Earlier this week, the Drug Policy Alliance and Green Point Creative released a remake of the infamous “This is your Brain on Drugs” advertisement. The original commercial aired in 1987 as part of an anti-drug campaign. The public service announcement featured a man holding an egg, saying “This is your brain.”
“This is drugs,” directing our attention to the frying pan. He cracks the egg over the frying pan causing the egg to fry, thereby suggesting the effect of drugs on the brain was similar to an egg frying in a pan.
A decade later, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America released a PSA that featured actress Rachel Leigh Cook holding up an egg before crushing the egg with a frying pan. In this video, the egg represented the brain, while the frying pan represented heroin. After crushing the egg, she holds up the frying pan and reveals the sticky residue the egg left behind claiming “It’s not over yet.” She proceeds to smash several objects in the kitchen in order to emphasize the harmful effects of drugs has not only on the person but also his or her family and friends.
Now Rachel Leigh Cook revisits the iconic PSA but with a slight difference. In the remake, the PSA relies on its old tropes, such as the egg and frying pan; however, the PSA addresses the effect of drugs on people of color. The actress holds up two different type of eggs, arguing that while the white egg represents millions of Americans who abuse drugs but will not get arrested, the brown egg represents an American “several times more likely to be charged with a drug crime.” After she asks us to imagine ourselves in this situation, an animation then depicts the egg arrested, sentenced, and released from jail. Life after prison offers limited possibilities, including the inability to retain a job and receive a college education.
She ends the PSA with a message on how the war on drugs “fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counterpart. It cripples communities. It costs billions and it doesn't work.” By comparing the 1997 PSA with the one in 2017 shows the underlining racism involved. The former focuses on the effects of drugs on the individual while the latter addresses the problems with societies’ (racist) policies.