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Elizabeth Banks Defends 12-Year-Olds Ingesting Coke In 'Cocaine Bear' After Conservative Outrage

The director is speaking out after a scene from the R-rated action-comedy in which two 12-year-olds have a run-in with the white powder has conservatives wringing their hands.

The main child actors in "Cocaine Bear"
Universal Pictures

Director Elizabeth Banks was forced to respond to conservative criticisms about a scene from her R-rated action-comedy Cocaine Bear depicting two 12-year-olds doing cocaine.

Banks—who has moved into filmmaking in recent years over a long and fruitful career in front of the camera—acknowledged the scene is "controversial" but said the scene was all about testing these characters' “innocence.”

Addressing the controversy in an interview with Variety, Banks said:

"It was definitely controversial."
“There were conversations about, should we age up these characters? We all kind of held hands, and we were like, ‘Guys, they’ve got to be 12.’ It’s their innocence being tested."
"That’s what was interesting to me about that scene.”

Christopher Miller, one of Banks' co-producers for the film, said “the naïveté of the kids” makes the scene “OK" and is "what makes it so tense and funny." He said the scene—one of many off-the-wall moments during a very tongue-in-cheek film, "doesn't work" if the characters aren't teenagers.

In fact, he added, the scene's strength lies in the fact that the characters are at "that age where you don’t know anything, but you want to pretend like you do."

Many have also defended the scene—and the film as a whole—while mocking the latest manufactured conservative outrage.

Shortly after the film's release, Slate reporter Nadira Goffe spoke with Andrew Stolbach—a toxicologist at Johns Hopkins and an emergency doctor on the board of directors at the American College of Medical Toxicology—"to fact-check the juvenile drug consumption" in the film.

Stolbach said that when ingesting or eating cocaine, as the kids in the film do, "you get about a third of the dose" and the drug's effects peak later. Overall, the effects of cocaine on children and adults are "similar," he said, adding that he expects kids in a real-life situation would become "sick" after eating it.

Cocaine Bear is a B-movie and soon-to-be cult favorite about a bear that goes on a killing spree after eating cocaine it discovers in the forest.

The film is only loosely based on true events: the real "Cocaine Bear" died in 1985 soon after eating cocaine that landed in a forest after a drug smuggler tossed his cargo overboard a self-piloted Cessna and died after his parachute failed to open.

The bear—also known as "Pablo Escobear"—was taxidermied and is on display at the Kentucky for Kentucky Fun Mall in Lexington, Kentucky.