More than just a blending of educational tool and entertainment, public service announcements are an effective way to spread the word about all manner of societal ills to television viewers. For the most part, PSAs are geared towards children in an effort to keep them safe and protect them from the dangers of drugs, alcohol, poison, smoking, and other evils lurking just out of reach. In order to effectively make an impact upon young minds, PSAs often employ bizarre imagery, memorable jingles or just straight-up scare tactics to get their message across. As such, these things are more often than not incredibly strange to watch. See for yourself with this look at ten of the weirdest PSAs ever made.
This Canadian-produced effort from the late-1980s features a strange looking robot with dead eyes frolicking through some sort of hellish Skynet playground before her arm gets cut off and she delivers a message about the dangers of having one’s arm cut off. Which begs the question, was there an outbreak of accidental amputations amongst the youth of Canada some 30 years ago? I’d ask for a show of hands here to see if any of you heard of this issue, but that might not be appropriate in this case.
Speaking of the Great White North… Canada also gave us this anti-drug PSA that doubles as the gritty Garbage Pail Kids reboot you’ve been longing for.
Smoking is bad, of course, but it’s hard to deny that R2 doesn’t look cool while doing it because he looks cool no matter what he’s doing. Also, it’s bit of a gut punch at the end when C-3PO says, “R2, do you really think I don’t have a heart?”
Kids of the 1970s were both terrified and entertained by this PSA for the Mr. Yuk anti-poisoning campaign, a hugely successful endeavor that had parents slapping colorful, eye-catching stickers on dangerous household products to let kids know to stay away. Because, after all, Mr. Yuk is mean, Mr. Yuk is green.
Here we have a late-’80s effort in which a drug dealer slowly reveals himself to be a literal snake. If only the recent G.I. Joe movies were this entertaining. Cobra!
One of the greatest things about cartoons of the 1970s and ’80s was that they often ended each episode with a PSA about health and/or staying safe. The most memorable one of these came from Super Friends, and involved Batman showing the Heimlich Maneuver to Robin in a PSA that clearly influenced The Ambiguously Gay Duo.
Here we have a PSA about the dangers of children taking prescription medicines that, ironically enough, feels like a Jim Henson acid trip.
After saving New York from a gigantic fly (take that, Jeff Goldblum!) Spider-Man turns down a cash award and asks for an orange instead. So much for Peter Parker being a genius.
This PSA shows in uncanny detail how much alike Gremlins and teens under the influence of drugs and alcohol really are.
Maybe it’s not “weird” to see Pee Wee Herman do a PSA, considering his place atop the pop culture food chain in the ’80s, but it’s pretty damn weird seeing him deliver a completely sober assessment on why crack is whack sans “Secret word” antics and general Playhouse whimsy.
Before she was having erotic off-screen snake dances in Blade Runner or helping to coordinate poolside fashion shows in Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead, Joanna Cassidy starred in this 1973 PSA in which she erotically talks about forest fires. Sensuality-laced chat about natural disasters is disturbing enough, but then she casually peels off her skin and reveals herself to be Smokey the Bear, giving birth to a generation of furries.