Does Californication’s Hank Moody Blackout?

T.S. Lowry

The intoxicated faucet constantly runs on Californication.

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Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash

Californication’s Hank Moody is a full-blown alcoholic. While the show appears to mask other addictions (obviously not his sex addiction), he casually drinks from the moment he wakes up to the moment his head hits the pillow. He also never eats, similar to Mad Men’s Don Draper, which is a clear path to blacking out.

Given how much he drinks on the show, it would be hard to believe if Hank didn’t “check out” after a certain amount of drinks. People who abuse alcohol end up at the same place: Blackout station.

Does Hank Moody blackout?

Caroline Knapp’s memoir, Drinking: A Love Story, nails the cloudy investigation drinkers embark on the morning after…

“The worried morning after: every alcoholic I know has had them, lots of them. We’d wake up after a party and spend the morning worrying about what we’d said or done the night before, and finally we’d call the person who threw the party and hunt for clues to our behavior by gauging the response.”

The most obvious time the show implies a Hank Moody blackout is during his statutory rape trial. Hank thinks his first encounter with Mia Lewis is the night they had sex. A flashback to the actual first encounter when Hank is puking guts and speaking to Mia, although face down on a lawn chair and sun raging into his eyes, shows the truth.

Hank blacked out.

Hank doesn’t have typical blackout tendencies that many problem drinkers have, such as, say, asking questions about the night before in subtle ways.

So does Hank Moody blackout frequently?

The show doesn’t give enough evidence. But, it could be implied. Also, “blacking out” might not have been as popular or talked about while the series graced Showtime with its presence. The term didn’t really hit the mainstream (at least in my world) until Sarah Hepola’s memoir, Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget, hit B&N shelves. Its presence has especially been made known over the last couple of years in high places surrounding powerful people…

Badasses like Hank aren’t supposed to blackout. It’s not in their nature. “Real men” can handle their liquor — they can drink all day and party all night and still be in control. Then again, men, especially powerful ones, apparently don’t need to have their shit together.

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There’s no study that states every alcoholic or problem drinker blacks out — if there is, then it’s bullshit because so many people lie about not blacking out to make it appear as if they can “hang with the big boys” and “drink with the men.” It’s a typical strongman play. It’s also embarrassing to say you don’t remember what happened last night (although, as it has been said before, blacking out is like a rite of passage when you’re young).

According to Medical News Today, “Alcoholism, now known as alcohol use disorder, is a condition in which a person has a desire or physical need to consume alcohol, even though it has a negative impact on their life.”

Alcoholism, just like any other disease or disorder, is complicated. Someone close to me drinks every day (including nights, weekends, and, oh yeah, definitely holidays), but this person is always in control — this person never appears drunk.

I’m sure if he/she stopped drinking, he/she would get rip-roaring withdrawals, but this person isn’t a problem drinker (at least not anymore), so I doubt he/she blacks out. In the past? Sure. Now? Never.

That’s what makes blacking out, especially for a make-believe TV series, hard to throw back.

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Hank is the definition of a problem drinker. He fucks people he shouldn’t, from his daughter’s boyfriend’s mother to his students to, in one case, a 16-year-old girl. He does and says stupid shit. He wakes up in beds that aren’t his, next to women he supposedly remembers. His life spirals out of control throughout the series.

What a beautiful mess.

He’s not in control, a womanizer, and has serious issues with alcohol, but he’s easy to root for and lives the writing lifestyle that made the writing lifestyle appealing in the first place. That’s also the show’s job — to create a compelling yet flawed hero the audience loves.

Hank Moody, although a fictional character, lives the lifestyle many writers can only dream of while making his words dance when he’s not blocked. People like him, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Bukowski are why writing is a romanticized profession.

Alcohol is a self-destructing tool for this infamous writer.

If Hank doesn’t routinely blackout, which he did on at least one occasion, then Californication gets that part of the black-shirted, sunglasses-wearing, chain-smoking character wrong. Or leaves that version of problem-drinking out of the show. Sticking the landing in every area of TV writing is virtually impossible.

While booze has been around since Jesus, we’ve only recently entered blacking out into the mainstream, along with all aspects of mental health. Blacking out isn’t falling drunkenly asleep or losing consciousness. It’s your mind checking out and your vessel taking over. Your meat suit tells you, I got this while your mind’s powers are taken over by booze’s sloppy yet desirable seduction. Your body is an alcohol-induced puppet while your mind loses bits of time it will never get back.

Throughout the series, Hank wakes up and has the how-did-I-get-here face on. But he counters it with a clever remark. The perfect balance between sexy and funny. It must be nice to be Tennessee-whiskey smooth even at your worst. Many drinkers wake up feeling regret, plagued by anxiety.

Hank does have other side effects of booze, drugs, and bad decision-making, such as self-loathing and remorse, which he downs by the bottle on an episode basis.

It looks cool for a man to wake up naked next to a beautiful woman (although that climate is changing, and for good reason). It doesn’t look cool for someone to have problems and drink himself into a blackout comma. What happened last night isn’t a bad boy thing to say in your thirties, let alone forties.

A person who’s as good-looking as an Old Fashioned, knows what to say in every situation, soaks the blank page with best-selling prose, and isn’t boring … is a compelling character. Pouring a liquid problem on this person (see: alcoholism) makes the person more desirable. After all, people dig a bad boy.

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