Riveting spots for The Meth Project by Darren Aronofsky transcend ‘scared straight’ strategy.

November 9, 2011

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Before you look at the following commercials for The Meth Project, shot by Oscar-winning director, Darren Aronofsky (Requiem for a Dream, The Black Swan) brace yourself. For these are disturbing portraits -one of a man and the other a woman, barely adults, caught in the final grip of their drug addiction, doing the unthinkable: in his case exchanging sex for money, in hers, suicide.

It’s not that these spots are breaking new ground; they are not. The “scared straight” strategy is as old as “Say No to Drugs.” But there’s something about this campaign from the Organic agency that gripped me beyond expectation.

Perhaps it’s the voyeuristic nature of the work? In one we are in a bathroom while an hysterical mom tries to save her daughter from committing suicide. In the other a boy sits down on a seedy hotel bed as this anonymous dirt bag lasciviously takes off his belt.

The realism is starkly disturbing, and for this I credit Aronofsky. These films are not big. They are not sensational. We are in small, desperate places. Things are just happening: a girl is letting water run over her cut wrists. The boy takes his shirt off in preparation for God knows what… The message is simple: this is what happens when methamphetamine takes over your life. You find yourself doing things –despicable things- you would never, ever have imagined doing.

In the end, it is the actor’s indifference that is most scary. The girl might as well be washing her hands, the boy going to sleep. Terrifying.

On a professional note, I admire these films for not coming off as awards show bait. So many pro-bono ads (good and bad) look like they’re being made for the primary purpose of winning creativity prizes. Not these. I don’t feel the ad agency and neither will the intended audience. In my opinion, that hardly ever happens. Bravo.

Whether one considers addiction a disease or a lack of will power the fact is it takes over the user like a fatal attraction, until nothing else but his or her drug of choice matters. Unlike depressants, painkillers or sedatives, Meth is an upper that drives the user to bliss and then batshit, often the very first time. The voices in a meth head’s head come quickly and loudly, pushing away all rational thoughts. Coming down or “tweaking” is even worse. It’s a cheap batch of dirty chemicals that has no equal… crack’s crazy uncle.

If these particular films reach their audience –and I truly hope they do- they will change lives; I’m convinced of that.

(For the sake of argument, I should add that there are numerous spots for The Meth Project on You Tube. In my opinion none are as strong as the two captured here.)

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