Got Milk? Here’s Why So Many Movie Characters Do

By  · Published on January 5th, 2017

The subtext of drinking the most nurturing of beverages.

If you’re high-class cool, you drink a martini. If you’re rough-and-tumble rugged, you drink whiskey. If you’re blue collar, beer is your beverage of choice, and if you’re an urbanite sophisticate, you drink wine. Or at least you do in the movies, where what a person chooses to consume helps inform unspoken facets of their character.

Outside the realm of alcohol, the meanings get a little deeper. Water, soda, juice: all come with their specific connotations, especially when the beverage is youth-oriented and the character drinking it is an adult. Milk, especially, is ripe with subtext, and in the latest essay from Jack Nugent and his YouTube channel Now You See It, that subtext is explored.

Being that it comes from mothers and is primarily used to nurture children, milk is associated with innocence and purity; like its bright white color it is emblematic of positivity, of strength, of youth. So when an adult is seen gulping it down, it’s either a signal of their youthful mindset – as when Frank orders milk from the stewardess while posing as a pilot in Catch Me If You Can – or if that character is a villain – like Alex and his Droogs in A Clockwork Orange or Hans in Inglourious Basterds – the imbibing of milk takes on an even more sinister connotation: the consumption and thus conquering of youth’s power and the deflection of the infirmities brought on by aging.

These are, of course, just the tips of some very fascinating icebergs of which Nugent is the perfect explorer. One of my favorite things about his work in particular deals with the subjects he chooses to tackle, rarely specific to singular films but more often esoteric and wide-ranging undercurrents that are represented by films from all eras. His work alters the way you watch not just any titles he’s discussing but every movie, and that, to me at least, is his greatest and most admirable strength. From a topic some might consider mundane at first glance, Nugent has extracted engrossing insight that like its topic enriches, fortifies, and promotes growth; drink it down.

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Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist