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Narrative Magic and the Construction of Selfhood in Antidepressant Advertising

Narrative Magic and the Construction of Selfhood in Antidepressant Advertising

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Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society

http://bst.sagepub.com Narrative Magic and the Construction of Selfhood in Antidepressant Advertising
Jeffrey N. Stepnisky Bulletin of Science Technology Society 2007; 27; 24 DOI: 10.1177/0270467606295973 The online version of this article can be found at: http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/27/1/24

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Downloaded from http://bst.sagepub.com by Gerard Stan on November 26, 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. All rights reserved. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.

and online promotional Web sites. 82). It’s about defining a condition [social anxiety disorder] as well as to promote the Paxil name” (as quoted in Goetzl. advertising television and print campaign cost $30 million in 1999 (Goetzl.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. Since that time. In their study of popular magazine accounts of Prozac. pharmaceutical companies have explicitly marketed psychiatric conditions to expand the demand for antidepressant medications. Antidepressant advertising has also been a medium for the transmission of psychiatric ideas to the general public. Waterloo. The sample consists of advertisements that appeared in nine popular magazines between 1997 and 2005. Technology & Society Vol. Since 2000. as David Healy (1997) shows. Simon. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the past 5 years has seen a steady increase in the number of prescriptions written for antidepressant medications. For example. . No. SSRIs and SNRIs2 have been the second most highly prescribed medication the United States. February 2007. The analysis is divided into three sections. they use the term diagnostic bracket creep to argue that between 1985 and 2000 the perceived uses of Prozac S ince 1997. Marc Worman of McCann-Erikson Consumer Health says. when American-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly launched its first major direct to consumer advertising campaign for Prozac. At the same time. psychiatry. antidepressants. information exchange. and $75 million in 2003 (Adweek. First.Narrative Magic and the Construction of Selfhood in Antidepressant Advertising Jeffrey N. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. or jump over. 2003). television commercials that ran between 2003 and 2005. . 1999. 2004). inexplicable and painful moments in their life.3 In 2000. self. narrative. and in 2004. Keywords: selfhood. 1. & Watt. UpJohn Pharmaceuticals promoted the formerly unknown and undiagnosed psychiatric condition panic disorder. antidepressants are medications that allow individuals to put aside. I am also grateful to George Ritzer for comments on an earlier draft and Michelle Meagher for numerous insights and help in bringing this article to completion.1177/0270467606295973 Copyright © 2007 Sage Publications Downloaded from http://bst.1 The importance of advertising to the pharmaceutical industry is indicated by the vast sums of money spent on advertisements. 2004).sagepub. Bulletin of Science. Following philosopher Jacqueline Zita (1998). . All rights reserved. SmithKline Beecham’s Paxil AUTHOR’S NOTE: I thank Tim Blackmore and an anonymous reviewer for their very constructive and encouraging feedback on this article.” 2002). Speaking about SmithKline Beecham’s antidepressant Paxil. the author describes antidepressants as pills that perform a narrative “magic. 1999) and $65. p. this number was 147 million (IMS Health. 24-36 DOI: 10. Metzl and Angel (2004) have also traced the entry of psychiatric language into everyday life.1 million in 2002 (“Ad Groups Protest Ruling on Paxil. 2003). it is argued that the ads rely on metaphors of communication. antidepressant advertisements have circulated widely in magazines. $51 million in 2002 (Sanders & Thomaselli. and plenitude to construct a relationship between biology and selfhood. the ads grant individuals a new capacity for the exercise of personal agency. Canada This article examines the way in which selfhood is constructed in direct-to-consumer advertisements for antidepressant medications. on television. Third. in offering the choice for antidepressant treatment. and through the Internet. In some cases. “This isn’t just about creating a competitive preference for a brand.” In contrast to religious and psychoanalytic narratives that required individuals to incorporate disavowed elements of their selves into an ongoing life narrative. Second. in the 1980s. 27. . Eli Lilly spent $15 million to $20 million on its 1997-1998 Prozac print campaign (Gilbody. 2000). Stepnisky Wilfrid Laurier University. 98 million prescriptions for SSRIs/SNRIs were filled (IMS Health. The campaign for Pfizer’s Zoloft cost $50 million in 2000. panic disorder has become a part of everyday parlance and regular psychiatric diagnosis.

and promotional materials. 1998). pharmaceutical advertisements. 1989). and continues to be. All rights reserved. Prozac is perceived as a medication that treats problems with “marriage. Beyond the promotion of new disease types and psychiatric terminologies. With this in mind. Rose. and sustained through technologies such as antidepressant medications. the self was something constructed through language and narrative. antidepressant ads do more than appeal to familiar and longstanding aspirations of selves.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 25 has expanded from a narrow set of DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) diagnostic categories to an increasingly vague range of everyday problems and worries. and. 1998. is perceived as a medication that treats problems with ‘aggression’” (Zita. a feeling of emptiness and anomie (Cushman. 1998. motherhood. my analysis turns to the advertisements to flesh out the features of these new kinds of stories and the selfhoods that they make available Downloaded from http://bst. and menstruation” (Zita. antidepressant medications promise the restoration of whole and complete selfhood and relief. the purpose of this article is to analyze antidepressant advertisements.” The concept of selfhood is framed through biological languages. Given that selfhood has been. and the technological construction of sexuality and embodiment (Mamo & Fishman. Indeed. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Now the psychoanalytic and psychosocial views are all but displaced. and biological psychiatry dominates both clinical practice and the popular imagination. and self-control. and older aspirations. The story of “our struggle to tell the story of my life” is replaced by the story of “my struggle to understand my medicine. p. Furthermore. desires. it does not take selfhood as a focus of analysis in itself. for the purpose of discerning the way that selfhood is depicted and articulated with biological conceptions of psychiatric disease. people become selves with others as they position themselves within the shared stories of time and place. this article provides a narrative analysis of antidepressant advertisements and the construction of selfhood. and John Falk’s (2005) Hello to All That each depict a kind of subjectivity that is constructed not through other people but through Prozac and Zoloft. the biomedical era witnesses the growing importance of relationships between individuals and psychiatric technologies. D. expression of one’s authentic being. by biological default as it were.sagepub. and how do these articulate with larger transformations in the conceptualizations and practice of selfhood? In recent years. In these biomedical stories. if not cure. 582). In this article. Elizabeth Wurtzel’s (1997) Prozac Nation. In these perspectives. p. the idea of selfhood has become a central feature of everyday life—a prized accomplishment articulated with values such as dedication to family life. media representations of mental illness. How is selfhood and suffering constructed in antidepressant advertisements. 1992. 2004. from some of the most pressing dilemmas of everyday life. I argue that antidepressant advertisements acquire their significance and meaning through an appeal to these modern aspirations of the self. more generally. 582). and in the case of men it. . 2003). the pills become characters in their own right. Lupton. In this context. In the case of women. For Taylor. and visions of selfhood are realized. maintained. 2001). selves increasingly become biomedical selves—what N. What kinds of stories do antidepressant ads make available for the conceptualization and achievement of contemporary selfhoods? Charles Taylor (1989) has detailed the shifting languages of self in modern western cultures indicating both the historical and phenomenological significance of these changing meaning frames. an analysis of the relationship between antidepressant discourses and selfhood offers an important contribution to the literature. in the midst of an era populated by everyday risks and worries (Beck. or even psychiatrist and client. there have been a number of analyses of antidepressant advertisements. In place of relationships between analyst and the analyzed. 1997. Although this earlier research regularly touches on selfhood and subjectivity. people do not become selves automatically. the social construction of gender (Blum & Stracuzzi.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. The significance of this shift is best understood when we see that only 50 years ago the western cultural mindset was dominated by psychoanalytic and psychosocial conceptions of self and suffering. In the past 200 years. 2002). They also participate in a more general introduction of biological languages and technologies into everyday life. and efforts by governments and social agencies to individualize social problems (Beck & Beck-Gernshiem. and interpersonal engagement was central to the formulation and development not only of self-understanding but also of the capacity to be with other persons in the world. a powerful aspiration of modern and postmodern persons (Taylor. 1999). These studies have primarily focused on the representation and stigmatization of mental illness (Diefenbach.” It is telling that recent psychiatric memoirs and popular accounts of mental illness have focused on the relationship between persons and their medications. Rose (2003) calls “neurocehmical selves. Metzl. Rather. In particular. Lauren Slater’s (1998) Prozac Diary. 1990).

yet transforms.ad-rag. There were 21 different ads. I begin this analysis with a close look at the images and stories disseminated through Pfizer’s Zoloft campaign. or put aside. the Paxil (www. longstanding visions of selfhood. Serzone. that appeared 132 times across the years and magazines under review. and 2005). and Psychology Today. in particular emphasizing the idea of “narrative magic. 2004. I also focus on the structure of these antidepressant narratives. They list a set of symptoms characteristic of depression: tired all the time. religious and psychoanalytic narratives that sought to incorporate incomprehensible and disturbing experiences into the ongoing story of self. The ads also introduce symptoms that are open to wider interpretation: “when you’re not feeling like yourself” or “when you just don’t feel right” (an example of Zita’s [1998] diagnostic bracket creep. and physicians. 37). In contrast to. Reader’s Digest (8%). Paxil. The Zoloft ads use techniques found in most other antidepressant advertisements. Reader’s Digest. they also provide people with new forms of freedom and agency. I visited promotional Web sites for each of the advertised medications. is indicated throughout the article. Paxil.com) and Zoloft (www. The narrative perspective assumes that selfhood (whatever its particular articulation) is best realized when full attention is paid to the social and dialogical aspects of self-construction.4 I reviewed each issue of each magazine that was published between July 1997 and May 2005. Glamour. Zoloft.com). as well as its connections to consumer capitalism.paxilcr. The central failing of antidepressant ads is that they displace these dialogical and narrative dimensions with a kind of isolated atomism in which the dilemmas of the self are reduced to biological problems rather than the social and interpersonal dilemmas that critical sociologists regularly champion. The choice to take a medication (and to choose among the many options on the pharmaceutical market) is a choice for well-being and an important contemporary expression of agentic self-control. for example. (b) television commercials for antidepressants. For one. Men’s Health. throughout the analysis. Essence.5 Of the nine magazines reviewed. feeling sad and hopeless. and the medications that engage these biological materials become prominent players in this emerging story of selfhood. I started with 1997 because that was the year Eli Lilly began promoting Prozac through direct consumer advertising. neurotransmitters. checklists and self-quizzes. Furthermore. 2004. .com) Web sites were chosen for closer analysis. distressing components of their self. This individualizing impetus.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. even as the ads reconstruct selves through the language of biology and disease. and Wellbutrin were viewed through the online commercial archive Adland (www. All rights reserved. and one ad for Paxil (from 2004). anxiety. It was also the year that the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) relaxed regulations to allow promotion of prescription medications direct to consumers through television.6 There were no advertisements for antidepressants in Men’s Health or Psychology Today. Finally. the Zoloft campaign unifies this disparate set of elements under the common theme of depression. I highlight the new characters that antidepressant ads introduce into the story of self. antidepressants are presented as the kind of technology that allows people to skip over. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications.zoloft. for six different brand name medications (Prozac. Sports Illustrated. depression may be related to an imbalance Downloaded from http://bst. the ads inform the reader that this collection of symptoms point inward toward biological imbalance: “While the cause is unknown. advice on speaking to friends. Like other ads. descriptions of side effects).” This is a key concept for my analysis because it suggests the extent to which the biomedical view of self both grows out of. family. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. and Essence (5%). 2001. followed by Esquire (8%). I collected advertisements that appeared in all issues of nine popular magazines: Time. case studies and personal testimonies. The archive included five ads for Zoloft (from 2003. I gathered three kinds of material: (a) magazine advertisements for antidepressants. Linking Biology and Selfhood To conduct this analysis. or. Television advertisements for Zoloft. ads appeared most frequently in Glamour (25%). Furthermore. Finally. and Wellbutrin). Self. Time (19%). I rely on the narrative perspective for a critique of the vision of self adopted in the antidepressant ads.26 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. and (c) promotional materials for antidepressants including Internet Web sites. and not able to sleep. three ads for Wellbutrin (from 2003. in the case of one ad. Zoloft.sagepub. Esquire. Effexor. Self (19%). p. Brains. and 2005). and Sports Illustrated (16%). feeling anxious. posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Antidepressants are magical in the sense that they help people perform feats of self-completion that in other contexts would require exhaustive and challenging self-examination and narrative reconstruction.7 Although all of these Web sites contain the same basic elements (explanations of the biological science behind depression and antidepressants. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 for wider consumption.

It’s a real illness with real causes. The agency of the reader is in part constituted in relationship to the problems and solutions posed by this image as well as their significance for the reader’s own psychological well-being. In this manner. this technique affirms the biological basis of this disease type and attempts to squeeze out older psychosocial and folk interpretations of psychological suffering.) provides an exemplary account: Nerve cells in the brain and the rest of the nervous system use chemical messengers. the Zoloft campaign makes the “inner life” of biology available to readers to understand both the putative mechanism of antidepressant action and their own potential role in manipulating and managing neurotransmission. . the bubble cries in the moonlight or under a rain cloud. All antidepressant ads introduce the idea that depression or anxiety is a biological disease. . Zoloft blocks reuptake of the bubble neurotransmitters.]).d.” At one and the same time. The first image features a synaptic gap relatively empty of little bubbles: the neurotransmitters. When anxious.sagepub. The first point speaks for itself. When overcome by PTSD. The early ads featured the bubble in various states of distress. These brain states are not desirable in themselves but acquire their significance within larger social and cultural narratives. That’s not true” (Prozac. it is shaking and blushing in a spotlight or alienated from other more jubilant and gregarious bubbles. The Zoloft Web site (n. it is more explicit in other campaigns. this bubble has acquired something of a cult status. I will expand on the significance of Points b and c. The bubble has been the center of the Zoloft campaign since the ads started in 2001. Through this imagery. All rights reserved. depression as a slowing down of one’s life or anxiety as an inability to move forward). such as the first Prozac ads. One of these messengers is called serotonin. Many explicitly describe this as a problem in the serotonin. In deciphering this image. abstract world of the scientific laboratory and the world of everyday life. The tie between depression and serotonin led scientists to an interesting find [sic]. the Zoloft bubble is an ideal mediator because it can at one and the same time become (a) a little white pill. the ads introduce the now famous “bubble” character (examples of which can be viewed at www.zoloft. The Zoloft ads. The bubble character becomes an analogue for the neurotransmitters in the cartoon synaptic gap. we are already involved with this inner life. the Zoloft bubble is caught up in dilemmas defined within a biological narrative—it struggles to move across synaptic gaps and to complete a journey necessary to the functioning of the system as a whole.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 27 of naturally occurring chemicals between nerve cells in the brain. the synaptic gap is no longer an empty space but is filled with many bubbles. . It has become the subject of social satire (“Pfizer Launches ‘Zoloft for Everything’ Ad Campaign.g. A relationship to biology is also established in metaphors through which certain brain states become desired states. Indeed. it is haunted by a dark shadow figure. . pp. norepinephrine.com). Downloaded from http://bst. These messengers help cells send messages to each other. or dopamine systems. the act of taking an antidepressant is no longer an abstract enterprise. When depressed. In other words. the bubble also starts to double for the human agent. Indeed. however.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. but it is an activity that has material consequences visualized through the narrative of the Zoloft bubble. and in need of rejuvenation or direction. These panels tell a before-andafter biological story.” and “Some people think that you can just will yourself out of a depression. In the after picture. The biological story is one in which neurotransmission is slowed. 18-20). To tell theses stories. I suggest that the ads make Zoloft intelligible as a form of treatment not merely by asserting that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance but also by establishing a relationship of care between the person diagnosed with depression and his or her imbalanced nervous system. As a result. neurotransmission is represented in two panels that sit side by side. or (c) a humanized subject. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. By putting a familiar face on the activity of neurotransmission.” 2003) and at one time had its own online fan club. its face expressing shock and terror. the bubble acts as a bridge between the dry. 1997. In the magazine ads. which claim that “depression isn’t just feeling down. or scattered. Although this substitution is implied in the Zoloft ads. The meaning of the bubble depends on its relationship to the other centerpiece of Zoloft ads—a cartoon image of neurotransmission (a version of which can be viewed on the Zoloft Web site [n.d. Scientists believe people with depression could have an imbalance of serotonin in their brain. are unique and instructive because they make the story of neurotransmission a centerpiece of their advertisements.. In the same way that the human agent is caught up in the midst of everyday dilemmas and crises of movement (e. (b) an analogue for the neurotransmitters that the human actor wants to goad into action. the Zoloft advertisements provide linkages between otherwise inert biological matter and the human agent tasked with the use of antidepressants. Here.

wholeness. Zoloft restores energy and happiness by filling up the empty space.com). the brain is healthy when it communicates freely and transparently. I also want to draw attention to the images of plenitude and wholeness in these ads. directed movement (the typical Western progress narrative. in these ads. Indeed. becomes extremely interesting to readers and those suffering everyday malaise because it comes to stand for the ultimate feeling of satisfaction. energized. 1991. which place openness and communication at the center of psychological well-being. in these ads. building on the work of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. In the animation. All rights reserved. 1991). cannot be addressed through remedies that might be found in everyday life. This lack of contact between cells might cause depression.” When you feel a little bit “off. committed consumer hedonists. The “offness” of the “synapse” is equated with the “offness” of feeling and selfhood. Here. the ads regularly return to a contrast between depletion and plenitude. most notably the dilemmas of communication and information exchange that social theorists argue are central to the contours of postmodern society (Best & Kellner. The “off” also refers back to the felt symptoms of depression: “You know when you’re not feeling like yourself. both the density and the speed with which bubbles move through the gap are increased. They are isolation of the suffering individual and the bubble/ neurotransmitter. and sense of fragmentation that many argue characterizes life in our times (Cushman. and momentary satisfaction. 2001. the synapse can either be “on” or “off. but insofar as they lack substance. or vacation getaways promise satisfaction. Depression and anxiety are the opposite of communication. desire. 1991). Williamson (1978). it is inoperative and lacks energy. Taylor. argues that advertisements regularly appeal to the emptiness or lack of self and promise idealized satiation. now duplicated at the level of neurotransmission. and Consumer Choice I have suggested that. antidepressant ads constitute lack at a level that. Products acquire the ability to provide a feeling of satiation. The result is not merely forward. by definition. and its state of activity. Gergen. The brain. neurotransmitters and synaptic gaps are introduced as characters in their own right. Just like psychosocial relationships. Zoloft enters the picture and erects barriers so that the bubbles from Nerve A cannot be reabsorbed. or of finally being filled up. The plenitude of neurotransmitters enabled by Zoloft is an important image because it resonates with themes developed across the antidepressant ads and the contemporary consumer culture more generally.” Many return and are reabsorbed into Nerve A. The synaptic gap is empty or depleted when not operating correctly. and satiation is achieved only with Zoloft.” So the nerve cells can’t communicate. The self is constituted in a continuing and repetitive relationship of lack. Haraway. Indeed.” And when the synapse is off. Bubbles emerge out of “Nerve A” in slow and directionless movement. The imagery is most striking in the animated sequence featured in Zoloft television ads (also seen at the Web site zoloft. meaninglessness. people constituted through the antidepressant discourse have no choice but to seek a solution for their problems in antidepressant medications.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. might learn that they can find deeper meaning in a return to nature or change in lifestyle. Lasch. satiation is realized through the metaphor of biology. and uncertainty associated with depressed neurotransmission is apparent. and direction. In one further step. they inevitably deepen the feeling of emptiness. 1990. the story of biology is embedded within concerns that originate in the background experience of contemporary social life. chemically rich brain is also a full self. the metaphor of communication builds on popular psychologies. active. for example. Against the malaise. 1994) but a sudden and exhilarating increase in bubbles in the synaptic gap. jewelry. or sociality and isolation. Where. The gap is filled up. the brain and. communicating. clothing. In addition to opposing communication and noncommunication. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 That means the level of serotonin is “off. Where in other ads food. see Gergen. Selfhood. the antidepressant promises the satisfaction that no other products in the consumer society are able to provide. The malaise. . few reaching the destination of “Nerve B. Finally. hesitation. this is the fundamental relationship between consumer and product in the consumer society.” this might be depression. and active—a modern image of the good and productive life. Products depicted in ads acquire a powerful meaning and significance because they give a feeling of completion. more specifically. or happiness and depression. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. suffering malaise.sagepub. A full. emptiness. emptiness occurs in the recesses of the brain. both at the level of biology and at the level of the self. Delusion. As a communication system. the ads promise energy. The animation begins with a more or less empty synaptic gap. They are forced (encouraged? helped?) to move through the synaptic gap.28 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. or send messages to each other the right way. 1979. completion. Downloaded from http://bst. conceived as such. In antidepressant ads.

Indeed. The ethic and spirit of market capitalism depends on this ideological move. The Paxil ads for social anxiety disorder depict anxiety as an entity that causes feelings of embarrassment but also spreads so as to affect everyday activities: dropping out of school.” the character sits inches beneath a glaring lamp. Once working. Paxil.” he is pictured as the center of attention at a boardroom meeting. This is one way in which the ads integrate mental illness into the circuits of consumer capitalism. the antidepressant ads assert that the subject possesses a kernel of reason— the capacity to choose well-being—despite the overwhelming and disorienting effects of mental illness. Indeed. As mad men and women. The message of the ad is that this man’s misperception is a product of a chemical imbalance. the force of the argument depends on modern notions of the selfhood: authenticity. This imbalance is the source of confusion and fear that are far beyond his control. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 28-29). How do antidepressant ads create agency for individuals. 1965). within the unbalanced neurotransmitter system. and wholeness. The problem becomes. titled “What It Is. while at the same time constituting the reader as a free subject who is able to make his or her own choices. This is especially relevant to antidepressant ads that redefine vast areas of human life and suffering as biologically determined behaviors and feelings. He lingers in a state of disease. In the second image. He is bound by tight ropes and confronted with the glares and accusations of his colleagues. wide awake with worry and sadness (Serzone. does not only relieve the symptoms of illness. some ads explicitly depict the suffering individual as someone overwhelmed and caught up in a swirl of symptoms and misperceptions. the Paxil not only relieves the symptoms of anxiety. the person who suffers social anxiety. 1999. because even though biology is given a crucial position in antidepressant advertising. they also retain an image of the self as an agent capable of consumer choice. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. or. but it also restores the man to a state of self-transparency. Risk is located internally. The ad summarizes. even as they threaten them with biological determinism? I argue that even as the ads depict selves as beings at risk of biological dysfunction and loss of self-control. like those depicted in television police dramas. and turning down job promotions. refusing to date. 336-337). the depiction of biology is a narrative within the greater narrative of the ad space. deepening its hold on individuals and submitting them to greater risks. subsumed and overtaken by alien forces (Foucault. alcoholism. Psychological illness becomes an entity. In the first image. madness poses a growing risk to the self. as a consumer. they play off older stereotypes and fears of the out-of-control madman. pp. a state in which individuals cannot recognize the truth of their condition.sagepub. in the middle the night. I turn to the way in which the self is depicted in ads. Downloaded from http://bst. Though implied by most. They pose a risk to self and others because the illness has gained control over their thoughts. In these instances.” “nothing matters anymore” crowd around her. even thoughts of suicide” (Paxil. but it also allows this man to distinguish between himself and his illness. illustrating the ad slogan “Serzone: calms the chaos of depression. Words: “feel on edge. because he does not know that these feelings are really symptoms of disease. 1997. depression. and misrecognition. and perceptions. definitely beyond the control of the individual. these people cannot see beyond the cloud of their illness. and as a result. misunderstanding. For the moment. Furthermore. Even as antidepressant ads operate through the promise of scientific authority and honesty. Antidepressant ads regularly pose the possibility that the reader is in a deluded state of mind. in most advertisements. . as if awaiting an answer to a question. biological imbalance can proliferate and spread. In contrast to historical conceptions of mental illness that opposed Reason to Madness (Foucault. In this respect. including the possibility of suicide. are fundamentally out of contact with lifesaving and self-constituting forces.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 29 The ads tell a story about these parts of the brain and how they can get stopped up and how antidepressants can put them into motion again. mental illness is depicted as madness. in other ads. titled “What It Feels Like. pp. 1965). the ads suggest.” “can’t concentrate at work.” SmithKline Beecham uses a similar technique to depict a male character’s delusion in a Paxil ad. then. If left unattended. independence.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. freedom. not only his psychological well-being but also his capacity to perform at the workplace are under threat. I will return to the role that this little narrative plays within the bigger narrative at the end of this article. as Williamson (1978) points out. His colleagues look at him with curiosity and interest. at first originating within the recesses of the brain but then growing outward to overtake wider areas of the life world. The first page of a two-page Serzone advertisement features a middle-aged women in bed. All rights reserved. the trick of all good advertising is to place the reader of the advertisement within a story that has an outcome already written by the advertiser. he is unable to help himself. feelings. Defined as biological illness. “People with social anxiety disorder are at higher risk for depression.

2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. 1999. And again on the Paxil Web site (n. p. It is also a vision of selfhood that articulates well with the market ideology of consumer societies and its emphasis on personal choice. and they cannot simply will it away. but ultimately. This is the self whose essence resides in its ability to step outside of life and manage itself through disengaged reason. pp. there is nothing that individuals can do by themselves to clear the problem away. as it were.com by Gerard Stan on November 26.d. see also Habermas. antidepressant Downloaded from http://bst.30 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. . It knows itself not by slipping into its own narrative skin.) Web site. More than depicting suffering as biological imbalance. Here. 2002. In this choice to get well. This is emphasized in most ads that equate the decision to seek medication as a choice to “feel more like ‘yourself’” (Paxil. 1987. They cannot turn to talk therapy because that does not clear up the imbalance (it is. Thoughts and wishes are made up of a different material than brains and neurotransmitters. In short.” This is the central message of all antidepressant advertisements and promotional materials. The appeal of this vision of self comes in the idea that by stepping out of one’s life and submitting to the logic of expert knowledges. Instead of the narrative self that is “distributed” across its own life and across social and cultural institutions. Indeed. 159) calls the “punctual” self.d.com (n. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 In this kind of maneuver. In this respect. He or she is divested of control over certain domains of his or her life and expected to become a passive participant in a process governed by biological entities and expert knowledges. Here. In contrast. it is a choice in which individuals are expected to recognize that they have no control over certain areas of their being. shaped by the ideals of science and utility. 28-29). its symbolic relations to others. It is punctual in the sense that all of the qualities that matter to it exist at a single abstract point. and the recognition of depression and anxiety as biological entities requires an acceptance of laws outside of normal human control. In this view. The people who have recognized their suffering as biological imbalance also recognize that they can only sit back and wait for the antidepressant to do its work on its own biological time. the only kind of agency left to the subject comes with the choice to get well and subsequently the choice to manage one’s “wellness. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. favored in this article. they have no causal efficacy. as we learn from the Paxil Web site. the punctual self acquires new tools for self-management and control in the biomedical age. Taylor traces this conception of selfhood to the writings of 17thcentury philosopher John Locke. But just taking the first step—deciding to get treatment—can make all the difference. Because depression and anxiety—and the broad range of symptoms associated with them—are products of biological imbalance. This decision to become one’s self does not require reflection on the life that one has lived or the life one hopes to live. the decision to get treatment becomes an existential choice. Freedom comes in the decision to recognize oneself as a person with disease.): Most patients. GlaxoSmithKline emphasizes the decision to get treatment: Depression can make you feel hopeless and helpless. “just talk”). Very broadly. and its position within a social and moral community. Responding to a question such as “Does an unreasonable fear of embarrassment cause you to avoid most social interaction?” the individual only knows who he or she is by responding “yes” or “no” (Paxil. 83). but rather through symptom checklists. the self assumed in antidepressant advertisements is more like what Charles Taylor (1989. the narrative perspective. people become selves by articulating and speaking about their understanding of their life circumstances and their position within a shared symbolic universe. even those with severe depression. Though certainly not a new or unfamiliar view of self (as many argue. selfhood is affirmed in the process of telling the story of one’s life as it unfolds in relationship to other persons and the dilemmas of the time in which one lives. To clarify the significance of this cultural phenomenon. 2002). then. show improvement after they seek treatment. As a system of thought and practice. the punctual self always exists in a moment of disembodied choice. On the Depression . Horkheimer & Adorno. takes the self as a phenomenon that exists in its expressions. the individual becomes the only kind of agent he or she can be. antidepressant ads provide an influential technique for affirming and achieving selfhood. antidepressant promotional campaigns rely on the narratives developed in organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the popular self-help culture. They may be comforting. In this context. All rights reserved. depression and anxiety speak a different language than human beings.sagepub. this is the form of modern selfhood. the individual is divested of one kind of agency and introduced to another. It is a view that has powerfully influenced contemporary scientific cultures. it is possible to gain control over one’s life. p. it is helpful to distinguish between two possible visions of the self.

the muscles in her face and neck are drawn tight. they once again turn our attention to the ideal of complete or whole selfhood. 2002. happiness. to meet up with other bubbles that are happy to see it. and when it finally turns to catch a glimpse. and after. Happiness is just within reach. It is turned away from the cave door. Before-and-after narratives are visibly built into the formal structure of ads. It is something that can bring the bubble into synchronicity with the world outside the cave. in which a person is caught up in depression or anxiety. The picture is framed by the product name “Paxil” and the campaign slogan “Your life is waiting. television commercials are able to depict transformation as it occurs over time. This nearness of a solution—the ease with which the self can be put back to rights—is captured with the phrase “feeling balanced. and social involvement. The bubble seems unaware of the butterfly that flutters near the entrance. A horizon and blue sky can be seen through the door in the distance. her arm held across her chest tightly holding a bag. the well-being of the self is bound to the well-being of neurotransmitters. When we return to the bubble character. Where depression and anxiety are constituted as real things that get in the way of life and selfhood. The butterfly is there. The medications take on the properties associated with happiness and good health and therefore are associated with the after stage of selfhood. I showed how depression and antidepressant medications are constituted as biological entities that operate under their own power according to their own laws. is the thing that is “standing between you and your life” (Paxil. In the first part. health. Paxil used this technique in ads for both chronic anxiety disorder and depression. In this section. it is no longer inside of the cave but outside. 2001. the undefined future. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. p. overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms—her body is drawn inward. p. Downloaded from http://bst. the bubble character is found facing the back wall of a cave. tense. A graphic “millions suffer from chronic anxiety” cuts across the woman’s body. I characterize these as before-and-after narratives and emphasize the way in which antidepressants provide a kind of “magical” passage from illness to health. but the bubble is always slightly out of synchronicity with these possibilities. they also play a crucial role in bridging the move from the before state into the after state. The second part of the ad switches to the neurotransmitter image discussed in the first section of this article. Take for example Zoloft’s “cave” commercial. This is most obvious in the television ads for Zoloft. the butterfly disappears. . I want to show how these elements fit into the larger narratives developed in the ads. However. and the bubble follows it. Zoloft’s restorative properties are introduced. She looks afraid. p. 2002. I have drawn attention to elements constituted in the antidepressant ads.” Anxiety. I have already indicated how the Zoloft image of neurotransmission introduces this narrative as a story about the changes in brains treated with antidepressants. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. reactive. bright eyed. are all images of wide-open possibility. Zoloft is presented as a solution ready at hand. All rights reserved. This pattern is repeated in numerous ads. Indeed. activity. the choice is simple and miraculous. and open to the world. Paxil removes the barrier and restores selfhood. In the first. In the second section.8 This commercial unfolds in three parts. Narrative Magic and the Perfection of Self In the previous two sections. and selfhood have been restored.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. or depression. Consistent with the theme of choice introduced in the last section. 83).Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 31 advertisements constitute the self as a disembodied essence. a relationship mediated through antidepressants. I argued that even though the biological argument threatens the self with biological determinism. more like ‘yourself’ is within reach” (Paxil. In this. The ad featuring chronic anxiety was divided into two panels (Paxil. and looking around. and unable to show herself to the world. These are made intelligible and available for narrative through various metaphors that give them life and meaning. hanging in midair. waiting to be offered its choices. in 2001. as well as the modern aspiration toward a complete and energized selfhood. smiling. 55). in which happiness. The Paxil ad for depression catches this sentiment as well. bouncing.sagepub. 83). as the second ad in the series says. of course. near the entrance.” It is accompanied by a second image of the woman. In so doing. The top panel featured a middle-aged woman lost in a crowd. This before-and-after story is duplicated in advertising narratives about the self. The ads distinguish two discrete conditions: before. smiling. hardly able to contain its fluttery excitement. The second panel opens with the claim “millions can be helped by Paxil. Unlike the stories told in magazine ads. The qualities of specific brain states are given further meaning through their resonance with background social dilemmas involving information transmission and communication. These. For example. the people addressed by advertisements are constituted as agents insofar as they can make the choice to get well. antidepressants come to stand for revivified selfhood.

Paxil asserts “Your life is waiting” (Paxil. How did the bubble get out of the cave? Where did its courage come from? How did it overcome its fear of other people (and butterflies)? How did it find it in itself the ability to finally turn around? Perhaps it remembered some moving words told to it by its mother. Products loaded with meaning and feeling allow people to satisfy nostalgic longings by returning to a lost place or to imagine themselves as the people that they would like to be but in reality could not be. 1997. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. even if a cure was not always assured. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. antidepressant medications allow the self to move from the past to the future.32 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE.” As these people begin to realize that they can become the “real me. or at least to a decision to take Zoloft. Indeed. this magic plays with the laws of time and space. Finally. For the Biblical figure Job. magic tonics. Thus. 2002. Perhaps it realized that it did not want to die before seeing the sun again. the camera zooms in on the palm of a hand displaying the medication. and this desire was more powerful than its fear. These campaigns play on themes of authenticity and the promise of a “real” self free from the burdens and imperfections of the present. suffering was a test and lesson from God. The 2004 Wellbutrin campaign also promises to make people “feel like themselves again” but illustrates this recovery process through an extensive use of mirrors. We’ll never know for sure. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 I’m interested in what happened while we were watching the neurotransmitters cross the synaptic gap. religious and even psychoanalytic narratives made sense of suffering and despair by narrating them as central components of personal development. The medication is in hand. If there is any doubt that antidepressants are a kind of magic pill. . however. p. Oftentimes. It begins to sparkle and release evanescent. In Decoding Advertising. but first. something seems to be missing from antidepressant narratives. pp. Now. In these stories. the magic of antidepressants are most obviously highlighted in contrast to older narratives that valorized suffering and despair as central to personal growth. complete and full selfhood. These are the climactic moments of the commercial.” and “panicky. Clearly. The medicine and the punctual self are united as a kind of fulcrum around which the antidepressant narrative turns. To the neurotic. consider the way in which the pills are fetishized in the ads. In the Wellbutrin television commercial. once filled in with more elaborate explanations of the purpose of suffering. in this respect. there are two “selves” in Downloaded from http://bst. In this ad—and all antidepressant ads—some time has been lost and. they are able to see themselves clearly for the first time in a long time. as I want to now argue.sagepub. glowing energies. burdened by anxieties and compulsions. the Zoloft solution is magical. The first segment depicts people in anxious states— their identity is overtaken by the illness. with it. and Paxil’s “controlled release” properties are demonstrated. I am using the term fetish in both the Marxian and the psychoanalytic sense. It builds on historical conceptions of medications. This is the controlled release of the medicine inside the pill. as I have been arguing. The pill also assumes a central narrative position in the television commercial for Wellbutrin XL.com by Gerard Stan on November 26.” “anxious. Under the influence of medicine. 83). and antidepressants bring selfhood back. confrontation and interpretation of a difficult and shocking past was crucial to the development of self-understanding. the pill comes to embody a wide range of values and meanings. represented through four separate vignettes) is introduced as they walk up to.9 Like the Zoloft commercial. each character (four in total. 2003. All rights reserved. The choice has been made. It provides a therapy that in older systems would have been realized through interpersonal relationships. Perhaps more than anything. The pill is both a commodity that stands in for and covers over social relations. consider a television commercial for Paxil CR. 154-155). the only semblance that we have of a present is the moment in which the self makes a choice for well-being. sociality. and. and the future beckons. Perhaps it remembered a friend outside of the cave. and Effexor brings you “Back to me” (Effexor. antidepressant narratives promise the restoration of selfhood. In this sense. A piece of the story. It also. This is implied by most campaigns and explicitly captured in some slogans: Prozac uses the phrase “Welcome Back” (Prozac. important to the affirmation of faith. 18-20). and it is an object that stands in for fantasies of wholeness and completion. Williamson (1978) studies the magical properties that advertising bestows on products. In antidepressant ads. and the desire to be with this friend drew it out. or sit down in front of. for good or for bad.” “self-conscious. a mirror. Or put another way.10 Though not as spectacular as Paxil. is snipped out or bypassed. and this is symbolized by nametags worn by each character: “fearful.” “nervous. it stands in for happiness. Depression and anxiety destroy selfhood. bridges past and future through a choice made in the present. The latter will become clearer in a moment. the ability to begin to answer my questions. pp.” the camera cuts to a full screen product shot. this one is divided into three segments. The pill changes from white to pink. and love potions. midcommercial. unhindered by the need to say more about the source of suffering experienced in the present.

I suggest that the ads respond to these same fears by promising the perfection of self through antidepressant medication. The difference is captured in the concept of the before-and-after narrative. dislocated. Christopher Lasch (1979) develops a similar theme in his critique of late 20th-century consumer culture. even as interpersonal and psychosocial resources provided by previous communities and shared forms of storytelling disappear. Conclusion As I have argued throughout. In part. persons are left without the interpersonal resources of family and tradition. Here. According to Lasch. middle. be put into the category of other. This narrative closure Downloaded from http://bst. This is the central danger of the ads. These are stories that have a clear beginning. they can. prepares. the self depicted in antidepressant advertising is readied for commodification. embracing narrative of self. which. and anxiety are only a part of the illness and therefore not really a part of one’s life and relationships with others. sexual impotence. is forgotten. but they lack narrative depth—a sense in which both self and suffering always emerge in cultural and interpersonal spaces that require an ongoing interpretive engagement to cultivate a rich and. it is a self that retains the capacity to choose its own well-being. The mirror image is also a glimpse into the undefined future—the character. This further requires that persons attribute their suffering not to the social or interpersonal dilemmas that sociologists have argued are central to the contemporary situation of the self but to problems that only concern the brain of the individual. and end. In this context. The paradox and inadequacy of this kind of solution should be clear. as if those experiences of fragmentation. the ads construct selfhood and illness such that they are easily integrated into the emerging circuits of pharmaceutical capital. As illness. In contrast. In this context. the decline of psychoanalysis—which holds to a narrative conception of self—owes to the fact that psychoanalytic therapy requires years of practice and does not provide the immediate reparation of self attributed to antidepressant medications. The self. in a sense. individuals are increasingly thrown on themselves for self-definition and coherence. the narcissistic attraction to individualistic self-perfection is not merely a product of a consumer culture run wild but a psychological solution to a larger feeling of anomie and emptiness (see also Cushman. this choice for well-being is firmly associated with the choice to begin antidepressant therapy. who argues that the image of a whole and complete ego disavows the fragmentation and incompletion out of which human subjectivity emerges. The focus of attention is the mirror image that primps. despite the danger of delusion and disorder that are imputed to follow from chemical imbalance. in all of its problems and complexities. They promise selfhood. the blurry figure of the past self that stands in front of the mirror. The before-and-after narratives emphasize closure. I would argue. Relationship is no longer a means to self-understanding but an end pursued only after the individual has pulled him or herself together. .sagepub. This claim is associated with the work of psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan. and smiles for the evening ahead. now herself again—is ready to go out into the evening and into life ahead. I must also say a few words about the discrepancy between the depiction of selves and medications in the ads and the real-world practice of taking antidepressant medications. and. It is a self that is found lacking in self-sustaining neurochemicals. As argued. the restoration of selfhood is divested of all social qualities.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 33 the story: one in the “real” world and the other reflected in the mirror.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. as I have argued. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Clearly. 1990). depression. it is a larger existential choice to take responsibility for one’s life and to choose one’s self. the self in the mirror is contrasted with the blurry self in the world—the self before Wellbutrin. Although selfhood inevitably depends on others. chaos. is required to gain coherence and emotional stability long before it enters into relationships. In one line of social thought. It is a self that can only be restored with the aid of the advertised medications. In the Wellbutrin ad. The central presence of the mirror underlines the connection between narrative magic and the conjuring of the image of complete and full selfhood. the mirror has come to signify a narcissistic attraction to the illusory image of selfperfection and completion. At once. or the blurred shoulder. Lasch argues that in the late 20th century. “besieged” by the growing set of dangers and risks in everyday life. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. in his term. a vision of selfhood that depends on the complex and open-ended notions of narrative and interpersonal dialogues resists commodification. Moreover. As viewers. we only see the back. It is not merely a choice to cure one’s suffering. alone in front of a mirror. frames the ads. the pursuit of personal well-being is not merely a vainglorious pursuit but an effort to provide some semblance of stability for selves that are disembedded. of the real character. antidepressants function as technologies that help to prop selves up. All rights reserved.

However. New characters are introduced (neurotransmitters and antidepressant agents) and new storylines are developed (the activity of neurotransmitters in my brain. Depression and anxiety. The ads also serve as confirmation that the biological and biomedical concepts and technologies so increasingly influential in the 21st century have introduced a new kind of self and a new kind of selfknowledge into everyday currency. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Moreover. Antidepressants correct the biological imbalance. doubt. Notes 1.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. which antidepressant to take. It has also served as an opportunity to describe changing conceptions of selfhood and suffering. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. In particular. in theory. requires continuing work on the character of narrative in the biomedical era. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 supports the images of wholeness and completion depicted in other elements of the ads. the decision to take antidepressants introduces people to a sometimes lengthy process in which (a) they learn how to use antidepressants (i. and the biomedical view more generally.sagepub. this self-knowledge depends less on the activity of shared storytelling (situating oneself within the narratives of time and place) and more on the pragmatic problems of technological know-how (Which drug should I take? How do I know when it’s working? How do I manage side effects?). Health Canada. which.e. 1993). and others is situated within broader narratives and sociological processes.K. one of the central problems of the antidepressant ads is that even as they rely on longstanding stories about selfhood. the ads rely on a relatively smooth and unproblematized story of scientific progress and human betterment. once interpreted through the lens of psychoanalytic and psychosocial approaches. the advertisements discussed in this article appeared in American magazines and on American television. stories about the actual practice of taking antidepressants are rarely simplistic before-andafter narratives but rather constitute a rich space between the before-and-after depicted in the ads. Furthermore. For Downloaded from http://bst. waiting for stories that could make better sense of the contemporary dilemmas of everyday life. these emerging conceptions of self certainly depend on long familiar ideals such as authenticity and selfcontrol. these ads. biology. magazine and television ads regularly slip across the border into Canada. but very practically. Wellbutrin. These narratives suggest a counterstory in which the use of antidepressants and the challenges that they pose to ongoing aspirations of the self are filled with ambivalence. Ultimately. In other words. For example. Indeed. a full appreciation of the social and historical significance of these technologies. contrary to the scientific neutrality and objectivity implied by the ads. The advertisements thus resonate with larger cultural aspirations and anxieties even as they suggest that mental illness is the product of individual disorder. all pharmaceutical companies discussed in this article are based in the United States.34 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. and their implications for selfhood. how different medications make their body and self feel) and (b) they learn to assess the significance of antidepressants for their sense of self. where previous theories of selfhood highlighted the transformative power of interpersonal relationships. the ads claim that antidepressants heal depression and anxiety by restoring chemical imbalance. Paxil.. No doubt there are many new stories to be told about the engagements with biomedical technologies and the possible futures onto which these open. this analysis has been offered as a critique of the image of self presented in antidepressant advertising. For instance. the scientific knowledge offered in the ads is directly related to larger social processes of medicalization or biomedicalization. does not permit direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. At the surface. I’ve demonstrated that the version of self promoted in ads for Prozac. I learned that narratives of antidepressant use are neither simple nor closed (see also Karp. The exception are the Internet promotional materials. All rights reserved. antidepressant ads must be viewed as components of a culture that increasingly relies on biological imagery to communicate and resolve social problems. and psychiatric technologies. in a set of interviews that I conducted with people who have taken antidepressants. However. With the exception of U. it also creates a simplistic expectation about what the medications do and how they work: Depression is a biological imbalance. the antidepressant narrative is clean and uncomplicated. This is not to say that the images and ideas depicted in this article do not have significance outside of the United States. have a global audience. Furthermore. but they also introduce new forms for realizing these ideals. Indeed. Antidepressants restore selfhood. which dose to take. Here. They seem to offer a straightforward solution to a medical mystery that psychiatric science has now attempted to unravel. As demonstrated. they disavow their location within these social and historical discourses. highlight the relationship between persons. and uncertainty. . In this context. the magical passage from misery to selfcompletion).-based Wyeth pharmaceuticals. In this respect. have now become problems for biological analysis and treatment. Zoloft. antidepressants do not ensure the restoration of complete selfhood but rather act as stop-gap solutions. However. although the Canadian government agency.

an African American women’s lifestyle magazine: Essence. Men’s Health. these are promoted as “targeted” medications in at least two senses: They were scientifically designed to block the reuptake of specific neurotransmitters.. (1991). p. Self. see Petryna. In contrast.ad-rag. see. Time. (1965). Gergen. 18(3). P. and fitness magazine: Self and Glamour. 154-155. pp. Self-narration in social life. and sports magazines: Esquire. In some ways. I coded the gender of the central character (the individual suffering psychological illness) in each magazine advertisement. American Psychologist. even in presumably neutral advertisements). Realities and relationships (pp. Cambridge. (1991). & Kellner.g. Gender in the Prozac nation: Popular discourse and productive femininity. I chose magazines that target a number of different audiences and social groups.g. which blocks norepinephrine and dopamine. Individualization. K. the ads that featured a male character appeared exclusively in male magazines (Sports Illustrated. Finally. D. E. and two broad-based news and current events magazines: Time and Reader’s Digest.). Retrieved February 6. which ran a series of ads between 1997 and 2000) and medications for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Haraway. Adweek. and a DRI. 2006. London: Sage. I have not attempted a rigorous analysis of the relationship between magazine type and the depiction of self. (2004). fashion.. London: Sage. 185. e. 289-302. Retrieved September 30. female character: 46/132 = 35%. (2004). Though I collected a wide range of ads for psychiatric medications. J.sagepub. fitness. (1987). The analysis excludes ads for anti-anxiety medications (most notably Buspar. & Stracuzzi. Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. 2003). the one of two Paxil ads that featured a male character portrayed him overwhelmed by anxiety in a boardroom. Depression. 2005. Wilson. and Wellbutrin featured female characters. I viewed it at www. Falk. These included women’s lifestyle. D. This is based on numbers provided by IMS Health. K. from http://depression. 25(3). D. a few general observations are warranted.). (1994). The distribution of gender in the advertisements was as follows: nongendered character (e. specifically SSRIs (and their cousins SNRIs and DRIs) and the promotion of these medications as a new kind of antidepressant. I viewed it at www. The analysis presented here focuses on the way that the self is represented in general across all of the advertisements. (1997). J. Best. Paxil ads feature both male and female protagonists. The antidepressant Wellbutrin (dopamine reuptake inhibitor. L. 10. J. Gender & Society. S. However. and PMDD medications are SSRIs (Prozac and Zoloft) marketed under different names for a differently constructed disorder. Lakoff. Although the ads centered around the female characters appeared in women’s. 269-286. New York: Vintage. 599-611. Downloaded from http://bst. (2005).Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 35 further discussion of the global significance of pharmaceutical medications. Self. The postmodern adventure: Science. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. of course.. (2002). 6. Goetzl. Habermas.com. and they have relatively limited side effects. and cultural studies at the third millennium. The portrayal of mental illness on primetime television. Cushman. MA: Harvard University Press. Essence. as well as its interaction with factors such as gender and race. whereas PMDD medication relies on different imagery and presumably addresses a different audience and problem (though. S.html Diefenbach. Esquire) and in one women’s magazine (Glamour). (2003). (n. depression is also a gendered disorder.com. Blum. D. Simians. Gilbody. To ensure a complete collection of ads. Advertising Age. . As such. Sports Illustrated.com. is also included among this new breed of antidepressants.ad-rag. New York: Guilford. Effexor [advertisement]. The anti-anxiety medication Buspar does not fall under that umbrella and more closely resembles the tranquilizers of an earlier era. Agency report cards 2003. D. as antidepressants are also marketed for the treatment of anxiety. 5. M. June). (1999). as suggested by Metzl and Angel (2004). Paxil anxious to get message out.adweek. I viewed it at www. 9. of which Prozac was the first. (1992). Serzone does not have a Web site. U. the relationship between gender and psychological suffering reproduces conventional gender stereotypes. 3. and Sports Illustrated. New York: Routledge. This commercial ran on television in 2004. Gergen (Ed. 4. (1990). This commercial ran on television in 2003. I. I included only ads for the antidepressant medications: SSRIs. The antidepressant era.com/treating_depression. long associated with women’s “moodiness”. Boston: Beacon. (2002. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. MA: Harvard University Press. Ads for Effexor. August 26). Direct-to-consumer advertising of psychotropics: An emerging and evolving form of pharmaceutical company influence. Serzone.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. 2. the Zoloft bubble): 64/132 = 48%. (1997).. (2001). 7. men’s lifestyle. 1-2. and general audience magazines (Glamour. a popular psychology magazine: Psychology Today. The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary society. 45(5). Healy. and Esquire). (2003. N. All rights reserved. British Journal of Psychiatry.. Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason. J. P. Zoloft. New York: Henry Holt and Company.ad-rag. Advertising Age. cyborgs and women: The reinvention of nature. from www. Risk society: Towards a new modernity. fashion. In contrast to earlier antidepressants (the tricyclics and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Both Prozac and Zoloft campaigns feature nongendered cartoon figures (though a closer analysis might reveal gendered characterizations of self and suffering. Gergen. female characters are frequently depicted in relationship to family and motherhood. Beck. For example. DRI).com. References Ad groups protest ruling on Paxil.d. J. this research was concerned with the impact of the idea of antidepressant medications. 82. Reader’s Digest. 8. & Beck-Gernshiem. 70(40). SNRIs. a quick review suggests that when depicted. & Watt.. New York: Basic Books. this is an arbitrary decision. 2). In K.com/aw/industry_reports/report_ cards/2003/arc2003_national. This commercial ran on television in 2004. Foucault. Beck. and peace. technology. Hello to all that: A memoir of war. This said. men’s. Metzl. and male character: 22/132 = 17%. and Kleinman (2006).. for this analysis. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are promoted as a distinctly new breed of antidepressants. 9. 185-210). The theory of communicative action (Vol. Journal of Community Psychology. Cambridge.jsp#Kaplan. U.

total dispensed prescriptions. Retrieved November 23. (2003). & Fishman. . 28-29. November).. 2005. (2003).imshealth. 7(4). New York: Riverhead Books. Rose. C. 2000. 2005. trial commitment. (2003. Body & Society. 83. (2006). & Kleinman. Decoding advertisements: Ideology and meaning in advertising.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. disenchantment. L. 58. (1999). from http://www. Taylor. p.com/ims/portal/frton/articleC/0. Williamson. (1998). Wurtzel.sagepub. Prozac nation. Glamour. Time. from www.2777. Stanford.. D. Neurochemical selves. Time. (1997.com/ims/portal/frton/articleC/0. biomedicalization. pp. practices. (2001. Risk.com/zoloft/zoloftportal?_nfph = true&_ pageLabel=how_zoloft_works Jeffrey N. D.2777. 55. Metzl. 39(18).. Paxil [advertisement]. 158(3). 160(14). Retrieved September 30. His area of specialization is social theory. pp. Retrieved September 30.theonion.zoloft. (2002).com/derpession. Television. 577-584.S. Paxil Web site. p.00. September 30). (2003. 2005. Cambridge. Zoloft Web site. & Adorno. from www. 213-228. Mamo. Potency in all the right places: Viagra as a technology of the gendered body. 18-20. Zoloft [advertisement]. C. 336-337. October 15).00. Lupton. 16(4). M. Paxil [advertisement]. C. Society.. Durham. The malaise of modernity. Pfizer shuffles roster. markets. Zita. Body talk: Philosophical reflections on sex and gender. 158(17).. dispensed prescriptions. Sanders. J. July 23). N. Serzone [advertisement]. Downloaded from http://bst. London: Marion Boyars. Canada: Anansi. NC: Duke University Press. (1998).html IMS Health. (1997. IMS Health. (2000). Time. Global pharmaceuticals: Ethics. L. Time. J. NC: Duke University Press. (2002. He holds a PhD in sociology from the University of Maryland–College Park and a master’s degree in psychology from the University of Alberta. madness and community care. September 27). New York: Penguin. (1998). MA: Harvard. (1979). A. & Thomaselli. D. (n. (1978). pp. mental health. The culture of narcissism. 37. 8. E. 2004. from http://paxilcr. (2004). Paxil [advertisement]. J.). Ontario. Metzl. New York: Columbia Press. (1991). Qualitative Sociology. with particular interest in theories of the self. Lakoff.S. and consumption. 41(1). Retrieved November 23. Advertising Age. London: Routledge. Taylor. CA: Stanford University Press. Lasch. 46-59.). 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. (1999. Time.imshealth.html Karp. New York: Warner Books. Leading 29 therapeutic classes by total U. p. J. from www. Concord. Journal of Community Care & Applied Social Psychology. Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Rose. The Onion. 337-359. July 21). (1993).d. Leading 10 therapy classes by U. Social Science & Medicine. (2001). (1997). 2005. (2001.6652_ 40054611_1004878.d. Stepnisky is an assistant professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University. R. N. refocuses ad strategy. August 4). All rights reserved. Retrieved September 30. J. (1989). Prozac on the couch: Prescribing gender in the era of wonder drugs. Prozac diary.com/content/node/28349 Prozac [advertisement].6652_ 49695974_68914714.36 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. Taking anti-depressant medications: Resistance. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution.. pp. 2005. 4. Durham. Sources of the self. A.jsp Petryna. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 Horkheimer. (n. J. & Angel. 28. (2004). 154(13). T. May 14). Pfizer launches “Zoloft for everything” ad campaign. L. A. 150(3). Assessing the impact of SSRI antidepressants on popular notions of women’s depressive illness. Slater. conversion. 13-35.

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