Rachael Leigh Cook’s epochal anti-drug commercial, released in 1997 (before her pinnacle role as Laney Boggs in 1999’s She’s All That), was telling of a moment toward the end of the decade that had burned out on the heroin chic aesthetic peddled by supermodels in fashion ads–Kate Moss obviously at the helm.
Cook was just eighteen at the time of making the PSA, and had all the conviction of someone with the naïveté required to carry off the earnest intensity of wreaking havoc on an egg and then entire kitchen using only a frying pan. All intended to serve as a cooking-inspired metaphor, the then ingenue holds a white egg up and says, “This is your brain.” She then holds up a frying pan to accompany it, adding, “And this is heroin.” Now that she has both props, she gets straight to the point by asserting, “And this is what happens to your brain after snorting heroin.” (Jesus, who snorts it?) After raging through the kitchen–a rage very similar to Liv Tyler’s in Empire Records after everyone finds out she’s a speed freak (such a 90s thing for women to express such manifest angst)–Cook then concludes with the moody askance, “Any questions?”
Cut to twenty years later, when using drugs to excess isn’t quite as in vogue as it was in the 90s (that’s the thing about attainability–it makes something so much less desirable) and microdosing is practically as commonplace as a mani/pedi. So how does one repackage an anti-drug ad as integral as Cook’s was? Well, by making it about the War on Drugs, a term bandied originally in 1971, when Richard Nixon declared psychoactive drugs “public enemy number one” (heaven forbid he could admit that it was actually his paranoia).
Said war has, of course, done just as Cook insists in her latest PSA, and increased incarceration at an alarming rate in America–so much so that it’s probably the most viable industry apart from pharmaceutical sales. And, as Cook is somewhat acting as the white apologist for insensitive blancs everywhere, iterated by the Kendall Jenner PR catastrophe, she really plays up the divide between the number of “white eggs” versus “brown eggs,” the latter group of which is being punished far more for the same drug-related crimes.
Though Cook is accurate in her portrait (complete with egg illustrations!) of how it is, there is something just a bit strange about, once again, employing a white savior archetype to deliver a message that, I don’t know, maybe Janelle Monae or Octavia Spencer should. Viola Davis would never stoop to a PSA. Mahershala Ali, maybe. In essence, just because Cook did a commercial with eggs twenty years ago doesn’t mean it needs to be resuscitated for full-circle effect. Particularly when it only serves to stress just how much edgier the Clinton era was than the regime of now, a proponent of complacency. Cook doesn’t even bother to fuck shit up in the kitchen or wear Monica Gellar jeans. She just lets the drawings do the talking, coasting on the laurels of her drug ad past. If this is our brain on anti-drug policy, maybe we’d all enjoy going back to our brain on just plain drugs.