They sure don’t make public service announcements like they used to. Even though my kids don’t regularly watch television (not due to any anti-tv sancti-momminess on my part–it’s in Danish….), when we visit the U.S., they more than make up for their yearly tv consumption. But long gone seem to be the melodic, animated messages I grew up with. The ones reminding you that those were not candy, they were pills! The ones that featured strange puppets reminding you to conserve energy. C3PO catching R2D2 with a forbidden cancer stick. Even Nancy Reagan’s legacy of “Just say no to drugs” doesn’t exist anymore. American forty-somethings like myself will surely remember the many catch phrases that danced across the small screen in between Roadrunner and Papa Smurf on Saturday mornings. Raise your hand if any of the below sound familiar. Extra points if you can remember who said it.
“I hanker for a hunk o cheese!”
“Always count your change!!!”**
“Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”
“Only You can prevent forest fires”
“This is your brain. This is your brain on drugs.”
“You are what you eat, from your head down to your feet!”
The brilliant, hippie, folk song/Motown mashup that was SchoolHouse Rock is deserving of its own post, so I won’t delve too deeply into such fantastically memorable gems as Conjunction Junction and I’m Just a Bill. But I will say my husband, a product of the British educational system, seems to have skipped school the year they taught the parts of speech. When he sheepishly asks what an adjective is, for the umpteenth time, I often break into song: “It was a hairy bear….it was a scary bear…” He still never remembers. Mad Libs is an exercise in frustration in our house.
But advertisers and nutrition boards and parent groups stopped using Saturday mornings as a spring-board for lessons in morals, ethics, history, personal hygiene and nutrition. Perhaps because children’s television became more readily available, on demand, pausae-ble. Lost were the captive audiences singing about Lolly and his adverbs while they waited patiently for Captain Caveman. No more kids hankering for a hunk ‘o cheese in the small hours between homework and dinner.
Until last year when a PSA came out of Melbourne. The award-winning ad, created to reinforce awareness and safety around trains, quickly went viral, and the world was presented with a myriad of Dumb Ways to Die.
My kids LOVE this ad. They watch it over and over. They sing along, know the words, re-enact the cutely morbid Six Feet Under death scenarios again and again. Granted, they can now confidently go forth into the world knowing that you shouldn’t do your own electrical work, poke a stick at a grizzly bear or heaven forbid, use your private parts as piranha bait. I must admit, I find it surprisingly entertaining to hear my five year old going about his day singing “sell your kidneys on the internet” under his breath. (Oh, and just in case you would like to use this post as a PSA, that’s one of the things you AREN”T supposed to do. The Australian advertising board seems to realize that under estimating the stupidity of the general public is, in itself, a dumb way to die. Who am I to argue?)
Though the ad manages to squeeze in a commendable number of dumb ways to die, they obviously couldn’t put everything in there. For years now, my husband and I have kept a running list of things we (half) jokingly swear never to do because said events seem to have a black cloud of death hanging over them. Like going to an air show. It seems not a summer month goes by without some sort of air show incident. Going to an air show, in my mind, is like playing catastrophe bingo. So in the spirit of the PSA, I’ve come up with my own anti-bucket list.
(More) Dumb Ways to Die.
(To the tune of Dumb Ways to Die)
Step blind in the cycling lane, get flattened by a speeding Dane
Take an Indonesian fer-ry, end up at the bottom of the sea
Attend a barbecue
in a state where you
can carry a gun….Uh huh, have fun.
(More) Dumb ways to die, so many more ways to die…..(More) dumb ways to di-i-i, so many more ways to die.
Take a bus ride in Nepal, off a cliff you’ll tumble and fall
Go hiking too close to Iran, might not go according to plan
Have a backyard Fourth of July, say good-bye to an arm and an eye
Like a Kennedy
play football on a ski
Hey! Watch out for that tree!
(More) Dumb Ways to Di-i-i….
For a little more nostalgia:
Only you can prevent forest fires
You are what you eat, from your head down to your feet!
**Despite my best efforts, I can’t find the PSA which explains the importance of always counting your change. But my sister remembers it too. And she was a Saturday morning television regular, so I know my brain wasn’t on drugs when I tell you it existed.
15 Comments Add yours
Hilarious! And the graphics are pretty nice for depicting death. They look like jelly beans.
I think that’s why the kids like it so much!
Hadn’t seen this, but am so glad you introduced us! No doubt the boys will be reminiscing about it just as we do about Lolly. BTW we could have used this in NYC as one evening commute was derailed by an 18 year old challenging his buddy to a race across the 1,2 and 3 tracks during rush hour. One made, one didn’t. Dumb way to die indeed.
Indeed. The boys are constantly singing it, and now it is lodged in my head, like a good PSA should be.
My kids love this too! They’ve also made up a dance to it and know all the words. It’s awesome.
I think there are even games now too….But seriously, they know not to scratch a drug dealer’s brand new ride or invite a psycho killer inside. All good things in my book.
My kids favourite bit is “what’s this red button do?” then they mime being blown to pieces. Ahhhh I’m feeling like such an awesome parent right now! But come on, if it wasn’t so annoying when played on loop it’d be really funny.
Perfect post, Dina. My brother-in-law owns the entire Schoolhouse Rock, and MTM and I watched all of them when we found it. I am glad the Australians have produced such an awesome (and funny) lesson for kids everywhere. I loved your list.
We own them too. Despite this, my husband still has trouble remembering what a noun is. (Well every person you can know…
And every place that you can go…
And any thing that you can show…).
I think we should petition to bring back PSAs. And ABC After school Specials.
I really wanted to leave a comment, but this is my brain on drugs…
Try your brain with bacon next time. Bacon makes everything taste better 😉
I remember “This is your brain on drugs”!!! I can actually remember being shown the ad in school, and taking it really seriously (I’m mid 30s, I think I was in 6th, 7th grade maybe) and then the whole world started making fun of it and I was confused… ;-))
I took it very seriously too! As I did the after school specials about Kevin and his Dad who lives in a downtown hotel–or the ones about anorexia or teenage pregnancy. They were cheesy (or seem so now), but they did the trick!!
It’s Mrs B’s most favourite advert that one! As for Mr Dina’s lack of speech related education, blame the school he went to. From what I recall of where he said it was, it was quite a sub standard one…(another great British trait, school oneupmanship…).
Mr. Dina might see them there as fightin’ words (adjective-modifies or describes a noun).