TV Junkie (2006) is one of the most disturbing documentaries I have ever seen in my entire life. As I have watched A Film Unfinished which features among other otherworldly documentations of human suffering, starved dead bodies being thrown into a pit, so when TV Junkie left me clutching my throat and gasping, I was surprised to saw the least. The cliche “watching a train wreck” was completely applicable. But the back story of why this documentary is more significant than Rick is what is so tragically and ironically incredible.
According to Rick, he interviewed George HW Bush about the dangers of crack cocaine and drug addiction while high on crack cocaine. This means that the white people who were importing the raw cocaine that was then distributed throughout the country, the white people who held corporate jobs and got off on being “adrenaline junkies” while outsourcing the real dangerous illegal black-market narcotics jobs to African-American inner city men (Rick attests several times to going to “the hood” to buy crack cocaine) were creating propaganda about the evils of cocaine while both personally benefiting and destroying themselves. George HW Bush is an evil man. He is a man who saw a way to manipulate a black market for his political benefit at the calculated expense of untold millions of lives and then denied justice, liberty, and freedom, and safety to humanity. Rick is not an evil man, he is human, fell victim to becoming a monstrous Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde where the overwhelming chemical dependency of cocaine distorted his character and integrity. While interviewing the very man who controlled The United States of America, who secretly was importing cocaine, this man interviewing him, who was secretly using crack cocaine, were creating a distorted reality that has had unending consequences for billions of people. The hypocrisy of Rick’s actions is ironic, disgusting, and all too human when a person has a drug addiction. The interview makes us watch these two be Master and puppet, president and press, importer and user, truth and escape.
Some people can use drugs such as cocaine in a recreational manner. Some cannot. Rick drank and used cocaine, which caused volatility in his personal life. He hit his wife in front of his child and scarred his pre-verbal baby so that at his first birthday party he cried when everyone yelled “yay” because he had seen his parents fight and yell right before his father was taken away by police for domestically abusing his mother. But Rick engaged in a cycle of hypocrisy, dominating others at the expense of both them and yourself, like using crack cocaine while interviewing the president about the evils of this drug. I cannot help but see his identity as a straight white man being the pinnacle of why this disaster was allowed to go on for so long. He was portrayed in his media career as an “adrenaline junkie” and that made him a fun, edgy guy! This was also during the ’80s and ’90s, when it seemed like white male news anchors were somehow viewed as somewhat infallible people. But there was such darkness, and because of his position of power people were willing to overlook his abuse of crack cocaine because he was so talented within his industry. For the black kids in the New York City projects who he bought the crack from, no one ever argued for their futures because of any talent they may have had. No one in the media gave merit any alternative narrative George HW Bush and American politicians of both parties were asserting that prohibiting narcotic substances and causing them to become black market products is a better policy than regulation, and certainly not good ol’ Rick. Why would he rock the boat?
“its almost euphoric, hard to speak because of the rush type high. it becomes a very sexual in a way, not in a good way in any means, very raw, very animalistic, very lustful, a very primeval sort of way. at least in my experience with this rotten drug how can something so euphoric and good be so terrible?” Rick is not a sympathetic character. And his insistence of documenting his ever spiraling out of control reality, including abusing his wife and smoking crack cocaine a whole bunch of times, his complete divorce from reality is even more exacerbated than the average crack head. He is completely obsessed with documenting his life. And with all these documents of reality, he cannot see that the source of his addiction lies somewhere in his constant desire for adrenaline. He cannot sit with his sons in day to day life, he gets clearly depressed while sitting around in what looks like suburban bliss. He takes his anger and frustration out on his family in extremely scary ways. Apparently, he has press credentials for the Dallas police despite the police being regularly summoned to his dwelling for domestic disputes. The Dallas police most likely knew of his drug abuse, yet he continued to have press credentials.
The documentary is bizarre to say the least. Between his obsession with crack cocaine, complete inability to cope with real life, obsession with documenting his every waking moment, the moments of dark honesty of what drug abuse does to a family, and how privilege works in a way that does no benefit to those who hold the privilege and those who suffer as the result of not having the privilege (in this case, I believe Rick’s privilege as an educated talented charismatic white male helped in the cause of his ultimate downfall because so many people were willing to overlook his horrific behavior due to the standard of how white men are treated in this society) the film is a mindfuck.
People with serious addiction issues such as Rick’s must be dealt with in a medically appropriate manner where both physical and mental health are rebuilt. Rick constantly talks about the shame of drug use. The abuse against his family is horrifying and unfortunately, completely normal for them. Rick is able to get around law enforcement consequences because of his status within the community. Treatment for drug abuse is piss poor in America. Crack cocaine has been described to me as a “full body orgasm” which explains why people who do it sit for hours constantly smoking. Watching Rick struggle with this addiction is as brutal a reality as a documentary can portray accurately.
This documentary would later be used as a “Don’t Do Drugs, Kids” message. The documentary ends extremely awkwardly, with Rick speaking to a group of random graduating high school seniors that he used to do drugs but he doesn’t now and isn’t that great don’t do it kids look at my children here they are. His two sons, around ages 9 and 13 it looks, awkwardly come out on to the stage, let their father embrace them, and then run back off stage. Tammy, Rick’s wife, is also present. It is as painful and bizarre as the rest of the documentary.I felt like they missed an opportunity here. Just like everything else in his life, Rick uncritically excepts the status quo narrative that has been presented to him, and misses his opportunity to create any positive change and effect.
Tammy eventually divorced Rick, and with the use of Google I haven’t been able to figure out what Rick is up to if anything at all. There is an incredible number of documentaries about drugs, because fascination with altering states of consciousness is a normal part of being human. Unfortunately, this is recognized now globally in a very limited way. As a direct result of the United Nation and United States of America, narcotic substances are a billion dollar underground economy, the likes of which are never taxed, the reality of which never goes away, and the destruction of lives like Rick and his family and all the dealer’s who dealt to Rick is monumental.
The argument that global prohibition of narcotic substances is a working policy is a destructive delusion. TV Junkie shows this completely accidentally, in one stroke of the irony that sometimes the universe swirls upon the unsuspecting people of the world.
I wonder what happened to Rick’s little boys, one of whom screams “why did you hit my momma?!” during one of Rick’s tirades. But most people know what happens to young black boys who end up in the narcotics trade: dead, jail, or reformed, and people in power are more inclined to engineer the first two instead of the third.
Cocaine makes you feel euphoric, aggressive, egomanical, and a little delusional. A lot of cocaine makes you all those things and the worse version of yourself you’ve ever known. I think the United States’ global policy on narcotics is clearly high on blow.