Karyn Kusama Channels Horror Background With Chilling Abortion Rights Ad for Planned Parenthood
As the countdown to the 2022 midterm elections reaches the six-week mark, Planned Parenthood Votes and Planned Parenthood Action Fund are rallying voters to cast their ballots in favor of abortion rights with the debut of a 60-second commercial spot called “Your Voice.”
Directed by Karyn Kusama, known for her work in the horror genre on features like “Jennifer’s Body” and “The Invitation,” the video capitalizes on the fears of modern reality — like absence of bodily autonomy and political brainwashing — in a post-Roe v. Wade society. The spot is Kusama’s first-ever commercial gig.
“I never really believed in the mission of, honestly, selling products,” Kusama tells Variety. “But this was more about a fundamental idea. This was about bringing an idea, a state of mind, a snapshot of reality to average viewers — regular viewers — across a very broad spectrum of people and across a broad spectrum of beliefs.”
“I wasn’t selling cornflakes,” she continues. “I was selling the idea of, you know, what does a democracy look like if half of its citizens aren’t free? That’s not a democracy.”
The commercial opens with a young woman anxiously confiding in her mother that she’s pregnant as the television blares with political discourse in the background. Though the mother’s initial response to her daughter’s news is accepting, she is soon possessed by the voices of the on-screen politicians, insisting that her daughter doesn’t have the right to decide what to do with her body.
When the mother comes to, the young woman declares her choice to have an abortion as her own — rather than that decision being in the hands of a politician.
Though the script was largely written prior to Kusama signing on, she says the overall production was a collaborative process between her and Planned Parenthood to most effectively blend the story’s visceral message with Kusama’s stylistic vision.
The commercial stars two women of color, a casting choice Kusama said was intentional to emphasize the disproportionate impact of Roe v. Wade’s reversal on this demographic.
“There were a bunch of different factors that went into the fact this spot would have its broadest access in eight swing states,” Kusama says. “We really wanted to reach people who maybe wouldn’t be voting this November, because maybe they didn’t feel like any of the issues or the candidates spoke to them.”
As a wife and mother of one, Kusama relates to the commercial’s message on a level much deeper than the aesthetic, especially given her own experience utilizing Planned Parenthood’s services in her youth.
“When I was in New York City going to college and kind of on my own for the first time, the only place I could get non-judgmental reproductive health care was Planned Parenthood,” Kusama says.
“Essentially Planned Parenthood became my healthcare of choice for my younger adult years,” she continued. “And I just felt like, if I, as a relatively educated person living in a big city felt like that was one of my only options, I can’t even imagine what it means to be in some of the states where now reproductive healthcare has just been decimated.”
“Your Voice” is part of the $50 million “Take Control” advocacy program, which serves to support political pundits on the ballot this November who have affirmed their stances on equitable sexual and reproductive health care. The investments will largely be poured into states where access to these amenities is either poised to be banned or further restricted.
Girl Culture Films, a company that specializes in bringing A-list female directors on to commercial productions, both produced the spot and oversaw post-production alongside The Mill, Cabin Editing Company and CAYA Music & Sound.
Watch the spot below.
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