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Every actor has to start somewhere, so it's not a surprise to learn that most of the current crop of A-list celebrities began their careers in TV commercials and guest spots on sitcoms. But then there are the actors who got their starts peddling outrageous viewpoints in insane pieces of propaganda designed to steer children away from, among other things, the dangers of role-playing games and premarital sex ...

5
Tom Hanks Starred In A Fear-Mongering TV Movie About Tabletop RPGs

Warner Bros.

In 1982, a promising young actor named Tom Hanks nailed his first movie role: a made-for-TV drama called Mazes And Monsters, which was basically Reefer Madness applied to tabletop role-playing games.

Warner Bros.
"I can't promise as many cock shots as Labyrinth, but by god, there will be peeing."

For context, during the "Satanic panic" of the 1980s, it was a popular fear that every kids' hobby, from music to comic books, was driving them into the arms of the Dark Lord. One of the targets of this fear was Dungeons & Dragons, the tabletop game in which people harmlessly pretend to be wizards and knights slaying imaginary orcs. Because only Satan would design a game wherein you have to throw tetrahedral shapes in order to correctly use your imagination.

In the film, Hanks plays a kid named Robbie who becomes so obsessed with pen-and-paper RPGs that he quickly loses his grip on reality, eventually believing himself to be an actual paladin and suffering hallucinations of a Roger-Corman-style rubber monster suit he calls the Gorvil.


Look, it's a made-for-TV movie; they had to cut some corners on character names.

Things get even more out of hand when Robbie gets mugged in the street, then stabs his assailant because he thinks he's being attacked by the Gorvil (although stabbing someone who is trying to mug you is not entirely out of line).

Warner Bros.
"I attack with my Dagger of a Thousand Shankings!"

After the incident, Robbie goes completely off the deep end and decides to get away from everything by leaping off the World Trade Center and using a spell to fly to his fantasy dimension. (Reminder: This will not work.) The scene in which his friends confront him on the roof is without a doubt the greatest moment in Tom Hanks' entire acting career:


"Remember kids: D&D is the devil, and profound psychiatric issues can be cured with the power of hugs."

Unfortunately, Robbie is never able to break out of his delusion. Such is the strength of tabletop gaming's evil. Thus, he's doomed to wander mindlessly around his parents' estate for the rest of his life, mentally trapped in his made-up fantasy world. And the film would have us believe that this is what will happen to your kids if you recklessly allow them to play Dungeons & Dragons. A movie showing the entire high school calling Robbie and his friends giant nerdlingers probably would have been more effective.

Warner Bros.
"What's in the box? What's in the box??!"
*rolls d20*

4
Ben Affleck Was In A Cheesy PSA About Roid Rage

HBO

In the early 1990s, HBO aired their own gritty reboot of ABC Afterschool Special called Lifestories: Families In Crisis. Each episode focused on alarming issues facing the day's teens that parents had no idea they should be panicking about. One 1994 episode, "A Body To Die For: The Aaron Henry Story," was about a high school football player who abuses steroids. The role was cast with a then-unknown Ben Affleck. He would go on to play minor variations of this character for the rest of his career.

HBO
The first documented moment of "Affleckting."

Aaron Henry was a real student who was hospitalized with severe health problems after constantly abusing steroids over the course of four years. The HBO adaptation took some major liberties with the true story by reducing the time scale to a few weeks and replacing Henry's chronic and debilitating organ damage with something that's easier to show in a visual medium: roid rage.

Soon after starting his new career as a steroid junkie, Henry starts losing his temper at random intervals, like Bruce Banner with an ingrown toenail. In one scene, he flips out and stomps the shit out of a rival jock (played by a young Abraham Ford from The Walking Dead).


His tantrums only escalate from there, to the point where, upon catching his girlfriend going through his performance enhancer stash, he punches her and then destroys his bedroom in a fit of melodramatic violence that would be matched only by the Internet after it heard that this man would be playing Batman

HBO
"I'M SO EXCITED, I'M SO EXCITED!"

Like most alarmist propaganda, the movie didn't accurately portray the issue it warned about. According to experts, "roid rage" isn't really a thing that exists -- at least, not in the sense that it turns normally meek people into aggressive monsters. People suffering from the rage are most likely already aggressive, but can do more damage due to the fact that they're mega-jacked now.

Of course, if the show had presented the real cost of steroids, Affleck would have spent most of the running time lying in a hospital bed with his kidneys and spleen bleeding into his abdomen and his testicles shriveled to the size of California Raisins. Which, while arguably way more shocking and definitely the more responsible lesson to teach young teenagers, wouldn't have made for nearly as good of an episode of television.

20th Century Fox
Plus, his side dong in Gone Girl wouldn't have been anywhere as tantalizing.

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3
Fred Willard Acted In A Sleazy Cautionary Tale About Teen Pregnancy

Cinematic Industries, Inc.

Comedian Fred Willard, of Anchorman and This Is Spinal Tap fame, has had a long career playing "that guy" in a whole bunch of comedy movies and sitcoms. He's even "that guy" in WALL-E.

Now here's the trailer for Fred Willard's film debut, the 1967 movie Teenage Mother, which billed itself as "the most important film you will ever see." It's most assuredly not a comedy ... at least, not intentionally.


Sort of like how whacking yourself in the balls isn't intentionally funny.

Teenage Mother was the '60s version of Juno without the colorful dialogue. It was part exploitation film and part public service announcement, warning teenagers about the dangers of sex before marriage. Willard stars as a high school coach (because he was never a teenager, not even 48 years ago) who announces that the school is making the "experimental" decision to hire a woman as a teacher. This was a controversial concept in the '60s.


He would make up for it a few years later by starring in a sensitivity training video entitled "Working With Broads And Colored Fellas"

Willard's character later saves the lady teacher, Miss Peterson, from getting raped by her students. According to Willard, the audience at one screening booed his character for interrupting a sex scene, because those who go see movies are the kind of people who keep rewarding the Transformers series with billions of dollars.

In the end, Teenage Mother was a confusing, slapped-together piece of work full of mixed messages. It was supposed to serve as a PSA about teen pregnancy, but the twist at the climax was that the teenage girl was faking her pregnancy all along. And then the movie ends with graphic footage of a real birth. But Willard took his first acting classes to prepare for the role, so in a weird way, we have Teenage Mother to thank for the entirety of his film career.

2
Gene Hackman Starred In A Nuclear Scare Film

United States Office of Civil Defense

If you didn't live through the Cold War during the 1950s and '60s (and chances are you didn't), it's hard to comprehend how terrified people were about the possibility of a nuclear holocaust. In 1967, the United States Office of Civil Defense organized an instructional film about what to do in the event of a nuclear strike against the USA. And to deliver this message, they hired a rising star in Hollywood: future two-time Oscar-winning actor Gene Hackman. Although at this point in his career, Hackman had only done a few years of television, which is presumably why he agreed to be in a video for the Office of Civil Defense.

In the 20-minute PSA, Hackman plays the role of a regional Civil Defense officer tasked with explaining to a skeptical American public how to respond to a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union, which the video contends was all but a certainty:


"No no, this just applies to you poor people. My bunker is way nicer. And in orbit."

You know that Hackman's character has his shit together because he has charts -- something which dazzles his colleagues, who repeatedly comment on how outstanding they are. If he had brought a PowerPoint presentation, we assume everyone in the room would've simply combusted with joy and admiration.

United States Office of Civil Defense
"Do you want to see my transparencies?"
"Ohhhhh Gooooood ... I-- I need a smoke."

Of course, a lot of the information presented in the film is intended less as genuine advice and more as lip service to placate an already frightened population. For example, to avoid radiation, Hackman's character advises building a pile of junk against your door. Apparently, old magazines can absorb waves of scalding atomic death.

United States Office of Civil Defense
In the aftermath, only the hoarders were left.

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1
Seann William Scott Acted In A Bizarrely Racist Web Series About Teen Homosexuality

Digital Entertainment Network

Back in 1998, a multimedia company called Digital Entertainment Network decided to make a web series, which was virtually unheard of at the time. The idea they went with to explore this new frontier of entertainment was Chad's World, a hard-hitting drama that dealt with issues of teen homosexuality. One of the actors brought on board the project was Seann William Scott, a year before he would rocket to superstardom as Stifler, the only character anyone remembers from American Pie besides Eugene Levy.

Digital Entertainment Network
Or Jeremy Piefucker.

Scott played Jim, the boyfriend of the brother of the eponymous Chad (there is a complex web of relationships in this Internet pilot). The plot follows the suicide of Chad's best friend, Paul. Paul was also gay, and his ragingly homophobic father drove him to shoot himself in the head. Without missing a beat, Paul's father says, "It's for the best." This is all shot in the highest production quality the '90s Internet could offer.


*buffering*

In what we're sure were the filmmakers' best intentions, the episode then introduces Scott's character, a wealthy businessman who for some reason has an army of muscular black henchmen at his disposal. He decides to respond to Paul's death by ordering his black guy army to beat the shit out of Paul's dad, which is the point where this show transitions from "serious exploration of gay teen issues" to "borderline racist revenge fantasy."

Digital Entertainment Network
to "setup for Stifler / Richard Branson slashfic".

The show never made it past the pilot, but you can watch it in full on YouTube if you're so inclined (it even breaks part of the way through for an endorsement by Ellen DeGeneres). In an unsettling turn of events, the creator of Chad's World was later convicted for molesting children, which is probably at least one reason Seann William Scott doesn't include the show on his resume while leaving ample room for Evolution.

Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row, and recently won a "Best Screenplay" Award for the short film Indefinite Late Fee.

For more questionable career choices, check out The 5 Most Ill-Advised Celebrity Endorsements Ever and 5 Insane Celebrity Product Endorsements By Historic Figures.

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