Remake of classic ’90s ad explains: ‘This is your brain on drug policy.’

Rachael Leigh Cook returns to talk about racism in the war on drugs.

Rachael Leigh Cook in “This Is Your Brain on Drug Policy.” CREDIT: Screenshot/YouTube
Rachael Leigh Cook in “This Is Your Brain on Drug Policy.” CREDIT: Screenshot/YouTube

Readers of a certain generation may remember one of the anti-drug awareness movements catchiest PSAs: “This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.” It’s right up there with “Only you can prevent forest fires!” as one of the more memorable awareness-raising taglines of our time.

Rachael Leigh Cook, star of many a teen classic, was featured in one of these PSAs right before she made it big (a.k.a before she was the lead in She’s All That). Your brain was an egg; your brain on drugs was an egg smashed, scrambled, and sizzled beyond all recognition. Even the kitchen did not emerge unscathed. The nineties were a simpler time, and the messaging was, fitting for the era, straightforward, lacking in nuance, and seemingly uncontroversial: Drugs are bad.

Cook is now starring in a new PSA, a sort-of remake of the one viewers know and love but with a new, socially-conscious message: That white drug offenders are far less likely to be convicted of a crime than comparable offenders of color. The new spot — released on the 20th anniversary of the original’s debut — is called “This Is Your Brain on Drug Policy.” The ad is the work of Green Point Creative and was made for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The brown egg represents an American who is “several times more likely to be charged with a drug crime” than the white egg. (This will be an especially emotional moment for everyone who tenderly cared to their egg babies during high school sex ed.) After narrating the journey of the brown egg from its arrest through the subsequent fallout — student financial aid lost, job prospects diminished, family torn apart, all consequences the white egg was spared — Cook concludes:

The war on drugs is ruining peoples’ lives. It fuels mass incarceration, it targets people of color in greater numbers than their white counter parts. It cripples communities, it costs billions and it doesn’t work. Any questions?

Tony Newman, director of media relations at the Drug Policy Alliance, wrote about the ad in a statement on DPA’s official website. “The war on drugs is a disastrous failure that has ruined millions of peoples’ lives, especially people of color.”

Newman also writes that he hopes “this ad is seen by as many people as the original and inspires folks to end this unwinnable war.” No word yet on whether or not Attorney General Jeff Sessions has been moved by the PSA, who has spoken passionately about his desire to revive the war on drugs: “Our nation needs to say clearly once again that using drugs is bad.”