The Aggressive Drug Dealer
Then they, like every group of drug users will do, try desperately to give their drugs away for free. You might remember that these naggy junkies were a common theme in all anti-drug education of the time. It would have saved a lot of film if someone told educators that teaching children how to avoid getting expensive drugs for free is like teaching children how to escape from unicorns with a bag of magical shrieking peanuts. I can't remember ever saying, "Fine, mister, I'll have some of your free heroin if you just get off my back."
The Aggressive Drug Dealer is out there trying to force your kids into doing drugs. He won't take no for an answer, and will seek out and use intimidation just to coerce his target. So a type of training is required to "Just Say No."
This isn't how it happens. No drug dealer in their right mind would attract attention to themselves this way, especially not in the middle-class environs these commercials are aimed at. Any who do will get caught very quickly, and be far less likely to actually get customers. Also, the purpose of selling drugs is to make money - yet many of these types of films seem to imply that dealers are just really evil people who like getting little kids hooked on drugs, even if they have to give said drugs away for free. The dealer giving away free drugs or forcing it onto the victim is the equivalent of burning a bag of money.
Granted, legitimate businesses do give out free samples all the time, but the drug "samples" would have to be enough to actually get someone high, and the lady at the supermarket handing out free morsels of some new cookie isn't risking 25 years for doing so. It is theoretically possible that the Aggressive Drug Dealer would be pressing drugs on kids so that when they are addicted they will then have to get the money (whether stealing it from their parents, selling their belongings, etc.) to buy drugs. But again, this would be high risk for minimum gain. It's easier to find people already willing to buy drugs and sell to them at a low-to-moderate price to get them hooked on one particular reliable dealer.
This villain took away the need to actually address the culture-gap between adults and children/teens. "Talking to your kids" by scaring them with this monster was a lot easier than trying to understand the social environment one's child was in, and instilling values that would stand up and that they agreed with.
Modern anti-drug PSAs have been taking a different approach in the last few years, by encouraging children to be "above the influence" in all respects toward peer pressure, not just in regard to doing drugs by the Moral Guardians of The Eighties, and also showing that if your friends go get high after school, you don't have to go with them, and shockingly, they'll just agree to see you tomorrow instead.
A subtrope of Drugs Are Bad. It should be noted that people do offer each other free drugs often enough, but these people are usually drug-using friends. They're aggressive drug buyers and users, not dealers. The anti-drug commercials were trying to get kids to say no to their friends who offered them drugs in high school (or middle school), but for some bizarre reason, it was the dealers who were depicted as aggressive distributors of free drugs.
That said, this trope can, in fact, be Truth in Television, as some of the examples below show. Go figure.
- Noted as a trope that is not Truth in Television in an educational video hosted by Kirk Cameron, possibly made in response to paranoid children who took Scare'Em Straight tactics too much to heart. The video tried to explain that politely turning down a drug dealer is good enough, as they will not hire their bully friends to pin you to the ground and stab you with needles full of drugs that will give you horrifying hallucinations and make the world change all the wrong colors. The kicker was that they felt the need to animate that part of the film (and two others discussing other incorrect depictions of drugs) as "What will not actually happen to you", so it still gave everyone nightmares anyway.
- Subverted in a few years old public service announcement. The aggressive drug dealer turns out to be a trusted adult who was role playing with the kid.
- How about this "Snake" PSA from 1986/87? The aggressive (and not particularly subtle) drug dealer's transformation to a literal snake was definitely scary.
- Archie Comics would occasionally have anti-drug mini comics in the books. One specific example has two children accosted by drug dealers, complete with the girl crying "Oh, Jimmy, I'm scared!" They are saved by two generic super heroes.
- This strange species of drug dealer turns up in the Teen Titans anti-drug specials (produced as part of the "Just Say No" initative).
- The fact that Speedy (Roy Harper) was absent from those is rather telling...
- Superman villain Nick O'Teen.
- One bizarre example pops up in a Captain America (comics) anti-drug comic where Cap has to fight this type of drug dealer. Who also happen to be a race of aliens who seek to subjugate humanity by using drug addiction to weaken humans.
- Frankie Lideo, the villain of Moonwalker's "Smooth Criminal" segment. It's a particularly egregious example since, unlike your average Aggressive Drug Dealer who's in it to get kids hooked so as to keep a healthy flow of customers, he appeared to be in it for the sheer malicious joy of getting kids hooked on drugs.
- This was the Evil Scheme in the movie Live and Let Die - Mr. Big intends to flood the US with free heroin, driving the Mob out of the market, then cornering it at a highly inflated price to the multitudes of new addicts.
- In Pusher 3, Kurt insists on giving Milo some of his heroin. Kurt knows that Milo is a recovering addict, and he has a beef with Milo for his actions in the second film.
- The two corrupt hicks in Foxy Brown hold the title character hostage and deliberately get her addicted to heroin. Or, at least, they try to.
- This is a variation seen in other exploitation flicks of the 1970's, in which someone, not always a drug dealer, actually captures a woman and gives her heroin while she's unconscious in a deliberate bid to get her addicted. Not only does this happen in Foxy Brown, but also in Thriller - A Cruel Picture and The Sinful Dwarf.
- Jason makes up this story about Leo in Mystery Team.
- Chris-R, the ruthless drug dealer from The Room, who is willing to sneak into Johnny's apartment while he and three other people (Lisa, Mark, and Claudette) are inside, and then work his way up to the roof and force Denny at gunpoint to give him the money, but can't wait five minutes for it to arrive.
- Mocked, as early as 1967, in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. A small boy finds a chocolate bar on the ground and his twelve-year-old sister tells him that it was probably put there by a drug dealer and full of "dope" to get him hooked. Even allowing that it was a more innocent time, it was partly used to illustrate the character of the sister as someone less worldly-wise than she thought, and extremely prone to pointless worrying.
- Parodied in the Discworld novel, Feet of Clay, where dealers try to sell the drug 'slab' to troll-children. The troll watchman Detritus runs his own version of the 'Drugs - Just say no' posters, aimed at the dealers: "Slab: Just say AarrghaarrghpleasennononoUGH". Considering the reputation of Detritus and his converted siege-crossbow 'The Piece-Maker', it's probably one of the more effective methods of Scaring 'em straight.
- In Hal Clement's novel Iceworld, the protagonist is sent to infiltrate a criminal syndicate which has discovered a drug vapor that addicts those who inhale it with one dose. The story takes place among aliens who live at very high temperatures, and the drug is tobacco, acquired via robot probe from a human who has no idea why the aliens are willing to trade gold for cigarettes.
- The Doctor Who Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Eight Doctors has a Very Special Subplot involving one of these. Justified—maybe—by the fact that the drug dealer is a schoolkid whose classmate intends to tell on him, and he hopes that by forcing her to take crack, he'll get her addicted and she won't want to tell on him any more. However, the fact that a teacher claims that, "One single rock is cheap enough. Some dealers even give the first one away. It's a good way to make new customers, especially young ones," is about when you start to realize that you are reading a book propelled solely by Narm Charm.
- In Glen Cook's Garrett P.I. series, the crime syndicate has been known to use drug addiction as a method of recruiting and controlling underage prostitutes. Garrett is not happy about this.
- Justified in Harry Turtledove's Worldwar series, as the drug in question is ginger; ginger is a) much cheaper than street narcotics; b) completely legal (until the Race tries to ban it); and c) kickstarts the Race's mating instincts causing them to spontaneously create prostitution and (sadly) rape.
Live Action TV
- In the Taiwanese Series Black & White, Gao Yi sents a subway train full of hostages hurtling down a dead-end spur while simultaneously aerosolizing a potent narcotic so everyone on board is zoned and now hooked on it.
- Viciously mocked by Chris Rock on his HBO special Bring the Pain:
Drug dealers don't really sell drugs. Drug dealers offer drugs. ...You say "no", that's it! Now Jehovah's Witnesses, on the other hand...
- In the "Blue Paradise" episode of The Flash series, said drug's creator produced a huge batch with plans to release it in a cloud over the entire city. Somewhat justified in that this drug was explained to be EXTREMELY addictive. Plus, the drug's creator frequently used his own products.
- Spoofed in an episode of Friends. Ross, after accidentally injuring a Girl Scout, attempts to make amends by selling cookies on her behalf. Monica resists buying any, having been addicted to them as a child, but Ross tries to persuade her by giving her the first box for free, claiming that "all the cool kids are eating them".
- Occasionally, the villain of the day in Walker, Texas Ranger. Since the focus of the show is Walker kicking ass, this creates a Holding Out for a Hero Family-Unfriendly Aesop where the theme seems to be "If You Just Say No, Drug Dealers will Kill You, Unless Chuck Norris is There To Protect You."
- Justified in The Wire, when Police Captain Colvin cruises up to a corner crew of drug dealers, causing a dealer to mistake him for a hesitant customer. The shocked Colvin gives increasingly less subtle clues that he's a cop, but the dealer keeps trying to make a sale. Finally, when Colvin puts on his police cap, the kid figures it out and scampers off. This trope was Truth in Television for Baltimore, at least, at the time. Dealers would scatter free heroin along the sidewalk to fish for new customers and keep junkies hooked.
- Wayne Brady is on on the Chappelle's Show episode with him, with scenes right out of Training Day. "This ain't no damn after-school special! SMOKE IT!"
- Tom Lehrer's tribute to a "lovable old character" who had "never been properly recognized in song", The Old Dope Peddler:
He gives the kids free samples, / Because he knows full well / That today's young innocent faces / Will be tomorrow's clientele.
- Since it inspired an alt-title for this page, Steppenwolf did a song, "The Pusher", about the evils of drug-pushers. Recorded in 1968, and cannot possibly be taken as anything other than an example of this trope: "God Damn the Pusher Man".
- Paranoia adventure Send in the Clones. When the PCs meet Hall-Y-Wud-5, he'll try to hook them on the drug he pushes, co-cola. He'll persuade them to try it with a sales pitch, and will offer them a free taste ("First hit is no charge.").
- In the post cyberpunk RPG "Fates Worse Than Death", the Drug Lords have recently managed (after years of hard work) to produce the "holy grail" of illegal street drugs: a drug that is dirt cheap to create, is instantly addictive, and has no effects whatsoever except for absolutely horrible withdrawal symptoms. No more of this tedious "convincing people to buy drugs" crap: their pushers just grab you while you walk down the street, give you one injection, and from that point on you have to pay them ridiculous prices to avoid the withdrawal symptoms of doom.
- Closely related - the Bad Idea Bears in Avenue Q exist solely to try to push other characters into having more sex and alcohol.
- Kingdom of Loathing has A Suspicious Looking Guy, who gives you a free sample of "Goofballs", which boost your stats for a while, but make your parents worry about you. If you don't keep taking them, you suffer Goofball Withdrawal, which is one of the worst (Non-) Standard Status Effects in the game. Each time you go back for more, the price goes up. Aside from getting you addicted, and then price-gouging you, he's not particularly aggressive.
- And spoofed roughly five times a year, when because it's "Halloween" and you knocked on his door looking for "sweet treats" he's giving out free "candy" (meaning "sugar" and "artificial flavors" to get you all "buzzed") all night! (They're Rock Pops, and perfectly fine for you if you don't follow up by drinking cola.)
- In Fallout 2, Jet was specifically engineered to be extremely addictive (as well as produce a short high, so customers would need to buy more). However, the dealers aren't particularily pushy, since the client base in the three areas it can be found (New Reno, The Den and Redding) are well-established. However, if you take on the quest to solve the Jet-overdose murder of Chris Wright, his father will insist that the boy was forced to take the drug; he's vehemently anti-drugs, has made his stance clear to his whole family, and refuse to even consider the alternative of his son doing it voluntarily. It's never revealed how it played out, but since the Jet canister was intentionally poisoned to guarantee death, whoever provided it likely wouldn't have taken no for an answer.
- A huge Massive Multiplayer Crossover inspirational film Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue including Garfield, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Smurfs, ALF, Winnie the Pooh, Slimer from The Real Ghostbusters, Bugs Bunny, DuckTales (1987), Alvin and The Chipmunks, and Muppet Babies was create to combat this enemy, which included a foreword from George H. W. Bush. It's always fun when a sitting president has to talk about a show featuring Smurfs, especially one that clearly didn't know what a Smurf was five minutes before they turned the camera on.
- Avoided in the Jem and The Holograms episode "Alone Again", with Bobby Braddock, a sweet-talking drug dealer.
- The public service announcements for the G.I. Joe cartoon had aggressive criminals. Two kids home alone, revealing over the phone that they are home alone. A stranger's car drives up to the house...and drives off when noticing the Joe soldier Roadblock, a tall bald black man in a skimpy top, standing on the lawn. Fridge Logic kicked in years later.
- What? That they left because you can't sell drugs to what appears to be a meth lab, and Roadblock was the lookout.
- Then there was the Very Special Episode two-parter that had the Joes and Cobras team up in an Enemy Mine scenario against an eeevilll drug dealer known as the Headman, who dressed like the Hamburglar and had gotten family members of both Joes and Cobras hooked on his stuff. Apparently, drugs are so bad that even an organization committed to genocidal acts of terrorism and once created a clone made from the DNA of Genghis Khan and Hitler will gladly embark on a crusade to stop them.
- What? That they left because you can't sell drugs to what appears to be a meth lab, and Roadblock was the lookout.
- Spoofed, skewered, and danced on in the Clone High episode "Raisin the Stakes: A Rock Opera in Three Acts". The eeeevil "Pusher" causes the entire student body to get addicted to (wait for it) ...smoking raisins.
- In an episode of Captain Planet, the villain Verminous Skumm was a dealer of a highly addictive drug called "bliss", had some people resort to stealing to get the drug, and he encouraged them to take it and wouldn't accept no for an answer. Eventually, the drug leads to the death of Linka's cousin.
- A few of these have shown up on various World's Wildest Police Videos specials, with one infamously latching on to the undercover cop's car as she drove away. These dealers are usually extremely amped up on their own product. Notice that they get caught.
- A common mistake for undercover cops trying to make a sale for an arrest, both from seeing this trope in the media and for the same reason the more stupid actual dealers do it - lack of an existing social network that would facilitate more discreet and less aggressive sales tactics, and confusion of aggression and pestering with salesmanship.
- The Opium Wars in the mid-19th century saw the entire British Empire acting as an Aggressive Drug Dealer. Various parties (up-and-coming young officials, angry youths, general xenophobes) took on two occasions to enforcing existing anti-drug laws set down by the crumbling administration by way of legally grey action and violence in the trade ports open to foreign merchants. The traders (technically smugglers) operated under the British East India Company and had long looked for something other than precious metals to sell to Chinese traders in exchange for tea, china, and silk to maximise their profits (full holds all the way, you see). The answer, of course, was opium, grown relatively inexpensively in India.
This was not the first time private enterprise pressured the Empire into taking up arms in the name of its own national interests, and it was not the last. The British and their Allies won then-incredible victories, and forced a number of trading concessions upon the Chinese Empire, chiefly the opening of more ports to foreigners and the lease of Hong Kong. Effectively, Britain only stopped being a pushy drug dealer when law and order broke down in China so much that domestic opium was cheaper than British imports, something not true of more sophisticated products like coal, steel, china, cutlery, etc.
- Funnily enough, the depiction of the Taliban as evil drug dealers fits entirely with the trope - afghan opium production was banned by them in 2000, decreasing the production by 94%. Only after their fall did the trade bloom again, in 2006 yielding 76% of the world's supply.
- Burma. The much-sanctioned Junta's number one source of revenue is, you guessed it, drugs. Specifically, opium. They oversee its cultivation using their various armed forces, naturally.
- The drug-laced lollipops mentioned in one urban legend. These are not to be confused with Actiq and its generic counterparts, which are fentanyl-laced lollipops used as painkillers in pediatric oncology. (Although the odd Actiq gets abused from time to time, messing with anything containing fentanyl (an opioid much, much more powerful than morphine) is almost always a bad idea; just ask anyone who survived something like the China white scare, where a fentanyl analogue was sold as heroin and quite a few junkies died of what they thought was a modest dose.)
- It's an urban myth that pimps do this to keep their prostitutes from leaving them, simply because purchasing drugs eats into their profits. However, there are plenty of prostitutes who work to support a drug habit.
- Apparently, these actually do exist at the middle school level when kids are most susceptible to pressure. Sometimes with "free samples."
- Of course, it tends to not stay free forever, which might explain why it nearly isn't as common in real life as the media would make it out to be. Drug dealers don't want to "push this junk on kids" just For the Evulz. They're doing it to make money, and kids have very little money of their own. It's a lot more likely to occur at the high school and college level, where the pressure is very similar but disposable income is more likely.