Primary Document

“Just say no.”

Nancy Reagan’s famous slogan to end the epidemic of drugs in the United States. Below is an example of one of her Just say no public service announcements. Find this primary source using this citation.

Oscars. “Clint Eastwood: Just Say No.” Youtube. October 12, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2018.

Thick Description.

This video opens with a completed black screen and a slight low humming noise, not music or any clear sound, then two large beams of light appear. Accompanied by each beam of light is a loud noise. The beams of light also shine on an object. The object appears to be the silhouette of a human. The beams of light also reveal a large black object that has what appears to be hard sharp edges, and forms the shape of a rectangle. The video then zooms in on the human’s silhouette still remaining dark, but bright enough to show the human raising their hand and revealing an extremely small object between their thumb and pointer finger. This object is mostly clear with a small black piece. This man is looking at this small object when he begins to speak. He speaks with a deep, clear, and strong vocal tone. When this man speaks he is talking to someone, but there is no one he is directly addressing in the video frame. He speaks about the small object in his hand, describing it as a “cute little vial” while still looking at the object. The the whole brightness is raised revealing a man. This man has short, gray, fluffy hair and white skin. This man is wearing a dark colored jacket, light colored collar shirt, and dark colored tie. As the brightness rising and the man’s voice deepens, he changes his eye contact straight forward,  his eyebrows pinch together revealing wrinkles on his forehead, and then speaks. This man specifies that the small object in his hand he previously called a “cute little vial” is “crack rock cocaine, the most addictive form.” After this statement the object is lowered out of the visual frame. As the man continues to speak as the frame slowly zooms in closer to his face he is saying “You think it is the glamour drug of the eighties while that’s the point of this friendly little reminder it can kill you and if you got to die for something.” After this statement there is a dramatic pause, the small object is raised back into the visual frame, the man changes his eye contact back to the object and says, “This sure as hell ain’t it.” After this statement the man looks directly forward for another 3 seconds with no audible speech. Then the image of the man slowly fades away into an image of a small clear cylinder shaped object lying horizontally on a black surface. The clear cylinder appears to have seven small light white colored, jagged oval shaped objects inside it, and three of the same jagged edged light colored object lying on the surface next to it. As this image is being shown there is a fast paced, low, deep beat in the background. After two seconds of this image the words, “Don’t even try it.” appear on the screen below the clear cylindrical object in white text, then in the same location and the same text the words “The thrill can kill.” appear accompanied by a change in the background noise, the low, deep, fast paced beat changes to a low crashing noise, that slowly fades to nothing, and a black screen. The all black image then slowly brightens to reveal that same man from early on the right side of the screen, and a woman on the left. The woman has light blonde hair and fair skin. The woman is dressed in a white collar top with four gold buttons, a jacket that is white with black horizontal and vertical lines, and two gold buttons. The woman also has gold earrings and chain necklace on. As the woman begins to speak the frame slowly shifts to focus her, the woman says, “In the next few months the motion picture industry and theater owners be bringing you a series of messages like the one you just saw.” Then the view changes to completely cut out the man and only the woman remain, this change in viewpoint comes with the statement, “I don’t think anyone will miss the point. The thrill can kill. The drug dealers need to know that we want them out of our schools, neighborhoods, and lives. And the only way to do that is to take the customers away from the product. Say no to drugs and yes to life.” After this statement the woman looks over to her left and the view changes again revealing the original man, as he begins to speak the view once again changes to cut the woman out of the frame leaving him alone. As this occurs he says, “Of course your local drug pusher might tell you a little something different about these drugs. And who you believe is up to you. Then again if you go ahead and try them at least it won’t be out of ignorance, just stupidity. What would I do if someone offered me these drugs? I’d tell them to take a hike.” Then the screen fades back to black.

Semiotic Analysis.

In this public service advertisement these two individuals discuss the topic of drug use and avoiding drug use. Specifically they address the dangers and risks associated with crack rock cocaine. The deeper meaning hidden within this advertisement is social class, race, and privilege. These deeper cultural values and meanings are expressed through the rhetoric used during this advertisement. One example is the concept that drug use and addiction is a moral choice. In addition it is not only a choice, but a stupid choice, made by not ignorant uneducated individuals, but people with low intelligence and low moral values. This message was clearly expressed through Clint Eastwoods statement, “But then again, if you go ahead and try them at least it won’t be out of ignorance, just stupidity.” Another culture meaning expressed in this video is that crack rock cocaine is not a drug for certain types of people. Clint Eastwood says it is not a glamorous Hollywood drug. Hollywood is comprised of mostly rich, famous, white, and public figures. Hollywood actors like Clint Eastwood is completely against this drug crack. This insinuated that the people doing this drug are not like him, not rich, not white, and not educated. The language used throughout this public service announcement alludes to the social idea that this dangerous street drug, crack, is used because of a choice that poor, unintelligent minorities are willingly making. All of these deeper culture values being expressed throughout this advertisement help to perpetuate that the drug epidemic is being fueled by minorities using crack.

Further Questions…

Another question I had when observing and analyzing this primary source was what other actors or prominent figures were used when filming these public service announcements? Did they highlight any other dangerous and addictive drugs such as powder cocaine? And finally did the scene and setting remain the same (a theatrical Hollywood set) no matter who the individual appearing in the advertisement?