and in my fourth year of medical school somebody asked me to give some commentary on a radio show. When I went in there I had this very powerful instinct that this was important. No one was talking to people about AIDS and safe sex. The term “safe sex” hadn’t been invented yet.
I couldn’t believe the lack of knowledge out there, and the lack of willingness to talk to adolescents. What I said at the time was that the whole sexual revolution had been perpetrated by adults without ever really thinking about what it was going to do to adolescents. I was twenty-four years old and I thought, “I know what seventeen and eighteen-year olds are up to, and they need to know about HIV and AIDS.” It wasn’t even HIV yet. They had just started calling it AIDS at the time. I was dealing with it in my [medical] training every day. People forget about that period of history. It motivated me to get out there and talk about it.
TME: How did you parlay this into Loveline for MTV?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I was doing [radio] once a week. It was a great social outlet for me and it was late at night on a Sunday, so I could fit it into my schedule. I did that for ten years for free. I looked at it like I was doing community service. The week my wife got pregnant with triplets was the week that the radio powers-that-be decided they wanted to put the radio show on five nights a week. To which my wife said, “No more community service. If you’re not changing diapers, you’re getting paid!” I walked into the radio station hat-in-hand and asked for a job. It kept going from there and then these television guys showed up and we ended up doing Loveline on MTV. We would film six shows a week on Friday and Saturday, and the rest of the week I practiced medicine. I was a severe workaholic in those days. It really wasn’t until 2010 when I was doing HLN’s Dr. Drew On Call that I felt it was okay to officially say I’m on to my second career. That’s when I started dialing down my clinical material and started really focusing on creating media.
TME: What kind of impact do you feel you’ve had on young people?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I hope I make them think. I’ve broadened the scope of who I want to influence. I’m not just trying to influence young people. I would like to influence all different age groups. Ultimately, particularly with young people, I’ve noticed that the most efficient way to affect their behavior is to give them a relatable source. If you remember, Loveline was about taking phone calls and then we would analyze the cases. With Teen Mom, it’s about looking at the consequences of teen pregnancy.
When they approached me about Teen Mom, I knew it would have a positive effect on teen pregnancy; I just knew it. And lo and behold, there is ample research now to show that it did (according to the CDC, teenage births have steadily declined, across all ethnicities, over the last ten years). For young people, I always like looking at the behavior, and then saying, “Here’s how to analyze that, here’s what this means.”
TME: I think you should do another television show for that same demographic, focusing on the importance of overall mental health.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: Well that’s what Teen Mom is. Teen pregnancy is a symptom of a mental health problem. Other people look at it as a social issue. I look at it as a symptom of somebody who has some mental health issues. And you can see, as these women grow up, there are significant issues there. But television is a strange beast. You can’t be overtly didactic. It has to be hidden in the story.
TME: Like you, I live with anxiety and panic disorder. I’ve always had to be pro-active about my mental health, like the way other people go to the gym to stay in shape. My concern is that the importance of staying on top of your mental health needs to be communicated to young people, in mass.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I certainly try. On HLN, almost every night I would chant, “Why do we treat medical conditions above the neck differently than medical conditions below the neck?” In other words, why are brain disorders special? Brain disorders are the same as pancreas disorders. It just happens to affect an organ that is associated with our concept of behavior. Just like you would treat your heart or your pancreas or your lungs, it’s medical matter. And treatment works. People need to stop associating it with stigma, or a moral failing, or as any different than any other medical issue. You and I also know it’s brushing past a larger issue, which we would call “spiritual.” It ties into mental health, and I feel that is a bigger social, psychological problem affecting our society. At its core, it’s about our relationships.
TME: We’re seeing a disturbing trend of young males and gun violence. What are we missing when it comes to male adolescent mental health?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: Adolescent males, when they have spiritual and psychological problems, become aggressive. And when they don’t have some sort of outlet that they are engaged in, any time there’s social unrest, there’s young males. That’s just the way we’re wired. Males need to be challenged. This sort of co-dependent helicopter parenting over the last twenty years has been about preventing children from experiencing discomfort.
I think there is a major deficiency right now. In addition to our spiritual emptiness, we have lost the ability to tolerate ordinary misery. Ordinary misery is good. And our children need to experience ordinary misery to learn how to regulate their emotions and overcome. Unless we are challenged we feel deficient. Because of our narcissism as parents we can’t tolerate seeing the child’s discomfort and disappointment, because it mobilizes our own internal misery, which we avoid. We use drugs and alcohol, and extreme sports, and all kinds of ways of avoiding. But when we include our children in making sure they don’t have those feelings as well, there’s a problem. I think that in some way, it is affecting the young male. It’s probably experienced differently from the young female.
TME: Yes, females internalize emotions.
Dr. Drew Pinsky: Women go in, men go out.
TME: I’m going to throw a scenario at you, and tell me what you think could be a viable solution: A single parent home with limited financial resources, and an under-supervised child who’s beginning to show signs of deteriorating mental health…
Dr. Drew Pinsky: I feel unworthy of the question you’re asking me, except to say, like we’ve been discussing, make sure there is access to mental health services and that there is no stigma associated with that. But there are other solutions which goes under the heading of Mutual Aid, whether it’s a church or a community. I’m thinking about that book, Bowling Alone (Simon & Schuster). Have you read that book? It’s about the decline of club membership in the United States.
I think we’re all bowling alone (laughs). And you can’t do it; you can’t do it by yourself! But you also can’t do it with perfunctory supervision. There has to be real, intimate contact and I’m not sure we know how to do that. That’s why where there are resources out there, we need to deploy it and amplify it, and build community around it. Many people are not good at it and don’t even tolerate closeness anymore, mostly because many people have been neglected or abused. When you’ve been hurt as a result of close relation, guess what you want to avoid in the future. We must overcome that.
TME: What are your thoughts on the students from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School and the #NeverAgain movement?
Dr. Drew Pinsky: Like the rest of us, I am so impressed with their poise, and their willingness to make change. They’re taking action. They’re being vulnerable and present. It’s inspirational. What I see gives me great hope.
Visit http://drdrew.com/get-help/ for assistance in finding mental health support services. For help with anxiety and depression, visit https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment. Tune in to The Dr. Drew Podcast and Dr. Drew Midday Live.
Midnight Mass: The Blood of Life
The isolated island community of Crockett receives a mysterious new head priest, full of secrets and a brand new testament under a very unusual Messenger of God.
Meet poor Riley Flynn (Zach Gilford), freshly released from prison and wracked with guilt over what got him there, a stupid drinking accident that caused the death of his ex-girlfriend. The last thing he wants to do is go back to Crockett and the judgment of the mostly religious community there, his disappointed family, and the nightmares of his ex’s death that plague him. But where else would have him? Resignedly on the ferry, he goes.
Riley’s dad Ed (Henry Thomas) isn’t the kind of man who talks very much at all, much less about his feelings, or his very real disappointment in his elder son. Riley’s teen brother Warren (Igby Rigney) has no idea what to say to him either, and just generally keeps mum. Riley’s mom Annie (Kristin Lehman) is accepting and loving, hesitant in how to help her eldest son but never wavering in her faith in the help of our lord Jesus. Mom seems to think a good heaping dose of the Church would set Riley right but is surprised to learn that the old priest of the Parish, Pruitt, has taken an extended leave of absence from the island, and his newcomer replacement Father Paul (Hamish Linklater) is young, charismatic, and bursting at the seams to tell the whole island about the gifts he brought them, most especially what he claims as a new testament under a messenger of God.
We’ll get back to that whole ball of issues in a moment, the other interesting characters of Crockett Island. Bev Keane (Samantha Sloyan) is the nightmarish overly polite and gently, almost lovingly condescending neighbor Christian woman you’ve ever loathed, the kind of person who explains away every last thing her Church may do wrong or contradictory because, after all, God works in mysterious ways. Pfft. Of course, Bev immediately ingratiates herself as the second to the new Father Paul in their services and is the first to start covering up his transgressions as they become more rampant.
Newcomers to Crockett Sheriff Hassan (Rahul Kohli) and his son Ali (Rahul Abburi) present a burgeoning problem to the plans of Father Paul and his shadowy companion, for they are both practicing Muslims. The practical side of investigating these so-called ‘miracles’ and strange happenings falls on Hassan’s shoulders, as he already struggles with barely-concealed racism and suspicion from his fellow islanders, and of course his son is being wooed away from him by the promise of actual, tangible miracles, but from a different whole faith and God. Father Paul definitely does not practice a traditional Christian faith and relies far too much on making use of the eucharist, the ceremony of the blood and flesh of Jesus Christ turning into bread and wine and, well, consumed.
Wade (Michael Trucco) and his wife Dolly (Crystal Balint) are lifers of the island and both in general interested in one thing, the advancement of their own family, specifically their daughter Leeza (Annarah Cymone), who happens to be in a wheelchair. And that happens to be the canny Father Paul’s first real miracle-with-a-cost that he demonstrates to the astonishment of the parishioners, after a heartfelt and rousing sermon, Father Paul commands Leeza to rise, to stand, and to walk. And lo, she does. What parents wouldn’t wholly dedicate themselves to a cause after seeing this happen to their beloved precious daughter? The fringe benefits of healing, and power, the ones that come at a mighty, currently unnamed, cost, are simply a nice bonus.
Joe Collie (Robert Longstreet) is the town drunk, and while his reasons for drowning his sorrows in the sauce might be understandable, absolution wears a very different face when it comes from Father Paul. While Leeza might be willing to forgive Joe, and even as Joe begins attending the newly-formed Al-Anon meetings on the island of course hosted by Father Paul, redemption might’ve been better sought from medical professionals, and not this newfound method of religious worship.
Dr. Sarah Gunning (Annabeth Gish) is the islands’ kind of all-around medic, and this is how she and Riley’s old friend Erin (Kate Siegel), also newly returned to the island, a few months pregnant but traveling quietly alone, met when Erin comes to the Doc for obstetrics. Sarah’s older mother Mildred Gunning (Alexandra Essoe) has many medical and mental issues, and Sarah struggles in their shared home, to take care of her addled mom and balance her own life. Then Father Paul takes it upon himself to visit one of his oldest parishioners, bringing the sacred host and wine with him to give directly to Mildred, who starts looking and acting so much better under his loving care.
The show is very much a slow slow burn, with a lot of the actual action taking place in the last two episodes. Much of the beginning and middle episodes feature two people just sitting alone, having quiet and seriously in-depth conversations about heavy subjects – grief and repentance, what happens when we die, the disasters that come as a result of addictions, how our actions’ consequences reverberate to those we love around us, faith and the foibles of man, and of course, the giving of oneself over to a higher power, for strength, and guidance, and love.
Except, for the higher power that Father Paul brought back with him, to share with his beloved flock of Crockett Island, while it may be extremely powerful and full of what could be considered miraculous magic, everything comes at some kind of a cost. And when the Messenger of God is finally revealed to the shocked denizens of Crockett at Easter Mass, with Father Paul rapturing on about rebirth as the bloody massacre begins in earnest, it’s faith, not in any kind of God or religion, but faith in each other, that may save a few hardy souls.
Question the wisdom of your religious leaders along with the rest of us in a fine slow-burn addition to the Flanaverse, Midnight Mass is on Netflix now!
Saw X: It ain’t brain surgery!
Legendary executioner Jigsaw returns to exact revenge on a cadre of scam artists who promised him a bogus cure for his cancer!
First off, be aware, that this is what I call an interleaved sequel, a movie set between previous films in the franchise. In this case, Saw X occurs after the events of the very first Saw film, and before Saw II. Everybody got where we are? Good! Into the madness, we dive!
So, as we all know, John Kramer’s been diagnosed with cancer, very aggressive brain cancer, and likely doesn’t have much time left. And he’s tried everything under the sun, doing a ton of meticulous research, we’d expect nothing less from our master of the art of murder, and not one thing has worked. Yet one man from the support group for cancer sufferers, Henry (Michael Beach), offers an off-the-books supposed miracle cure, and John jumps at the chance.
Why does this nonsense always sound too good to be true? Because it is. Deleted scenes from the first Deadpool movie already told us why traveling to Mexico for any kind of medical cure is a sublimely stupid move, but Kramer is desperate. And while he might be sick and dying, John Kramer has never been what anyone could call stupid. So the villa out in the Mexican countryside, the affable cab driver Diego (Joshua Okamoto) professes surprise at Kramer being highjacked for his good, the nervous muttering from assistant Valentina (Paulette Hernandez), the side-eyeing from little housekeep Gabriela (Renata Vaca) and her tequila, and most especially the smooth and smarming reassurances of head “doctor” Cecilia Pederson (Synnove Macody Lund), all leave a kind of sour taste in John’s mouth.
The whole cluex4 scene is done in the style that the Saw films are known for, where we the audience are treated to cut-together explanatory scenes in a flip-flash fashion of usually about two minutes, for poor John when he realizes he’s been hoodwinked and just how badly, seems a little contrived. But then it’s entirely possible that we the audience truly expected our genius mastermind of the infamous Jigsaw murders to have realized what was happening sooner, and got enraged along with Kramer. And cheered as he prepared to take his bloody and ultra-violent revenge!
First up in our grand guignol of executions is the return of Jigsaw’s first protégé, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). And despite her avowed reverence for Jigsaw and his proven “therapy”, Amanda does waver a bit when the scammers are put through the paces of their specially-made Saw traps, and they shriek and blubber and bleed out. The appearance of the ringer of the bunch, Parker (Steven Brand), doesn’t even slow our beloved engineer of the damned down, because we knew Jigsaw would have his other apprentice waiting just off stage, the deliciously vicious Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor). Even the monkeywrench of involving little-boy soccer fan Carlos (Jorge Briseno) in the traps, is just another cog in the machine that is the brilliantly plotting mind of John Kramer.
A fine addition to the Saw legends, showcasing a return to the beloved style and panache of the original Tobin Bell-starring Jigsaw films, Saw X is splashing gore and gallons of blood in theaters now!
Scott Pilgrim Takes Off
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off,” Netflix’s latest series, is a rollicking journey through the world of video game culture, blending nostalgic references with a fresh narrative twist. Centered around Scott Pilgrim, portrayed with magnetic charisma by Michael Cera, the show skillfully integrates gaming elements into its storytelling, creating a delightful homage to the video game subculture.
The series cleverly employs pixelated graphics, power-up animations, and game-like sound effects to bring the virtual world to life. These visual cues, reminiscent of classic video games, enhance the storytelling and resonate with audiences familiar with the gaming landscape. The attention to detail in recreating iconic gaming moments is commendable, creating a visual and auditory treat for enthusiasts.
The exploration of video game culture goes beyond mere aesthetics; it becomes an integral part of the characters’ identities and interactions. The script intelligently weaves gaming terminology and tropes into the dialogue, effectively blending the real and virtual worlds. The series navigates the challenges and triumphs of the characters through the lens of gaming, making it a unique and engaging experience for both gamers and general audiences.
The ensemble cast, including standout performances from Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ellen Wong, and Chris Evans embraces the gaming theme with infectious enthusiasm. The chemistry between the characters is palpable, adding emotional depth to the series.
“Scott Pilgrim Takes Off” successfully taps into the zeitgeist of video game culture, offering a nostalgic yet contemporary take on the gaming phenomenon. It’s a must-watch for those who cherish the pixelated roots of the gaming world while providing an accessible and entertaining narrative for a broader audience. The series takes off not only in its title but also in its ability to soar within the ever-expanding realm of Netflix originals.