Twenty years after releasing her infamous “This is your brain on heroin” anti-drug PSA, where she wielded a frying pan and used it to smash an egg and destroy the surrounding kitchen, actress Rachael Leigh Cook, in conjunction with the Drug Policy Alliance, released an updated PSA called “This is your brain on drug policy,” highlighting the deleterious effects drug convictions have on Americans’ lives and job prospects — and the racist disparity which makes black drug users far more likely to suffer these effects than white ones.
AdWeek reports that the video was produced by Green Point Creative, an ad agency whose website says “We are a NY based creative marketing agency focused on changing drug laws. Our nation’s drug war is leading us to lock up more people than ever. Those charged with a non violent drug crime face fines and incarceration. More people are arrested for drugs than for rape, murder and robbery combined. And minorities are being railroaded into this system at much higher rates than their white counterparts even though drug use between both groups is about the same.”
The new video starts out similar to Cook’s anti-heroin video from 20 years ago, with Rachael Leigh Cook standing in a kitchen. “This” [Cook says, while holding a white-shelled egg] “is one of the millions of Americans who uses drugs — and won’t get arrested. However, this American” [holds a brown-shelled egg] “is several times more likely to be charged with a drug crime. Imagine it’s you.”
The video then switches to animation, showing anthropomorphic eggs dressed as people. “This is the day you get caught.” [Brown egg sits on a living-room sofa smoking a joint, when two white eggs in SWAT gear break down the door and arrest the brown egg.] “This is your day in court. This is your sentencing. This is your cell.” [White egg covered in convict tattoos walks menacingly toward brown egg.]
After a few seconds, the video switches to show what effects drug convictions (as opposed to drug use itself) have on the lives of ex-cons with drug offenses on their records. “This is your fresh start — was your fresh start.” [A job application is rejected after the applicant checks the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony” box.] “Here are your job prospects.” [Three brown eggs dressed for various professional-type jobs — then the famous frying pan appears and smashes all three.] “This is your shot at a college degree — or not.” [A college application has been accepted — but an application for financial aid is stamped “denied.” Ever since 1998, the Higher Education Act has mandated that federal financial aid be denied to would-be college students with drug convictions on their records.]
The video goes on: “These are the dreams you had for your children.” [Two brown eggs, one wearing a college graduate’s robes and the other dressed as a doctor — then the frying pan appears and smashes them.] “This is someone else’s family.” [Four smiling white eggs posing in front of a prosperous-looking suburban house, complete with picket fence.] “Someone else’s life. Someone who used drugs, but was never caught. This is how you feel.” [Frying pan. Smash.]
Then the video switches away from animation and returns to Cook, standing in a kitchen and holding a frying pan whose bottom is smeared with broken eggs. “The War on Drugs is ruining people’s lives. It fuels mass incarceration. It targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterparts. It cripples communities. It costs billions. And it doesn’t work. Any questions?”
The video switches to the Drug Policy Alliance slogan: “The War on Drugs is a War on People.”
Cook’s original “This is your brain on heroin” PSA from 1997 is here:
That 1997 video, with a frying pan smashing everything in sight, was itself a riff off of the infamous “This is your brain on drugs” PSA from the mid-1980s, showing an egg frying in a pan.