Back in the ‘90s, when every elementary school kid was pretty much guaranteed to bring a D.A.R.E. t-shirt home at some point, the conversation about drugs was about as complex as a lecture from South Park’s Mr. Mackey: “Drugs are bad, m'kay?” These days, things tend to be a little more nuanced. That’s not just because more people think a little weed to take the edge off is totally cool now.
One of the great pop culture artifacts of the anti-drug '90s is the “This Is Your Brain n Drugs” ad series, which used 30 second commercials to depict how your brain (cunningly played by a common egg) would react to drugs (smashed, fried, or otherwise demolished). The most famous of these ads starred a young Rachael Leigh Cook, as she smashed an egg with a frying pan to show you what heroin would do to your brain, then smashed the rest of the kitchen to demonstrate what heroin would then do to the rest of your life. Again, it was not a time of great subtlety.
This year, on 4/20, Cook brought back the old ad, complete with the frying pan, but this time there was a larger point to make. Instead of taking on drug use, Cook took on drug policy, specifically policies of mandatory minimum sentencing and mass incarceration that disproportionately affect people of color, ruining their lives for crimes that would get a white offender a slap on the wrist or nothing at all. Cook illustrated her point by using white eggs and brown eggs.
It’s a powerful 90 seconds, particuarly if you’re familiar with the original ad, because it uses familiar pop culture language to tell a more complex story. For the uninitiated, here’s what the old ad looks like:
Watch the new one above.