Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2018

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors


Political Science

First Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Second Advisor

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Third Advisor

Joanna Belknap


This study analyzes the effects of counter-stereotypical depictions of drug users in popular media and film, and the abilities of these media exemplars in eliciting positive attitudes towards drug users and progressive drug policy. Psychological theories of framing and priming effect were used to understand the mechanisms of how beliefs in media are communicated and absorbed in audience members, and their historical use in demonizing drug users in the past. Through content analysis of Moonlight and Orange is the New Black, I use Exemplification Theory to show the profound effects of stereotypical and counter-stereotypic characters in films to incite new and progressive cultural understandings of who drug users are as a group and their role in civil society. This paper utilizes experimental survey research and regression analysis to relate theoretical conclusions drawn in this thesis to real-world applications and effects on policy. This study’s findings show that counter-stereotypical themes and characters yield more progressive and lenient drug policy attitudes in audience members.