Alcohol May Be Losing Its Cool In Pop Culture, But Maybe That's For The Best

Jordan Claes
Two people clicking beer bottles in the sun.
Unsplash | Wil Stewart

50 years ago, actors, athletes, and celebrities at large were praised equally as much for their talents as they were for their partying capabilities. But in recent decades, this ode to Dyonisian excess has curbed drastically.

Much like we saw with smoking in the late '90s, alcohol seems to be losing its cool in pop culture. But with our society's added emphasis on mental health, the importance placed on self-care and personal growth — maybe that's for the best?

Alcohol has been at the absolute forefront of pop culture since its very inception.

'LIFE' magazines with James bond on the cover.
Unsplash | The Nix Company

Going back over the last 70 years, all of film and television's most iconic characters were all drinkers. This includes names like James Bond, Don Draper, and Homer Simpson.

Much of the same thing can be said about the music we listen to.

A laser light show at a rave.
Unsplash | Zachary Smith

Alcohol and hip-hop have long gone hand-in-hand, as has booze and rock 'n roll. It feels like almost every country song imaginable is an ode to either whiskey or rye, and pop/electronica isn't any better.

However, at the dawn of a new decade and living in a post-pandemic world, it appears that pop culture is falling out of love with liquor.

A scene from 'The Room'.
Giphy | The Room

According to a recent 2022 survey, courtesy of Drinkaware, 26 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK are now “fully teetotal”

To be fully teetotal or to participate in teetotalism, is to completely abstain from drinking alcohol in all its forms.

A frothy mug of beer and a can in the background.
Unsplash | Sigmund

According to industry research that was commissioned by KAM and Lucky Saint, one-third of all pub visits are now alcohol-free.

Within the alcoholic beverage industry, there's been an increasing demand for non-alcoholic drink offerings since 2015.

Anders saying "No weed, no booze, no nothing" in 'Workaholics'.
Giphy | Workaholics

The overall market has grown by more than 506%, with over 42 non-alcoholic brands in the UK alone. So what has helped spark the change?

In short, there are countless Gen Z, as well as Millennials, that appear to have grown disenchanted with getting drunk.

Photo of a young Gen Z wearing a hat with glasses and an over-sized t-shirt.
Unsplash | sofia lyu

The youth of today are no longer looking to use alcohol as a crutch. Their focus is on self-care and self-improvement — which isn't easy to do hungover.

Also, young people no longer have the luxury of getting drunk on the weekend.

A tipped-over piggy bank.
Unsplash | Andre Taissin

Housing prices have started to come down, but rising interest rates are still making it all but impossible for young people entering the market to buy a home.

Therefore, young people are forced to devote every waking hour, eight days a week, to obtaining secondary and tertiary streams of income.

GaryVee counting money.
Giphy | GaryVee

We have been living in side-hustle culture for the better part of the last decade. The idea of sitting around and getting drunk is the antithesis of all that the youth stand for today.

What this all amounts to is one unavoidable truth: drinking is no longer viewed as cool.

A pint of beer exploding from the mug
Unsplash | Pradnyal Gandhi

Try and recall the last time you remember seeing alcohol being glorified in movies or on TV; I bet you can't do it.

Even when alcohol does make an appearance in pop culture, it's usually implemented as a tool to express how a character is going down a dark path.

A hand sinking into the ocean.
Unsplash | Stormseeker

Alcohol has become what smoking was in '90s cinema. Back then, you could always tell who the bad guy was by the Marlboro hanging out of their mouth.

In a similar vein, alcohol today is used almost as a metaphor for depression, addiction, and longing.

Bill Hader smoking weed in 'Pineapple Express'.

Ironic, because weed, magic mushrooms, and MDMA have never been more popular or socially acceptable. In some states, Marijuana has become even more widely used than alcohol.

Aside from side-hustle culture, there are plenty of other reasons why alcohol is beginning to take a back seat.

A sign that says "Mental health matters."
Unsplash | Marcel Strauß

The added emphasis being put on mental health is arguably the biggest reason why alcohol seems to have lost its luster.

Social media also plays an undeniable role.

A collection of different social media logos.
Unsplash | Alexander Shatov

If you were born before 1996, then odds are you made it all the way through high school and university without a single drunk/high/wasted photo of yourself making the round on the internet. Kids nowadays understand how one bad decision truly can stay with you forever.

Alcohol's rising cost also plays a huge part in the industry's decline.

A graph that's on the rise.
Unsplash | Frank Busch

The last time I was out at a bar, I ordered a Black Cherry Whiteclaw that cost me $10. Who in their right mind can really afford such ridiculous prices as we slowly march into a recession?

Finally, alcohol is so unpopular because celebrity culture has all but abandoned it.

The Deep from 'The Boys' saying "That's not cool."
Giphy | The Boys

You'll never see Kim Kardashian chugging back a beer, nor are you likely to ever find a picture of Cristiano Ronaldo soaking in his own vomit. No one is looking to live fast and die young anymore, and all understand perfectly how alcohol has become a recipe for just that.