Thirty days can change your life, or at least your outlook on life. This season weíve seen our host, Morgan Spurlock, living on minimum wage, a gentleman trying to get back his youthful physique by injecting himself with hormones, a homophobe living with a gay man, a Christian living with a Muslim, and two city-dwelling meat-eaters grow their own vegetables and scoop their own poop. It seems that all of these participants came out of their experience having learned a little about the way others live. In this final episode of the season, a health-conscious mother of three will go binge-drinking for a month in hopes of influencing her college-age partying daughter to change her ways. Will she succeed, or just pack on her own freshman fifteen?
We meet Micheil and her husband Dave, who is cautiously supportive of his wifeís decision to participate in this experiment. Michiel is a physically fit, health-conscious woman who exercises regularly and rarely drinks. Her daughter, Jessica, is a 19-year-old college freshman who drinks heavily and isnít afraid to admit it. The other members of the family are Carter, Michielís 18-year-old stepson, and Braden, her 9-year-old son. Carter explains that he doesnít drink, because he was raised to understand that you donít do that until you are 21. Thatís a good boy. Jessica apparently either didnít get that lecture or didnít listen. It strikes me as odd that she is so forthcoming about her boozy ways and isnít punished or disciplined by her parents. Braden seems like a great kid and it is obvious that he and his mother are very close.
Jessica explains that everyone in college drinks and that is just the way it is. She says her mother just canít grasp what really goes on. She admits to getting drunk almost daily, and adds that when she drinks, she drinks to the point of getting drunk and often blacking out. She is proud that she never gets a hangover and has an amazing tolerance. Michiel is concerned that Jessicaís partying will affect her education, but Jessica claims she can get drunk at night and have no problem going to class the next day.
Before beginning her month of binge-drinking, Michiel goes to the doctor to have her bloodwork done. The nurse admits that she is a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for 25 years after drinking for 20 years. The nurse is concerned that this experiment could really mess Michiel up. Michiel is in great health and will return for more tests later in the show, but for some reason, we are not informed of the results. I guess it is safe to assume they were inconsequential.
Michiel has agreed to a few rules. She will drink like a college kid - at least four nights a week, and to qualify as a binge-drinker, she must consume at least four drinks in two hours. She begins with wine and over the days moves on to mixed drinks and shots. After her first night of drinking, she gets up in the middle of the night to vomit, and canít get out of bed in the morning. This soon becomes a pattern and she becomes very lethargic, laying around and letting the dishes pile up in the sink. The normally active mom has more and more difficulty sticking to her exercise routine and even finds herself craving junk food. So far, I am not impressed with any part of this experiment, and neither is daughter Jessica. She seems to find it kind of humorous, if anything.
Morgan stops by a college party to take it all in and talk to some of the kids. The first girl he speaks to says she likes to get really drunk at least four nights a week. We see the kids drinking upside down and getting rowdy, and they all admit there is no point in getting drinking if you donít get drunk.
Mom and daughter meet for lunch to discuss the events of the night before. After having a few of her own drinks, Michiel drunk-dialed Jessica to see what she was up to. Jessica and her friends were drinking some pre-party shots, but on the phone, she denied to her mother that she was drinking. I donít know why she bothered, because the next day at lunch she admits to getting wasted and having no idea how she got home. When Mom asks her if she blacks out frequently, she says yes, almost every time. The both agree that that is kind of scary, but nobody seems compelled to do anything about it.
Mom decides to step it up a notch and enlists the aid of her friend Dana. The two women hit the bars for a night on the town and party the night away. We see Michiel doing shot after shot, dancing on the bar, and puking in the car on her way home. She even has to call her husband when she gets home because she canít figure out how to get in the house. Her daughter isnít really around for any of this, so Iím not sure what the point is. Michiel says she wanted to learn about the kind of life her daughter is living, but the problem is, she canít remember any of it.
Time for a little drinking education:
In addition to an increase in alcohol-related sexual assaults and date-rape drugs, it appears that teenage drunk-driving is on the rise. In an effort to demonstrate the effects of alcohol on oneís driving abilities, Morgan makes himself the test subject and takes five shots of liquor before getting behind the wheel of a driving simulator. He navigates the course without incident for a moment, and then virtually wrecks into a truck that pulls out unexpectedly. Whatís odd about this whole episode is that it is hard to take seriously. Even though Morgan is trying to make a serious point, he is tipsy and somewhat jovial throughout the exercise. The officer that is administering the simulation exercise gives him a brethalyzer test and he scores a 0.107, well-above the 0.08 limit.
We all know that drinking alcohol impairs oneís judgement, but Morgan informs us that alcohol consumption has also been linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disease. Even in moderation, drinking can cause sleep deprivation, anxiety, memory loss, and depression.
After waking up with a hangover for many days in a row, Michiel takes Jessica out for another mother-daughter lunch. She questions Jessica about what she did the night before, how she got home, etc. Ė but not in the concerned manner you might expect from a mother. She matter-of-factly asks her daughter if she isnít concerned about her blackouts and what could happen, like having a date-rape drug slipped into her drink. Jessica seems unfazed, claiming she is responsible and doesnít worry about that stuff, and answers a phone call in mid-conversation with her mom. It is clear she has little respect for Michiel, and honestly, Michiel does little to demand it. Jessica says it is to late for her mom to all of a sudden be telling her what to do, since she never talked to her about alcohol before. Michiel admits that perhaps she has not been strict enough and was wrong to not have established this dialogue earlier.
In their last days of the alcohol experiment, the entire family goes out together to a bowling alley. Michiel downs some beers and is buzzed in no time. Braden tries to talk to his usually-attentive mother while she bowls and she either ignores him or doesnít notice. He tries again and again to get her attention and starts to cry out of frustration. Only then does she notice and goes over to console him as he says she is not like herself and he doesnít like that she is blowing him off. He cries that he wishes she would stop drinking.
In one of her outings, Michiel is educated about date rape drugs by several young women. She also observes that even without the drug, young women under the influence of alcohol are more likely to be sexually promiscuous or end up in situations where they may be raped. Morgan adds that aside from date-rape, alcohol poses other threats. A frightening number of students are killed in alcohol-related incidents. We hear a story from Patty Spady, a mother who lost her daughter to alcohol. Samantha Spady, a lovely young woman with her life ahead of her, was unfortunate to end up at a frat house late one night after a football game where everyone was drinking shots of vodka. After having numerous drinks, she fell and was knocked unconscious, and subsequently ignored by her friends, who put her to the side and continued partying. Samanthaís mother sadly shares that Samantha slipped into a coma and eventually died as a result of the alcohol and injury, aided by the negligence of her friends. Had she received prompt medical attention, her life may have been saved.
As the episode comes to a close, a few things are apparent. First of all, this was unfortunately the weakest episode of the otherwise fabulous 30 Days series. I hope that it was educational to some viewers who may have been unaware of the dangers associated with alcohol consumption. However, if Jessica was in any way changed by this experience, she doesnít show it. In all likelihood, sheíll probably grow out of this phase in her life. I hope she does. It may take a wake-up call in the form of something bad happening to her or one of her friends, or it may just take time and the maturity that will hopefully come with age. The person who will probably benefit the most from this is Braden. Having seen what happened to his mom, he seems repulsed by the behavior that accompanies drinking and says that when he is older, if his friends want to drink, then heíll be the designated driver. I hope that is true, because he seems like a great kid. As the thirty-day period comes to a close, Braden is obviously happy to have his sober mom back as they roller-blade together in their neighborhood. I wish the best of luck to everyone in this family.
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