Just in time for 4/20, a fond look back at one of the most awkward anti-drug messages ever presented in a kids' cartoon. Don't ask me how or why, but yes, LATOYA JACKSON somehow gets involved.
By: Jimbo X
Let me just start off by saying I fucking hate marijuana users. In all my 30-something years in life I've never - I mean not even once - ran into a chronic pot smoker I've wanted to spend more than five seconds around. EVERY last pothead I've been around has had the same shitty attitude; they're all lazy and gross and impulsive and can't converse worth a fuck, which is actually a bit of a positive since they never have anything worthwhile to say anyway. Whenever I learn somebody uses weed, I tend to take it as a secret code that lets me know they're a bunch of boring, lethargic assholes from the get-go. Say what you will about heroin addicts and crack users, but at least they TRY to downplay their substance abuse as a vital part of their existence. Meanwhile, all marijuana users fucking care about is marijuana, and like the most annoying Crossfit/vegan/atheist proselytizers out there, they NEVER, EVER shut up about how much they like their stupid-ass hobby/hopeless substance dependency. Potheads are far and away the most annoying and aggravating subculture in American society - yes, even worse than leftist social justice warriors and far right paranoid gun nuts - and the more acceptable marijuana use becomes in the country, the more irritating and insufferable they seem to become.
Granted, I think a large part of the reason why drug culture has become so expansive (to the point it's practically encouraged by the media and considered mainstream behavior everywhere except in the federal law books and households with good parents) is because the powers that be spent so much damn time and money trying to convince everybody to not smoke dope in the 1980s. We've all seen Reefer Madness and played Narc and had to watch Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue in elementary school, and in hindsight, it's pretty hard to see how even grade schoolers couldn't have figured out D.A.R.E. and all that shit was woefully heavy-handed, hyperbolic bullshit that only served to make drugs look and sound cooler. Kids have a natural predilection for the countercultural, and nothing - I repeat, fucking nothing - is more uncooly mainstream than having Nancy Reagan give Arnold Drummond lectures on the dangers of junior high heroin use.
Looking back on it, if the D.E.A. wanted to keep kids from becoming a bunch of drugged up ne'er-do-wells, instead of putting out P.S.A.'s where drug dealers literally turned into snake monsters and people did swan dives into empty swimming pools, they SHOULD have shown every elementary schooler in America videos of 40 and 50 year-old potheads smoking grass and eating Funyons and talking about how great the Grateful Dead are. Then, the message would've been a million times more effective as a deterrent to doing drugs: hey kids, if you smoke weed for a good 20 years, eventually you'll wind up becoming a fat-ass hippie layabout with the memory span of a malnourished gnat. Shit, what Tommy Chong looks like today ought to be enough to make anybody straight edge.
Which brings us to one of the more overlooked pieces of child-targeted anti-drug propaganda from the Reagan and Bush I years - The Flintstone Kids "Just Say No" episode.
Now, The Flintstone Kids is a show I remember from way back in the day, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember anything that actually happened on a single episode, save this one. The general gist of the show was that it followed the exploits of Fred and Barney and the rest of this stone age motherfuckers when they were prepubescent, so naturally, it was going to be pretty terrible by default. I guess if you go back and watch the show now there's nothing transcendentally bad about the program, but compared to its contemporaries - you know, Ninja Turtles and Ghostbusters and all that stuff - it was woefully unappealing material.
But that really doesn't matter, because "Just Say No" exists in its own special vacuum in time and space. You don't need to know a damn thing about the Flintstone Kids mythos to understand it or enjoy it - and the reason should be abundantly clear in just a few moments.
|Unfortunately for Betty, that wasn't a concert flyer - it was a wanted poster for a registered sex offender.|
The episode begins innocuously enough, with Fred (who I'm almost certain is voiced by the same guy who voices Robin on Teen Titans) returning from a trip to Hollyrock, which presumably, is the Stone Age equivalent to Hollywood. He keeps saying annoying non-words like "fabb-o" and "ins-ville" to sound like a big shot, so Barney - being the slow motherfucker he is - can't figure out what he's talking about so Fred just drops the bullshit and tells him he had a good time. Enter Betty and some token black cave-boy who was never on the original Flintstones cartoon. She's swooning all over a poster (well, technically, a chiseled tablet) of Michael Jackstone. He's doing a concert in town and they need money for tickets, so they head over to Wilma's place. Since all of the kids were on vacation at the same time (my, what a convenient little coincidence), Wilma's had to find new friends and started hanging out with these punk rocker hoodlums that make her dress like a skank and change her name to Scooter.
The kids act pretty nonchalant about losing their best friend, even after baby Dino starts crying like little brontosaurus bitch (which actually reminded me of my girlfriend's puppy whenever I leave, which kinda does tug at my heartstrings BUT DON'T YOU EVER ACCUSE ME OF BEING A SOFTY YOU SONSOFBITCHES OR I'LL CUT YOU.)
Ahem ... moving along, we then see this one kid with the worst laryngitis you've ever heard in your life stumbling across the foreground, declaring himself "the greatest" as he flails to and from like a Nintendo sidescroller. Well, that certainly has to be a non sequitur the show will never return to, right?
As it turns out, that stumbling little fuck's name is Stoney, and he's (of course) the leader of the punk kids. His cronies wonder why he's acting so weird and then he pulls out a joint and the kids shriek "is that marijuana?" and "isn't that a drug?" The token Asian punk says they've smoked a few cigarettes before - call it a hunch, but I'm guessing it was this brand - but they've never, ever tried the reefer. Even though one of the punk kids recounts his parents telling him to never do drugs because they could mess up his life, Stoney tries to convince them it's no big deal. Wilma/Scooter takes one glance at her sundial watch and says "yep, that's my cue to get the fuck out of here." Stoney says he will let her go to her emergency dental appointment this time, but next time she's GOTTA' smoke a fatty with them or else she's out of the gang.
|Oh, so THAT's why they call him "Stoney" - it's because he likes to get stoned! Holy shit, that's some clever writing.|
So Wilma runs to her old friends and tells them Stoney brought drugs to their secret cave meeting and they all gasp and Dino blows a raspberry at the mere mention of the word "marijuana." They chit-chat about the ills of pot for a while and then Fred says "lots of cool kids don't do drugs," including his cousin in Hollyrock who started his own "Just Say No" club. They advise Wilma to speak with her parents about weed and her dad tells her to find some new friends because drugs hurt your body and makes it so you can't even think straight and they'll probably turn her into a crack whore. Well, I made that last one up, but he did say all that other stuff, though.
Wilma/Scooter returns to Stoney's garage the next day and she bravely tells the rest of the crew "I think drugs are wrong, besides, they're against the law." Stoney tells Wilma to take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut (well, not really) and she returns to her old friends not looking like some junior high heroin addict into the Cramps. They decide right then and there to start a "Just Say No" club and make decorations while this oddly soothing synth-pop song with the lyrics "everybody say no" plays in the background. And we'll get back to that song at the tail end of this article, kiddos - trust me, you're going to want to stick around for this mind-blowing bit of trivia.
Naturally, all the parents in town are pleased as punch the kids aren't freebasing cocaine after school, with Mrs. Flintstone quipping "the only thing Freddy used to say no to was doing the dishes!" Then the kids open their pet grooming business and start washing dinosaurs and shit. Stoney shows up and stumbles into a trashcan and one of his lackeys says "maybe that 'Just Say No' club isn't too wimpy." Stoney then ominously declares, one way or another, those kids will fail to make enough money to afford those concert tickets.
So Stoney, being the pothead piece of shit he is, emerges from the bushes smoking a joint and switches up all the service order tablets at the pet washing place. He says he is utterly gobsmacked anybody could possibly have fun working and making money instead of puffing on grass all the fucking time. Then he falls off a cliff, because he got high, because he got high, because he got high.
|Of course the dealer is black. You just knew the dealer was going to be black.|
Of course, the kids fuck up all the pets and shave them and paint them pink and all their customers demand a refund. Stoney shows up and says they need to be more careful next time and Fred quickly realizes Stoney was the one that fucked up all the orders so now, he's going to beat his ass ... at the Riddle Rally tomorrow, and win those tickets, goddamnit. Stoney - being the cocky little cocksucker he is - says he's won the competition every year for the last three years so there's no point in Fred and pals even entering the race. Then again, that was also before Stoney started smoking 18 joints a day and regularly getting into fistfights with trees, so there may or may not be a noticeable deterioration in his abilities heading into this year's festivities.
Stoney shows up at the race and he's not just high, he's fucking Nick Diaz on the day of a title fight high. He's so fucked up, he literally can't remember how to run anymore and thinks the scavenger hunt instructions are in Japanese because he's holding the tablet upside down. An aside I know, but how the fuck does the Japanese language exist before the nation of Japan existed, by like, 2.5 million years? If this shit's supposed to be in the Stone Age, technically, these kids aren't even supposed to be genetically human yet, so any evidence of a culture that wasn't founded until 660 B.C. showing up is just inexcusably lazy. And yeah, I know people and dinosaurs never coexisted, so shut the fuck up about that, too.
Barney finds the penultimate clue under a giant acorn and Dino finds the final clue underneath a swing set seat. The Flintstone Kids wind up winning the race for a litany of reasons, but primarily, because none of their team members were strung out on the prehistoric version of Oxycontin. Stoney drops a joint and a cop picks it up - and since it's a black cop, you're not entirely sure that shit's going to make it back to the evidence room (I keed, I keed, cue rimshot.) The other punks are pissed Stoney's dope-doing ways cost them the race so they tell him to go eat a pile of pterodactyl shit while they join the "Just Say No" club.
That's when Officer Quartz apprehends Stoney, telling him drugs are "dumb, dangerous and against the law." He then takes his ass back to the police station, where - hopefully - he will either get raped or have his arm cut off like what's-his-name in Requiem for a Dream so he won't smoke grass no more.
The kids go to the concert and Michael Jackstone (accompanied by a gorilla playing drums and a dinosaur playing bass) is performing a version of "Beat It" but the words have been changed to warn listeners about the dangers of drug use. "You don't need it, just say no to drugs to defeat it," one line goes. "Drugs are wrong and you're right." Of course, it isn't the real Michael Jackson singing, but at least they tried to make it halfway realistic and animated him like he was a disheveled white woman. During the end credits, although Michael Jackson is given songwriting credits for "Beat It," they never do tell us who actually sang the song. But we do learn something almost as shocking - that the "Just Say No" song from earlier was actually performed by LATOYA JACKSON. Fuck, and here I was thinking the most amazing thing about an anti-drug cartoon was that it ironically revolved around a hardcore drug user and child molester - man, life really is a trip, ain't it?
|A photograph from the first ever prehistoric NAMBLA meeting.|
Well, there's not a whole lot more to say about that one, is there? While the "Just Say No" special hasn't garnered as much infamy as some of the more aggressive and heavy-handed propaganda toons of the epoch - God, can any of us forget that "AIDS episode" of Captain Planet? - but apparently, this thing made a big enough impression on enough people to inspire a full fledged Wikipedia article which tells us - well, not a whole shit load about why it deserves its own standalone Wiki entry, to be honest. Apparently the original airing included a brief message from Nancy Reagan about why second-graders shouldn't do Quaaludes, but I suppose losing that one to the ravages of time is nothing to shed any tears over.
It's pretty easy to look back on the cartoon and make fun of it for its ultra-stereotypical depiction of potheads, but compared to some of the other anti-drug 'toons out there it almost seems painfully restrained. It's kinda obvious Hanna Barbara prolly didn't want to go through with it, but ABC likely convinced them it would be good for ratings so they begrudgingly tried to drum up an anti-dope smoking diatribe that wasn't too over the top. Still, it's just surreal as fuck hearing the prepubescent versions of Fred and Barney talking about weed, which - irony of ironies - is probably really, really funny after a bong hit or two.
When you talk about "junk culture," this is pretty much the kinda' stuff that epitomizes the concept. It's such an outdated product of its time, with no real redeeming social purpose or artistic value. The federal government literally threw a wad of cash at ABC and said "make Fred Flintstone tell kids to not drop LSD" and voila, the "Just Say No" special suddenly sprang to life. Outside of the shameless cash incentive, there is no justifiable reason for this thing to exist - it's not just superfluous nonsense, it's federally subsidized superfluous nonsense from the eighties, which is pretty much the most extravagantly wasteful thing imaginable.
But on the positive side? At least we got a surprisingly catchy Latoya Jackson song out of it. You pot smoking dickheads can enjoy your sticky green this 4/20 - I reckon I'll just be grooving on the natural high of overly-corporatized late '80s synth pop instead.