I don’t know how many responses this thread will get because public service announcements tend to fade into obscurity. However, some were memorable simply because of how stupid they were. Especially ones aimed at kids.
I remember back when Saturday morning cartoons were big in the seventies, there were countless little snippets featuring popular cartoon characters urging kids to “be yourself”.
Even then, at ten years old or so, I was sitting there watching this stuff thinking, “What the hell are these people talking about?” I didn’t notice any epidemic of Hollywood-style phoniness among my peers in grade school. Most of my peers were assholes through and through. No phoniness there.
My guess is that the FCC required a certain amount of kids’ cartoons to be educational and uplifting. And a lot of storyboard conferences at the studios went like this:
Writer A: Okay, we gotta have GI Joe say something educational to the kids, and it should be inspiring. How do we make these kids into better people?
Writer B: Who’s making us do this extra crap anyway?
Writer A: The boss says the new standards say we gotta do this stuff. It’s the rules.
Writer B: I hate that guy. He’s a phony two-faced hypocritical jerk and a world-class ass-kisser.
Writer A: That’s an idea! Let’s tell the kids not to be like our boss!
Writer B: Great!
That’s my theory anyway.
Anybody else wanna nominate some PSA’s for well-deserved scorn?
When’s the last time you saw a PSA that wasn’t stupid and/or useless? I think you have to go back to Woodsy Owl’s era for that (not that plenty back then weren’t stupid/useless too).
I think one of the stupidest ones, not just in a “that’s dumb” way, but in a “that’s going to actually going to get some kid hurt for listening to it” way are ones that tell kids they shouldn’t just be a bystander when someone else is being bullied. Yeah, because stepping in won’t totally make them the bully’s new target. Have the people making those ads never actually been around kids before? Standing up to bullies, yeah, that works great – in fiction.
What I wanted to mention. When they got to the part where the announcer says “Any questions?” I always wanted to shout at the screen “Don’t you know heads think GETTING FRIED is a GOOD thing???”
And even worse was the fact that they kept retooling the ad. The original ad almost instantly became a stand-up routine punchline, and so the anti-drug folks kept trying and trying and trying to make is scary or unsettling or bleak. They only made it look goofier and goofier.
There was an anti-drug PSA came out about 10 - 15 years ago that came under a lot of criticism: a bunch of kids (all black if that matters) are sitting around getting high. One of them is looking through a drawer for something or other and finds a gun! The stoned kid pulls it out and waves it around at his friends giddily, and then the gun goes off and you see one of the kids’ friends lurch backward as he’s hit by a bullet. Then there’s an abrupt cut to a placard saying “Marijuana lowers your reaction time by [such & such] percent.”
The spot got a lot of heat for the shaky premise - why would a loaded gun be left around where a bunch of unsupervised young men (stoned or not) could get their hands on it? And the implication being that if a clean & sober teenager pulled out a loaded gun and started waving it around the room, then it’d be A-OK!!
Also sometime during the 90s, there were some PSA’s based around the idea some scare stories about teenage kids getting drunk / stoned and having unprotected sex, then getting AIDS. The catch-line for the campaign was “AIDS: Another way drugs can kill.” That drew some fire from gay-rights groups because it was predicated on the idea that a person got AIDS from “BAD” behavior. Many gay men who had AIDS felt like this was a slap in the face to them - they got AIDS because they were bad, irresponsible people.
Yeah, but they never explained that part of it. When you’re a little kid, you’re not going to make that intuitive leap. When I was little and watching, those plugs just never made any sense. I always thought, what do you mean, be myself? I AM myself. What are you driving at?
They probably didn’t want to mention the drugs and peer pressure to avoid giving kids ideas. But really, it just confused the hell out of my ten year old self.