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Will you wear a mask if Morgan Freeman asks you to? We’re about to find out

New York governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a national “Mask Up America” awareness campaign with spots directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow.

Will you wear a mask if Morgan Freeman asks you to? We’re about to find out

One of the weirder twists of the pandemic has been how the fear and anxiety around the global health crisis has only been equaled by a special brand of defiant ignorance that some have about wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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The memes and videos featuring screaming, maskless freedom fighters (often picking up a burger combo) would be hilarious if they weren’t so sad. Politicians such as Georgia governor Brian Kemp, meanwhile, are trying to play both sides by forbidding counties and cities to mandate masks, while encouraging people to wear masks.

Into this politically fraught climate comes a new, national awareness campaign from New York governor Andrew Cuomo called “Mask Up America.” (Not to be confused with Brian Fantana’s “Musk Up.”) The ads were created by Tribeca Enterprises CEO Jane Rosenthal, and directed by Oscar winner Kathryn Bigelow. The first two spots feature voiceovers by Morgan Freeman and Jeffrey Wright, with six more to follow starring Robert De Niro, Kaitlyn Dever, Jamie Foxx, John Leguizamo, Anthony Mackie, Rosie Perez, and Ellen Pompeo.

America is a nation divided, but if there’s one thing it can agree on, it’s that a Morgan Freeman voiceover makes anything better. It’s like the uncle you’ve always wanted, asking you for an easy favor. It’s a voice that made you care about the sociopolitical spectrum of penguins, that embodied the Almighty, that helped inspire Andy Dufresne to bust out of Shawshank.

And now it’s asking you to just wear a mask.

Jeffrey Wright has a similarly convincing, molasses-dipped voice, and here he utilizes it to point out that wearing a mask isn’t actually a big ask. Can you imagine if some of these anti-mask freedom fighters had been asked to ration food during World War II? That’s tough. This is a small piece of cloth on your face.

The “New York Tough” bit is fun but maaaay appear like a middle finger to the rest of the country in a national campaign. That said, the mix of gruff common sense with celebrity backing is an intriguing one.

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Meanwhile, in California . . .

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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