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SSSeptember 27, 2004:
Longtime readers may remember this one. The 90s were an interesting time in our ongoing war against drugs. In the public service announcements, we stopped beating around the bush and just said flat out that half the world had a drug problem they needed to address. Drugs were no longer being talked about as some completely foreign entity; we'd show them in the campaigns, we'd show kids using them in the campaigns, and we'd do our best to scare the shit out of anyone who wasn't with the program using everything from exaggerations to guys dressed in terrifying snake costumes. The latter is more entertaining, and this is our focus for today.
It's not really synonymous with Halloween, but as far as I know, it only aired during that season, and certainly, October seems like it would've been the only month of the year that they could've gotten away with airing a PSA this creepy during the hour-long Flintstones block on Channel 11. As Regina Hall once said, this is some scurry shit.
We kick off as "Snake," best described as Theo Huxtable after a fall from grace, closes another of his many daily drug deals. His pockets are heavier, his stay in Hell just grew longer, and he's got a great leather jacket that you just know some poor schmuck traded for CRACK. Snake isn't just well dressed, he's well spoken: within three seconds of noticing the viewers at home, Snake busts out with huge ass words that were only otherwise used in punchlines I didn't understand on Frasier. Nobody said drug dealers were stupid. They're only implying that they're evil, and that they can transform into giant hooded cobras at will. It's pretty easy to say no to drugs if you're brought up believing dealers can do that.
...which isn't to say Snake is your typical drug dealer. He's one of the few who'll outright list the hundred ways he plans to fuck with your life, so confident in his retail skills that he never once holds back while describing your impending estrangement from Mommy and Daddy, your future diseases, your early death and the fact that you'll never drive a nice car because you spent the New Car Jar money on eeeeeevil pills.
The message would've been powerful even without the sci-fi climax. They've done a good job of smacking fear into kids' heads, not so much asking you to keep away from drugs for the virtue of being a good person, but telling you to keep away from drugs to avoid being ripped apart by hooks and chains by Pinhead. Weird thing is, with the prevalent theme of the ad, it could only have been meant for the especially young crowd. Older kids were probably a bit too cynical to buy the "drug dealers = mutant snakes" deal. I'm all for campaigns that make children cry, but it seems like such an awful trigger to pull. The people responsible for forcing Snakeman on six-year-olds must have some ugly karma going on these days.
Snake continues his Soliloquy of Death, but as he ducks past pedestrians and street posts, we notice his voice growing deeper and deeper. Finally, Snake sounds absolutely demonic, charging us with a drug-free lifestyle in a voice that sounds like it belongs to a very well trained alligator. Though the pics are grainy, Snake's face was obscured throughout the ad; we never got a clear look at his face, and as he crawls and piddles through the various urban obstacles that make the set look like a good starting point for a live action Bad Dudes movie, you'll swear that Snake's face is actually morphing. Indeed it was! You shouldn't read the following paragraphs, they're way too scary.
Snake bursts out from the shadows in an entirely different outfit -- a snake-hooded astronaut costume with shoulderpads adequate enough to play the inner city sport of Spontaneous Football. Snake's voice has now transformed completely into someone's warped idea of what a human snake would sound like, but no doubt, it's frightening stuff.
Without warning, Snake pops up right in front of the camera wearing his new digs. It's the moment that makes the fact that you spent 15 minutes reading about 15 seconds of screentime worthwhile. Prepare to crawl into Momma's bed and weep.
Jesus Christ. Who could've predicted the special effects team of an early 90s anti-drug PSA to know their trade so well? This is a movie quality get-up, with scaly skin, reptilian eyes and one of the world's first documented examples of a CG flicking tongue. The only feature more prominent than Snake's fangs is his scowl. The scowl is obvious proof that he wants to kill and eat us.
It just gets scarier and scarier -- put yourself in the mind of a young kid and try to compute what you're seeing when you download the clip. It's a total heart-thumper, with Snake's now-echoing voice perfectly complimenting the gnarling teeth and jagged head movements. I feel bad for kids who were privileged enough to have big televisions back then. Snake eventually gets so close to the screen that you can practically smell the mutilated baby he just ate, and as you're sitting there debating which closet to hole up in for a week, he begs a question. After detailing every terrible thing drug dealers cause for their customers, Snake asks if he looks like the kind of guy who would do that to you.
Before you have the chance to answer, he does it for you. With a "yes."
Only it's not a "yes" -- it's a "YESSSSSSSS," allowing Snake to end the spot off on the trademark snake hiss we were all waiting for. The video freezes right there, with Snake in a pounce position, allowing for the normal bunch of text nobody ever reads to pop up on the bottom of the screen.
Effective? You bet. This was a take no prisoners, by any means necessary way to get kids to just say no. If you're young and impressionable and have been taught to associate drugs with devilish monsters who hiss, you probably won't be the first in line on Free Cocaine Day. Disregarding the moral messages delivered, it's still an awesome piece of television history. That's one serious snake costume -- worn by the right stunt guy, that outfit could've totally carried a low budget horror flick. I wonder what happened to it. If the owner of the evil snake costume shown above happens to be reading, I've got fifty bucks and a top secret chili recipe with your name on it. Not literally, because I hate when people draw things on money. And chili.
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