Slate's Seth Stevenson gives a thumbs-up review to the ONDCP's new "Pete's Couch" antipot ads, which acknowledge that marijuana is harmless but warn that it may keep you from doing cool stuff like mountain biking and playing basketball:
In the past two decades, the Office of National Drug Control Policy and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America have made countless TV ads about the evils of illicit drugs. There was the one where that tweaker chick on meth plucked out her whole eyebrow. There was the one where Rachael Leigh Cook smashed up her kitchen. And, of course, there was the granddaddy of them all: the fried egg. ("This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?") I've hated every single one of these ads with a raging, righteous fury. Until now.
This new spot, titled "Pete's Couch," doesn't offend me. It acknowledges that smoking weed on your buddy's sofa is the "safest thing in the world." (Which is true. I actually had a friend named Pete in high school, and we did get high on his couch. No turmoil ensued.) The ad's main contention is that it's important to get off that couch and out into the world, where you can do things like ice skate with other teens. (Also true. It is indeed good to engage with the outside world, instead of just sitting in your rec room. Though I'd note that it's possible to smoke pot in your rec room one day and then go ice skating the next. Or even just smoke pot and immediately go ice skating—which, come to think of it, sounds like a blast. Who's in?)
Stevenson misses one crucial piece of unreality in the commercial, which ends with the hero getting off the couch and walking into a movie theater, with the apparent implication being that you can't go to the movies stoned. I find it almost impossible to sit through a movie normal, but to each his own. For reasons that have everything to do with my numberless character flaws, most of the television I watch is heavy on Army recruiting ads, the Pete's Couch spot, and commercials for Relacore for belly fat and Enzyte for natural male enhancement. I too like the Pete's Couch ad, which for the most part seems as if it could have been made by the Drug Policy Alliance rather than by the Drug Czar.
But isn't that a reason to hate it even more? If the ONDCP were just advertising a drug-free lifestyle without any other incentives, as if it were just another brand of soap, there would be no room to complain. But the commercial remains silent on why so many of Pete's couchmates are dead or in prison for their insufficient interest in mountain biking. So I'm holding out for the sequel: I got high on Pete's couch and nothing happened until the cops came in and shot me, shot my dog, and took all my belongings. The more reasonable the drug warriors try to sound, the more barbaric they look.