The photo above depicts an interesting theme of American anthropology of bodies and bio-politics. A cartoon woman dressed in vintage attire wears the words “Prozac PEZ” on her shirt as she smiles and holds out her PEZ dispenser full of Prozac. Nowadays, big corporations seem to have gotten more “creative” with their many different ways of coming up with advertisements, trying to lure consumers in with phrases like, “ready to be happy?” Prozac is a “selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant.” It affects chemicals in the brain that could potentially become imbalanced and cause depression, panic, anxiety, or obsessive- compulsive symptoms. The bigger issue is the many people in America today being diagnosed with depression and other symptoms and the creation of chemically filled pills in attempt to ease our pains. Many people have become so reliant on these chemicals we ingest daily to help us fit the “norm” society has set before us. This brings to light Emily Martin’s 2006 essay The Pharmaceutical Person, which she argues, “What kind of a person would we be when the only way we can cope with situations is through a chemical?” Any type of pill, capsule or tablet these days contain many different chemicals that most people neglect or fail to research before ingesting. “Pills are split into good parts: the bad parts with their negative meanings can thus be displaced to the side and kept out of awareness, or so it might seem” (Martin 274). Like most indulgences in life we tend to focus on the good effects of a product versus it’s bad effects. In essence, what one doesn’t know can’t kill them. Or can it? I imagine that although these pills seem to alleviate our pains at the time, it cannot be very good for our bodies in the long- run.
Furthermore, behind these pharmaceutical brand names lie the major pharmaceutical companies that allow advertisements like this to be commercialized. Similarly, Martin describes her encounters with a major pharmaceutical company and how they go about advertising their products. In one of her interviews with the CEO of an advertising agency who is about to launch a prescription drug to begin as a commodity on the market, he discusses with her the mentality they have when creating their clever, but obvious advertisements: “We want to get an idea of, if this drug was a person, what kind of person would it be? What would they look like, what do they feel like?” (Martin 275). I don’t know what I find more disturbing, the fact that we are guilty of being this pharmaceutical person or finding out the people we purchase these products from intentionally put these perceptions of happiness and normality in our minds to make us believe that by ingesting these chemicals we can be these ideal things. Advertising agencies “make plain, the overwhelming emphasis is on how the pill, whether thought of as person- like or not, can make the consumer a better person, an enhanced person or, more precisely, more like the person they really are without the interference of a mental disorder” (Martin 276). I agree with Martin and found her essay to be quite fitting of the photo above. I think it depicts the people who fall into these categories of mental or physical disabilities who look for pills offering “happiness” in order to live a normative lifestyle.
This photo brings to light an issue of pill dependency and the politics behind it. It almost seems like a cycle we can’t stop or the universe will be unbalanced. In Martin’s essay she describes a few of her interviewees who are all diagnosed with different mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, and obsessive- compulsive and so forth. In her interviews she includes each of their prescriptions which include amounts of various x- drugs prescribed a certain amount at a certain time of day, but prescribed EVERYDAY. The problem being that the more medications prescribed, the more extreme the initial symptoms worsened due to side effects. These are the things that are most important that we ignore along with “black box labels” and how companies would rather us not pay so much attention to detail in these facts. The doctors were said to have changed their prescriptions around substituting one chemical for another. We’ve disregarded what kinds of potential harm we could be doing to our bodies by giving into these chemicals. Interestingly enough, it seems we’ve succumb to pharmaceuticals and it’s “power” to give people the illusion that these chemicals could potentially make one “feel happier”, but it’s important to remember that “feeling happier” doesn’t necessarily mean one is happy. When the chemicals fade away we’re left with side effects and the expectancy to get something more suitable due to the body’s tolerance. This ad makes me think of the thousands maybe millions of people in the world who have problems with being too dependent on pharmaceuticals who have no idea of the harms they are doing to their bodies. Essentially, until we realize that we can overcome these “mental disorders” without pharmaceuticals, advertisements like this will run freely throughout the world.
Emily Martin, “The Pharmaceutical Person” (2006)