In some ways, at least, it is probably the best cannabis commercial of all time. The new commercial from marijuana retail behemoth MedMen was released this week, and it pulled out all the stops.
It’s got a star actor: Jesse Williams from Grey’s Anatomy and stuff plays multiple roles and narrates the whole thing. It’s got a celebrated director: Academy Award winner Spike Jonze, dude who made Being John Malkovich and Her. A cool concept: tell the whole story of cannabis in America through one long continuous shot that tracks through different dioramas of the good, bad, and ugly in marijuana history.
So what’s there to gripe about, exactly? Well, one could argue that it’s a little racially… problematic, or at least confusing. Here’s a shot from the first historical episode in the ad:
In his voiceover, Williams talks about how back in the day founding fathers like George Washington “grew their own.” And then there’s a couple of people who seem to be slaves harvesting Washington’s marijuana crop. Williams says, “It was normal.”
And it seems like he’s saying that growing weed was normal. But it also sort of seems like he’s saying that owning slaves was normal. And, yes, both of these things are probably true. But it’s a weird foot to get off on for a commercial that wants me to run out for gram of OG Purps.
Because the whole point of the commercial is that what used to be normal is now normal again and it seems like that’s a good thing. But then slavery obviously isn’t good. So is going back to normal good? Or bad? Or is it a moral gray area (grey area?) and I have to actually use my brain and decide for myself?
Further mindfucking us here is the fact that George Washington is played by Jesse Williams, an actor who is part African-American. So, let’s see if we can follow this: African-American George Washington owned slaves and got them to grow his weed. Sometime later, the U.S. outlawed slavery, but then it also outlawed weed and used anti-weed laws to imprison some of the descendants of the slaves who were liberated. And now, after centuries of progress, weed is legal in a lot of the U.S. Slavery, obviously, isn’t. And as we look at a couple walking into their gross suburban McMansion, Williams tells us that finally, “it’s normal again.” But I’m still thinking about slavery. He doesn’t mean slavery, right? Maybe we’re just too dumb for this, or too high.