How a Movie Almost Wrecked a Life

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The passing of Harold Ramis was big news today. The actor/writer/director wrote or co-wrote such classic comedies as National Lampoon’s Animal House, Stripes, and Ghostbusters. His talents certainly brought a lot of laughs and good cheer to America.

But there were downsides too. Just today I read an account told by a former alcoholic. It’s as-yet unpublished so I wish to respect his anonymity. At age 16 he saw Animal House. He really got turned on by John Belushi’s character, the hard-drinking, reckless and care-free slob that brought so many laughs to millions of Americans. Upon leaving the movie theater he decided to start drinking, in order to shed his mellow and upstanding image in favor of someone wild and crazy like Belushi. He said to himself, “I wanna be just like Belushi.”

That’s what he did, re-creating the Belushi experience for the following six years. They were miserable years. Often homeless and on the verge of suicide, he eventually landed in a psych ward, which shocked him into finally getting sober at age 22.

One wonders how many others were thus inspired by John Belushi’s character, and who never were so fortunate as to eventually get their life back on track.

And that was just one aspect of the movie. It also was a ground-breaking movie with regard to the amount of sex and sexual imagery it contained, influencing untold millions of young people into suppressing their raging hormones no longer. The resulting looser sexual mores and coarsening of the culture had to have been a contributing factor in the wreckage of families and relationships that so afflicts America today.

Co-star Dan Aykroyd wrote of Ramis’ passing, “May he now get the answers he was always seeking.” One wonders if those answers will include a full accounting of the impact of his movies on people’s lives, both for the better, and for the worse.

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