The Partnership For A Drug Free America isn't an organization I know terribly much about. I don't know if the organization has an office, a 'president,' or if it's just a tagword title tacked onto any specific group's anti-drug credo. What most people have seen from them are an assortment of creative commercial announcements over the years, exposing the evils of drug use.
Regardless of your personal standpoint and opinions on drugs, only an idiot or someone with misplaced rebellion would say that fighting it is a poor cause. While I won't go into my own experiences, I will say that I was totally drug free up until the end of high school and never quite understood the people who weren't. I had several friends who were doing drugs right before my eyes, from 'harmless' pot to 'holy shit' K and beyond. I was never interested in trying it. It wasn't because I considered it a great evil or because I was sure I'd die if I did - it was simply because 'don't do drugs' was a lesson I had been taught so early and so often that, to me, doing drugs was on the same level of 'wrong' as stealing, violence, and all those other things we're brought up knowing as unacceptable.
And yeah, I did fall off the wagon in my later years. But I swear, they told me it was Tylenol. I swear!!
It doesn't matter how I came to the conclusion as a child - the lesson was still right regardless. Kids shouldn't do drugs. The Partnership For A Drug Free America taught me that with their bevy of announcements full of truths, exaggerations, and yes, scare tactics. But like I said - it doesn't matter how much they stretch the facts or blow up the consequences to an afterschool special level -- if they worked, and we didn't shove coke up our noses because of it, then they were successful.
Still, some of these announcements weren't exactly your typical War on Drugs fare. I've located three anti-drug ads that're either completely ineffective or outright ridiculous. After the success of the 'this is your brain on drugs' scrambled eggs commercial, gone were the days of simple, concise messages. Now you had to be DAZZLED and AWESTRUCK into a lifetime promise of sobriety.
With that, here's my review of some of the worst anti-drug commercials I've ever seen - all were found on a single taped-off-television cassette from one two-hour period. I'm pretty sure it was 1992 since all the newsroom briefs won't stop mentioning Sinead murdering the Pope on Saturday Night Live. As we review each PSA, I'll explain why they are or aren't effective in keeping kids from shooting up and seeing stars.
Anti-Drug PSA #1: "Cocaine is really, really, really, really expensive!!!!"
Kids, don't do cocaine. Seriously, don't ever do it. Not because it's bad for your health, not because it may inspire a heart attack, and certainly not because it's illegal. It certainly not because getting hooked on cocaine would compel you to seek Utah cocaine abuse services eventually. There's a far more pertinent reason to avoid coke - it's damn expensive! That's right, a PSA devoted entirely to batting away at potential cocaine users by exposing that you won't ever be able to afford a new television if you keep shoving coke up your nose.
Look, look - see what you're doing?! You're shoving a chance to afford a hot new stereo system right up your nostrils. DON'T DO IT! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS?! I wouldn't consider this particular message too effective - do any kids really care about money? I mean, if you're doing coke that young, you've either got a good connection or you're using your parents' money anyway. Teenagers don't have Swiss bank accounts with endless drug funds available at any time, but this doesn't stop the Partnership from suggesting that you're throwing away a trip to Paris by wasting all that money on evil snow.
Oh, if only I hadn't wasted all that money getting high. I could've bought new shoes. I'd be stylin' with Nike. Now I'm just snortin' with Satan. I feel mighty foolish. Wow, do all coke users have such clear skin? Fuck this, the money saved on Neutrogena alone would offset the cost of my habit.
Goodbye vacations, so long new cars - all wasted on cocaine.
Of the three PSA's we're reviewing, this is easily the least stupid. While I don't think attacking finances are the best way to keep kids off drugs, cocaine is certainly one of the bigger money drains out there. Though now I'm wondering why there was never similar commercials for Pokemon cards or Airheads candy.
Anti-Drug PSA #2: "Don't let your drug use turn Mom into a crazy holy cow lunatic helldemon!"
Now this one is a doozy. The message is parlayed through a mother who's grieving over her son's death. Apparently he did a lot of drugs. More importantly, the mother seems to have turned to drugs herself, because there's just no way even the loss of a child could explain her acting like this much of a complete crack addict.
It starts off innocently enough - a crying mother going through her son's belongings. He's dead, see. I can understand and sympathize with her mood, but as she turns to the camera and starts telling her story, I can't help but feel there's something not quite right. They say parents who do drugs basically give the 'okay' for their kids to do drugs. That theory never became more clear as when I first saw this PSA...
"CRACK BABIES, KILLIN' BABIES, GOD OH GOD MY SON IS GONE TO THE HELLS OF HELL AND DEATH FOR ME AND YOU OHHHHH DAMN IS HE EVER DEAD! DAMN HE'S REAL DEAD! DAMN DAMN DAMN! HELL DRUGS CRACK BABIES KILLIN' BABIES HE IS SO DEAD AND I AM SO HAMMERED OHHHH LORDY LORD! OH LORDY LORD SA-HAH-SAVE ME FROM DIS! SAVE ME FROM DIS! MAH SON MAH SON MAH SON CRACK CRACK CRACK, DRUG PUSHIN' PANSIES PUSHIN' DRUGS UP MAH PANSIES. SON DEAD CRACK BABY DRUG DEALIN' LORD OH MIGHTY LORD!"
I swear this is pretty much verbatim, but it somehow gets worse.
The mother never mentions what kind of drugs did her son in, but judging from the reaction, it's obviously a drug that causes kids' heads to explode in the middle of Sunday dinner. If a stranger came into my mother's house, tied her to a chair, and forced her to watch me being thrown into an iron maiden, I don't think she'd come anywhere near the level of this reaction. But that's mainly because my mother is an old Italian woman who never quite mastered the fine art of crack-addled hysterical jive speak.
"HE WAS MY BABY MY BABY HE WAS MY BABY AND THEY TOOK 'IM THEY TOOK 'IM FROM ME! ME! HIS MUDDAH! HIS BRUTHA! THE HORRA! HOLLA!!! CRACK BABIES! KILLIN' BABIES! IT ALL STOPS NOW! YA HEAH ME LORD IT ALL STOPS NOW!!!!!"
I can't tell if she's upset or just practicing for a tryout with the P-Funk All Stars.
Wait...wait a second. Is that a ghost? Did her son return from the grave to tell his mother to stop acting so crazy? No, sadly not. That's her other son. The one who ain't six feet under crack babies killin babies lordy lord lord lord. He comes in the room and asks if Mom's okay, which is a pretty redundant question since she's clearly two seconds away from spontaneous combustion.
Mom tries to compose herself, mainly by swatting at her head violently. At first, she tells her son to bring a bag of clothes to the funeral home, if only to get him out of the room faster so she can grieve as loud and as HOLY CRAZY as she wants. Then she gets to thinking...what if the same perils fall upon her other son? What if he gets blasted by a drug dealer or overdoses on the way to the funeral parlor? We can't have that. Her new resolve is something to behold, and again, I swear this is almost perfectly word-for-word...
"NO NO NO! NOW YOU WAIT A SECOND THERE CHILD! YOU AIN'T GOIN NOWHERE WIDDOUT ME! THEY TOOK YOUR BROTHER AND I'LL BE DAMNED IF DEY GONNA TAKE YOU TOO! I'MA COMING WITH YOU TO THAT FUNERAL HOME BECAUSE I'LL BE DAMNED IF I'M PAYING TO BURY BOTH MAH BOYS TODAY! ALLELUIA ALLELUIA!!!!!"
Either this woman really is a crack addict, or she deserves the Academy Award. I have never seen such an animated total freakout on film, or anywhere else for that matter. I don't think this performance will ever be topped without the aid of the Joker's nerve toxins or a whole lot of pixie sticks.
But I guess, in a way, it's an effective PSA. I wouldn't want to turn my mother into a raving lunatic. Especially if I'm going to be too dead to see the results for myself.
"MAH SON WAS FOOLED! THE DRUG DEALER CALLED HIM 'CHUM'! CHUM DON'T JUST MEAN 'FRIEND'! IT'S ALSO WHAT DA FISHERMAN CALL CHOPPED UP FISH HEADS AND FISH BLOOD! THE DEALER CALLED MY SON BAIT! I READ THE DICTIONARY! WORDS HAVE DOO DEFINISSIONS SOMATIMES! DAMN DAMN LORD KILLIN' THE BABIES!"
The final PSA is by far my favorite, because it's actually kind of spooky and scared the heck out of me back then.
Anti-Drug PSA #3: "Drug dealers are snakes. Literally."
I would've been 11 or 12 when this commercial originally aired, so I guess I technically should've been too old to be frightened by it. Sadly I'm a sissy with a night light. The thing still scares me today...
Things kick off with rare insight from the actual drug dealer. Usually we get the victims or addicts breaking furniture - you don't normally get the dealer's perspective on things. Now you do. Apparently, dealers are all cold murderers who want to kill you and use their drug pushing to do it. They're not in it for the money, they're not in it for the glory, they're not in it so they'll have something to put on their resumes. They just want to KILL YOU. Hey, he said it, not me. He's a dealer. It must be true.
The dealer compliments himself as he walks into a dark alley. He talks fast, in fact so fast that the crackhead from the previous PSA seems to be going in slow motion. After referring to himself as a mover and a shaker, a killer and a thriller, he continues his trek into the unknown. That's where things get shaky.
Look closely. His head...his head looks a little different up there, no? Maybe it's just the lighting. Or maybe it's something more. By the time he keeps referring to himself as 'Snake,' you know something's up. But there's no time to prepare - he's about to walk into the light again...
HE'S A SNAKE! HISS! A SNAKE! It's actually a really good costume, too. Straight out of the Mos Eisley Cantina and right into your wallet, yo. He's a bad, bad man. Well, not man...snake! Bad bad BAD snake! His voice changed too, alternating from a smooth talkin' street thug to Lucifer himself. As the commercials draws close to it's end, the dealer asks the viewers if he looks like the type of person who'd trick and kill you. Before you have a chance to debate that one, he answers it for you:
Three PSAs, one message: don't do drugs. Here's what we've learned...
* Snorting cocaine decreases your chances of attaining a flat screen 40" television.
* Mothers of dead drug addicts turn into unhappy smackheads.
* Drug dealers transform into sinister, man-eating snakemen.
That's enough for me to stop pillaging my forearm veins and start a strictly vegan diet. Just Say No!
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