Richard Linklater told a very specific kind of Texas story over the past dozen years in Boyhood, but his interest in documenting a chunk of a lifetime on camera extends beyond his Best Picture-nominated film. And we’re not just talking about the Before Sunrise/Before Sunset/Before Midnight series he’s filmed with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy every nine years since 1995 (we’re already camping out for tickets to Before Lunchtime in 2022!). No, the conceit behind a new PSA that Linklater made and stars in for PETA is that, every five years since he went vegetarian in 1985, he’s sat down in front of the camera to espouse the joys of the meat-free lifestyle.
PETA is a controversial organization for a few reasons—not the least of which is their history of sexist, tasteless, mean-spirited, and offensive ads. In this instance, though, Linklater certainly softens any of those edges in favor of an advocacy of vegetarianism that should surprise no one who saw the director’s Fast Food Nation.
The spot is funny: Linklater’s eye for detail is in full effect with the Marty McFly outfit he wears in 1985 (and check out the Nintendo controller and ViewMaster in the background), and the things on his desk update throughout, to keep with the times. He also makes a strong case for how to be a vegetarian in Texas. (“People say to me, ‘You’re from Texas, how can you be a vegetarian there?’ I say, ‘It’s easy! It’s Texas. We have everything. And it’s bigger. Bigger vegetables. Bigger fruit. The best. Because it’s Texas.’”)
It’s unlikely that many of the BBQ afficianados among us are going to be swayed by Linklater’s push for more Texans to become vegetarians, but at the very least, this is one PETA ad that shouldn’t offend anybody—except, perhaps, those pushing the Birdman Oscar campaign.