While I enjoy laughing at commercials that compare stopping smoking marijuana to taking off a series of T-shirts as much as the next, I can’t help but wonder what good anyone really thinks these commercials are doing. Aside from their obvious lack of creative direction, the few “Above the Influence” commercials I’ve caught have focused solely on marijuana rather than touching on more pressing, or even causes of the mentioned, social issues. Whatever happened to that anti-meth ad with the scab-covered girl scrubbing her bathroom with a toothbrush? Or the “Me not Meth” campaign? Those, I remember, stayed with me until at least the next commercial break. Plus, they touched on the growing problem that is exemplified by the fact that in 2003, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported that 12.3 million Americans aged 12 and up, with the majority between 18 and 34, had tried meth at least once.
Why aren’t we seeing any sexually transmitted infection public service announcements? Rather than a 30 second blurb about talking to your child about holding off on sex until marriage, simply stating that one in two sexually active persons will contract an STI by age 25 seems tremendously more compelling. Or how about those ‘know-your-status’ HIV commercials? They used powerful messages and well known faces to articulate how much HIV/AIDs can change your life. It seems South Park is right in assuming AIDs has become a non-issue; I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen one of those. And don’t even get me started on those Truth commercials. While reading alleged quotes from tobacco moguls is slightly entertaining, it’s not going to prevent much. OK, so they don’t care about the general public. Neither do many big businesses, so where are the quotes from CEOs of the companies who’ve allowed thousands of jobs to go to the toilet while keeping their own astronomical salaries? Smoking a cigarette requires personal choice; being laid off is often a result of poor decision making at the expense of the majority.
Recently, I was sickened to learn recently that only 33 percent of the United States population believes evolution is real. Let that sink in a minute. I personally would sleep better at night knowing a commercial with a brief summary of the fossil findings and its obvious meaning was being run.
It’s not that I’d like being bombarded with the truth as I sit and try to let my brain be mushed by reality television, but creating a straw bully out of tobacco or marijuana isn’t only laughable but detrimental in the sense that it draws away from larger issues. Point the finger at D and no one pays attention to A, B or C. Even as I sit and write this, MTV is shoving that one commercial where the kid is playing basketball, then goes off to smoke weed and “leaves part of himself behind” down my throat. I’m not trying to imply it’s perfectly OK for everyone to run around smoking weed constantly — yes, he may be leaving some lung capacity behind — but MTV, along with all other television stations, companies that exercise control over television and commercials, and decision-making figures within the industry, should take responsibility to stop distracting the public from pressing issues. Considering the average American watches over four hours of television a day, commercials should be used to create a slightly more informed population.
Britney Huelbig is a social sciences sophomore and a Mustang Daily guest columnist.