I felt ill after watching TV on Sunday night.
No, I wasn’t watching reruns of Fear Factor, although I agree that show was enough to nauseate anyone. It was the commercials that got me.
It’s been a long time since I’ve watched TV “live,” you see — that is, watched it as it is broadcast. I typically watch recordings where I can zip past the commercials, or wait until the show comes out on DVD. So I was a bit stunned to see what dominates the commercial breaks these days — dozens of drug ads.
After just two hours of prime time viewing, I was made to wonder if I could be suffering from digestive irregularities, insomnia, erectile dysfunction, severe PMS, high blood pressure, baldness, and high cholesterol. I found this very depressing — and of course, there’s a drug for that too.
The ads all seem to follow a formula that goes something like this:
VOICEOVER: Sometimes it’s hard to (get enough sleep/eat right/grow hair/use a phone)
[montage of tired middle class people struggling through their day]
VOICEOVER: We don’t always get (the support we need/enough beer/the right answer for the crossword puzzle).
[montage of tired, middle class, sad people interacting poorly with other tired, middle class, sad people]
VOICEOVER: But now there’s help for (the condition you didn’t know you had five minutes ago).
[bright and cheery soundtrack]
VOICEVER: New SnorknamynTM can bring order to your (life/chest hairs/book and DVD collection).
[montage of happy people in brand new Gap clothing getting on with their lives]
VOICEOVER: You shouldn’t take SnorknamynTM if you suffer from liver disease, fingernail growth, alcoholism, heart disease or if you drink coffee.
[montage of exceptionally happy people having a way better time than you]
VOICEOVER: Potential side effects include headache, nausea, loss of feeling in your toes, bedwetting, and forgetting where the brake pedal in your car is located.
[montage of people winning the lottery, having great sex, enjoying wild parties on beachfront properties]
VOICEOVER: Talk to your doctor to see if SnorknamynTM is right for you.
Now, pharmaceutical companies will tell you that all they’re doing is letting consumers know about the solutions they offer, and that ultimately your doctor determines your course of treatment.
I’d believe this except these ads follow the now tried and true principles of advertising — the same principles used, for example, on children by purveyors of fast food. They are:
1) Your life sucks.
2) It will suck less if you buy our stuff. All the cool kids are doing it.
3) Go drive mom and dad insane until they let you do (2).
Don’t get me wrong, some of the conditions advertised are quite serious. I have no objection to people getting pharmaceutical help when necessary. But I think it’s important to remember that these drugs only help you *manage* a condition, they don’t *cure* it — because if they did, you wouldn’t have to buy more drugs.
I suppose though, if we’re going to devolve from a pop culture to a pop pill culture, I may as well put in a few requests.
For example, I have this chronic laundry problem. Everywhere I look, there’s dirty laundry. There’s got to be a pill for this.
Or how about a pill to deal with the dust in your house? Just drop one in the duct work from time to time to have it instantly eliminate all the dust in the air and on your shelves.
I could also do with a drug to deal with bad hair days. In fact, I’d pay a lot of money for a pill that gave me Eva Longoria’s hair.
Oooh! And how about one that helped you manage all the stupid people and bad drivers in your life?
And what about… Come to think of it, my life does kind of suck.
There’s a lot that’s not perfect.
Now I’m really depressed.
Pass the Prozac, would you?