Nancy Reagan Might Be Dead, But Her Pop Culture Forming Anti-Drug Message Lives On

Nancy Reagan, just as much as Ronald Reagan, was very much responsible for shaping the oppressively conservative decade that was the 1980s. But, like her husband, the era might not have been half as deliciously decadent and debauched without Nancy there to wield her power as the First Lady to make everyone, especially drug-loving youths, feel like they were doing something illicit.

Now that she’s gone to the separate hell for Republicans, it’s important to remember her one meaningful legacy. The campaign that sealed her 80s pop culture icon status was “Just Say No,” first unleashed into the homes of Americans in 1982. Nancy would continue to crusade against drug use for the duration of her husband’s tenure in office, though neither of them ever seemed to stop and think that maybe it was the two of them driving every creatively stifled resident of the U.S. to turn to mind-altering substances.

Then again, it was really the yuppies who could afford to do all of that cocaine that was so popular (see: Bright Lights, Big City, Scarface, Less Than Zero, et. al.)–they were the ones that were driving the drug culture of the decade. And yet, Nancy, out of touch little old lady that she was (because she was old even back then), truly believed she was helping her “less fortunate” (otherwise known as poor, non-white folk) constituency by giving them a “cool” music video, among other elements of the campaign, that would give them the courage to “just say no” to the temptations of understandably wanting to check out from the realities of trickledown economics.

Still, this didn’t stop Nancy from firmly believing in her cause, even though some illegal drugs might have been helpful to the largely ignored AIDS crisis that tormented many American citizens throughout the Reagan presidency; unfortunately, those citizens happened to be gay men at a time in our history when it was not chic to be a gay man. Nonetheless, Nancy’s omnipresence touched a large bulk of influencing media outlets, including Dynasty, Diff’rent Strokes and Punky Brewster. By the time 1986 rolled around, Nancy even managed to use what must have been her blow job lips to get Ronald to sign a drug enforcement bill funneling $1.7 billion into funding for the “crisis”–even though we all know the only real drug crisis of the 80s was Gia Carangi overdosing on heroin.

So now that Nancy is gone from our midst at the ripe age of 94, her greatest legacy isn’t that she tried to stop even “just one” kid from turning to drugs, but the pop culture moments she spurred on in doing so. Thanks Nancy. We’re all just going to say yes to legalized marijuana now.


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  1. Pingback: Like So Many Pop Culture Moments From the 90s, “As If” Was Grafted From the GaysCulled Culture | Culled Culture

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