“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Opium References in Popular Culture, the 2019 List

Posted: December 30th, 2019 | No Comments »

I’ve been spotting opium references in popular culture with interest for a few years now (2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013 & 2012) – just how opium keeps fascinating us…

My dopey 2019 started off with catching up with the new TV series of Picnic at Hanging Rock where both the mysterious Mrs Appleyard (Nathalie Dormer, below) and most of the school girls were pretty whacked out on laudanum throughout. Series 6 of Endeavour (that’s Inspector Morse in the 60s) got off to a good start with both opium being smoked and laudanum being drunk in 1969 – this being Oxford and Morse it all linked back to Lewis Carroll of course. Netflix’s The Highwaymen presented the intriguing historical fact that Bonnie Parker became a laudanum addict in her final few months before she and Clyde Barrow came face to face with the law and their machine guns.

A note to remember A Christmas Carol, as regimented by Stephen Knight (creator of Peaky Blinders – a show that is no stranger to an opium reference or two). Is Scrooge’s scary Christmas just one big frenzied opium dream?

In fiction opium was strangely absent from my reading this year – apart from the ever reliable Abir Mukherjee who had Sam Wyndham drying out from the Big O in Death in the East. There was also Cuban crime maestro Leonardo Padera’s Catch a Snake by the Tail, with Inspector Mario Conde investigating a murder in the Barrio Chino, the rundown Chinatown of Havana. Pedro Cuang is found hanging naked from a beam in the ceiling of his dingy room; opium is evidenced!

In non-fiction Lucy Inglis’s Milk of Paradise, a history of opium was published while Anne de Courcy’s Chanel’s Riviera had a good description of Cocteau’s opium smoking in Villefranche in the late 1920s.

And so into 2020 which, with the Trump, Johnson, Putin, Xi combo may well require some major amounts of opium to survive.

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