This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
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
On behalf of:
National Association for Science, Technology & Society
Additional services and information for Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society can be found at: Email Alerts: http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://bst.sagepub.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsReprints.nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav Citations (this article cites 14 articles hosted on the SAGE Journals Online and HighWire Press platforms): http://bst.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/27/1/24
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.
27. 1999) and $65. . Simon. & Watt. For example. they use the term diagnostic bracket creep to argue that between 1985 and 2000 the perceived uses of Prozac S ince 1997. it is argued that the ads rely on metaphors of communication. Marc Worman of McCann-Erikson Consumer Health says. . 1. Canada This article examines the way in which selfhood is constructed in direct-to-consumer advertisements for antidepressant medications. Eli Lilly spent $15 million to $20 million on its 1997-1998 Prozac print campaign (Gilbody.1177/0270467606295973 Copyright © 2007 Sage Publications Downloaded from http://bst. the past 5 years has seen a steady increase in the number of prescriptions written for antidepressant medications. 2004). Following philosopher Jacqueline Zita (1998).3 In 2000. and in 2004. 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. No. antidepressants are medications that allow individuals to put aside. psychiatry. Second.” In contrast to religious and psychoanalytic narratives that required individuals to incorporate disavowed elements of their selves into an ongoing life narrative. pharmaceutical companies have explicitly marketed psychiatric conditions to expand the demand for antidepressant medications. Waterloo. The sample consists of advertisements that appeared in nine popular magazines between 1997 and 2005. on television. p. It’s about defining a condition [social anxiety disorder] as well as to promote the Paxil name” (as quoted in Goetzl. In some cases. advertising television and print campaign cost $30 million in 1999 (Goetzl. information exchange. SSRIs and SNRIs2 have been the second most highly prescribed medication the United States. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Since 2000. 2003). At the same time. the ads grant individuals a new capacity for the exercise of personal agency. self. .sagepub.1 The importance of advertising to the pharmaceutical industry is indicated by the vast sums of money spent on advertisements. antidepressants. 24-36 DOI: 10. and through the Internet. February 2007. this number was 147 million (IMS Health. or jump over. All rights reserved. television commercials that ran between 2003 and 2005. Since that time. Speaking about SmithKline Beecham’s antidepressant Paxil. Third. antidepressant advertisements have circulated widely in magazines. in the 1980s.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. In their study of popular magazine accounts of Prozac. $51 million in 2002 (Sanders & Thomaselli. “This isn’t just about creating a competitive preference for a brand. The analysis is divided into three sections. panic disorder has become a part of everyday parlance and regular psychiatric diagnosis. Metzl and Angel (2004) have also traced the entry of psychiatric language into everyday life. . Antidepressant advertising has also been a medium for the transmission of psychiatric ideas to the general public. when American-based pharmaceutical manufacturer Eli Lilly launched its first major direct to consumer advertising campaign for Prozac.1 million in 2002 (“Ad Groups Protest Ruling on Paxil. Stepnisky Wilfrid Laurier University. 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. in offering the choice for antidepressant treatment. 1999. the author describes antidepressants as pills that perform a narrative “magic. 82). UpJohn Pharmaceuticals promoted the formerly unknown and undiagnosed psychiatric condition panic disorder.Narrative Magic and the Construction of Selfhood in Antidepressant Advertising Jeffrey N. 98 million prescriptions for SSRIs/SNRIs were filled (IMS Health. 2000). 2004). as David Healy (1997) shows. and $75 million in 2003 (Adweek. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. and online promotional Web sites. 2003). First. The campaign for Pfizer’s Zoloft cost $50 million in 2000. narrative.” 2002). Technology & Society Vol. inexplicable and painful moments in their life. Keywords: selfhood. Bulletin of Science. and plenitude to construct a relationship between biology and selfhood.
a powerful aspiration of modern and postmodern persons (Taylor. the social construction of gender (Blum & Stracuzzi. Indeed. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 2001). In place of relationships between analyst and the analyzed. 1999). if not cure. in the midst of an era populated by everyday risks and worries (Beck. 582). 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. All rights reserved. people become selves with others as they position themselves within the shared stories of time and place. Beyond the promotion of new disease types and psychiatric terminologies. Lupton. this article provides a narrative analysis of antidepressant advertisements and the construction of selfhood. In particular. 2002). 1997. How is selfhood and suffering constructed in antidepressant advertisements. Now the psychoanalytic and psychosocial views are all but displaced. people do not become selves automatically. In this context. by biological default as it were. motherhood. and the technological construction of sexuality and embodiment (Mamo & Fishman. the purpose of this article is to analyze antidepressant advertisements. 1990). Lauren Slater’s (1998) Prozac Diary. Prozac is perceived as a medication that treats problems with “marriage. and self-control. selves increasingly become biomedical selves—what N. the self was something constructed through language and narrative. it does not take selfhood as a focus of analysis in itself. Elizabeth Wurtzel’s (1997) Prozac Nation. an analysis of the relationship between antidepressant discourses and selfhood offers an important contribution to the literature. for the purpose of discerning the way that selfhood is depicted and articulated with biological conceptions of psychiatric disease.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. and in the case of men it. Rose (2003) calls “neurocehmical selves. antidepressant ads do more than appeal to familiar and longstanding aspirations of selves. 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. . media representations of mental illness.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. is perceived as a medication that treats problems with ‘aggression’” (Zita. and continues to be. pharmaceutical advertisements. With this in mind.” The concept of selfhood is framed through biological languages. 2004. 582). 1989). the biomedical era witnesses the growing importance of relationships between individuals and psychiatric technologies. The story of “our struggle to tell the story of my life” is replaced by the story of “my struggle to understand my medicine. 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. These studies have primarily focused on the representation and stigmatization of mental illness (Diefenbach. In this article.” It is telling that recent psychiatric memoirs and popular accounts of mental illness have focused on the relationship between persons and their medications. antidepressant medications promise the restoration of whole and complete selfhood and relief. Given that selfhood has been. For Taylor. the idea of selfhood has become a central feature of everyday life—a prized accomplishment articulated with values such as dedication to family life. 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. the pills become characters in their own right. In the case of women. 1992. In these perspectives. desires. and visions of selfhood are realized. a feeling of emptiness and anomie (Cushman. there have been a number of analyses of antidepressant advertisements. 1998. Although this earlier research regularly touches on selfhood and subjectivity. more generally. or even psychiatrist and client. and sustained through technologies such as antidepressant medications. Rose. and promotional materials. maintained. expression of one’s authentic being. and biological psychiatry dominates both clinical practice and the popular imagination. 2003). I argue that antidepressant advertisements acquire their significance and meaning through an appeal to these modern aspirations of the self. Rather. and menstruation” (Zita. 1998. p. 1998). and how do these articulate with larger transformations in the conceptualizations and practice of selfhood? In recent years. Furthermore. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. p. 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. and older aspirations. In the past 200 years. Metzl. D. In these biomedical stories. 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. from some of the most pressing dilemmas of everyday life.sagepub.
com). and the medications that engage these biological materials become prominent players in this emerging story of selfhood. religious and psychoanalytic narratives that sought to incorporate incomprehensible and disturbing experiences into the ongoing story of self. antidepressants are presented as the kind of technology that allows people to skip over. Sports Illustrated.6 There were no advertisements for antidepressants in Men’s Health or Psychology Today. the Zoloft campaign unifies this disparate set of elements under the common theme of depression. even as the ads reconstruct selves through the language of biology and disease. Linking Biology and Selfhood To conduct this analysis. There were 21 different ads. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. I started with 1997 because that was the year Eli Lilly began promoting Prozac through direct consumer advertising. feeling sad and hopeless.” This is a key concept for my analysis because it suggests the extent to which the biomedical view of self both grows out of. Paxil.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. and (c) promotional materials for antidepressants including Internet Web sites. and Wellbutrin). 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. Reader’s Digest.sagepub. Television advertisements for Zoloft. 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. I rely on the narrative perspective for a critique of the vision of self adopted in the antidepressant ads. I begin this analysis with a close look at the images and stories disseminated through Pfizer’s Zoloft campaign. Time (19%). and one ad for Paxil (from 2004). family. Furthermore.7 Although all of these Web sites contain the same basic elements (explanations of the biological science behind depression and antidepressants. 2001. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. in particular emphasizing the idea of “narrative magic. for six different brand name medications (Prozac. neurotransmitters. 2004. longstanding visions of selfhood.ad-rag. feeling anxious.paxilcr. for example. For one. distressing components of their self. p. Zoloft. anxiety.26 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. Men’s Health. as well as its connections to consumer capitalism. checklists and self-quizzes. Like other ads. depression may be related to an imbalance Downloaded from http://bst. that appeared 132 times across the years and magazines under review. 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. They list a set of symptoms characteristic of depression: tired all the time. is indicated throughout the article. Essence. and Sports Illustrated (16%). 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.com) and Zoloft (www. In contrast to. or put aside. in the case of one ad. Reader’s Digest (8%). and physicians. Self. Paxil. 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. I collected advertisements that appeared in all issues of nine popular magazines: Time. Finally. All rights reserved. I highlight the new characters that antidepressant ads introduce into the story of self. Zoloft.com) Web sites were chosen for closer analysis. yet transforms. and Psychology Today. Glamour. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 for wider consumption. The archive included five ads for Zoloft (from 2003. and 2005). I also focus on the structure of these antidepressant narratives. Serzone. (b) television commercials for antidepressants. they also provide people with new forms of freedom and agency. Furthermore. Finally.zoloft. ads appeared most frequently in Glamour (25%). posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 2004. and 2005). throughout the analysis. 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. or. Brains. descriptions of side effects). I gathered three kinds of material: (a) magazine advertisements for antidepressants. I visited promotional Web sites for each of the advertised medications. Effexor. Esquire. the Paxil (www. three ads for Wellbutrin (from 2003.5 Of the nine magazines reviewed. case studies and personal testimonies.4 I reviewed each issue of each magazine that was published between July 1997 and May 2005. This individualizing impetus. Self (19%). The Zoloft ads use techniques found in most other antidepressant advertisements. and not able to sleep. 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  diagnostic bracket creep. 37). and Essence (5%). followed by Esquire (8%). and Wellbutrin were viewed through the online commercial archive Adland (www. .
the bubble cries in the moonlight or under a rain cloud. the act of taking an antidepressant is no longer an abstract enterprise. When depressed. abstract world of the scientific laboratory and the world of everyday life. or dopamine systems. The bubble has been the center of the Zoloft campaign since the ads started in 2001. 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. the bubble acts as a bridge between the dry. To tell theses stories. The Zoloft Web site (n.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. 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. the bubble also starts to double for the human agent. .d. are unique and instructive because they make the story of neurotransmission a centerpiece of their advertisements. These panels tell a before-andafter biological story. 18-20). but it is an activity that has material consequences visualized through the narrative of the Zoloft bubble. The Zoloft ads. . All antidepressant ads introduce the idea that depression or anxiety is a biological disease. 1997. its face expressing shock and terror. such as the first Prozac ads.. the synaptic gap is no longer an empty space but is filled with many bubbles. The early ads featured the bubble in various states of distress. The biological story is one in which neurotransmission is slowed. The tie between depression and serotonin led scientists to an interesting find [sic]. As a result. Indeed. The first point speaks for itself. One of these messengers is called serotonin. Scientists believe people with depression could have an imbalance of serotonin in their brain. which claim that “depression isn’t just feeling down. It has become the subject of social satire (“Pfizer Launches ‘Zoloft for Everything’ Ad Campaign. I will expand on the significance of Points b and c. Downloaded from http://bst. we are already involved with this inner life. neurotransmission is represented in two panels that sit side by side. Many explicitly describe this as a problem in the serotonin. it is haunted by a dark shadow figure. In the same way that the human agent is caught up in the midst of everyday dilemmas and crises of movement (e. it is shaking and blushing in a spotlight or alienated from other more jubilant and gregarious bubbles. 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. .” and “Some people think that you can just will yourself out of a depression. These brain states are not desirable in themselves but acquire their significance within larger social and cultural narratives. however. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 27 of naturally occurring chemicals between nerve cells in the brain. Zoloft blocks reuptake of the bubble neurotransmitters.” 2003) and at one time had its own online fan club. By putting a familiar face on the activity of neurotransmission. It’s a real illness with real causes. In this manner.]). the ads introduce the now famous “bubble” character (examples of which can be viewed at www. it is more explicit in other campaigns. and in need of rejuvenation or direction. When anxious. or scattered. norepinephrine. 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. The bubble character becomes an analogue for the neurotransmitters in the cartoon synaptic gap. In deciphering this image.zoloft. The first image features a synaptic gap relatively empty of little bubbles: the neurotransmitters. In the magazine ads. Through this imagery. the Zoloft advertisements provide linkages between otherwise inert biological matter and the human agent tasked with the use of antidepressants. this technique affirms the biological basis of this disease type and attempts to squeeze out older psychosocial and folk interpretations of psychological suffering. When overcome by PTSD. These messengers help cells send messages to each other.com).d. or (c) a humanized subject. (b) an analogue for the neurotransmitters that the human actor wants to goad into action.g. Although this substitution is implied in the Zoloft ads. A relationship to biology is also established in metaphors through which certain brain states become desired states. In other words.sagepub. All rights reserved. Indeed. depression as a slowing down of one’s life or anxiety as an inability to move forward). . In the after picture. 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. this bubble has acquired something of a cult status. That’s not true” (Prozac. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. pp. the Zoloft bubble is an ideal mediator because it can at one and the same time become (a) a little white pill. Here.” At one and the same time.) provides an exemplary account: Nerve cells in the brain and the rest of the nervous system use chemical messengers.
in these ads. argues that advertisements regularly appeal to the emptiness or lack of self and promise idealized satiation. the ads regularly return to a contrast between depletion and plenitude. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. 1994) but a sudden and exhilarating increase in bubbles in the synaptic gap. In antidepressant ads.sagepub. both at the level of biology and at the level of the self. emptiness occurs in the recesses of the brain. Zoloft enters the picture and erects barriers so that the bubbles from Nerve A cannot be reabsorbed. the metaphor of communication builds on popular psychologies. A full. Where.” Many return and are reabsorbed into Nerve A. or happiness and depression. The brain. Depression and anxiety are the opposite of communication.com). Just like psychosocial relationships. 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. 1990. The result is not merely forward. 2001. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 That means the level of serotonin is “off. neurotransmitters and synaptic gaps are introduced as characters in their own right. might learn that they can find deeper meaning in a return to nature or change in lifestyle. antidepressant ads constitute lack at a level that. in these ads. Finally. for example. wholeness. active. which place openness and communication at the center of psychological well-being. or vacation getaways promise satisfaction. the brain is healthy when it communicates freely and transparently. As a communication system. building on the work of psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan. they inevitably deepen the feeling of emptiness. emptiness. Gergen. it is inoperative and lacks energy. the story of biology is embedded within concerns that originate in the background experience of contemporary social life.” this might be depression. and sense of fragmentation that many argue characterizes life in our times (Cushman. The synaptic gap is empty or depleted when not operating correctly. They are forced (encouraged? helped?) to move through the synaptic gap. Selfhood. the brain and. jewelry. and uncertainty associated with depressed neurotransmission is apparent. clothing. Where in other ads food. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. chemically rich brain is also a full self. The “off” also refers back to the felt symptoms of depression: “You know when you’re not feeling like yourself. Here. The gap is filled up. becomes extremely interesting to readers and those suffering everyday malaise because it comes to stand for the ultimate feeling of satisfaction. by definition. In the animation. and active—a modern image of the good and productive life. The self is constituted in a continuing and repetitive relationship of lack. or send messages to each other the right way. or sociality and isolation. few reaching the destination of “Nerve B. or of finally being filled up. Taylor. and momentary satisfaction. desire. satiation is realized through the metaphor of biology. Zoloft restores energy and happiness by filling up the empty space. Williamson (1978). Downloaded from http://bst.” So the nerve cells can’t communicate. more specifically.28 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. I also want to draw attention to the images of plenitude and wholeness in these ads. communicating. and direction. Products acquire the ability to provide a feeling of satiation. The animation begins with a more or less empty synaptic gap. committed consumer hedonists. They are isolation of the suffering individual and the bubble/ neurotransmitter. In addition to opposing communication and noncommunication. completion. 1991. In one further step. meaninglessness. the ads promise energy. All rights reserved. Indeed. cannot be addressed through remedies that might be found in everyday life. people constituted through the antidepressant discourse have no choice but to seek a solution for their problems in antidepressant medications. hesitation. suffering malaise. now duplicated at the level of neurotransmission. most notably the dilemmas of communication and information exchange that social theorists argue are central to the contours of postmodern society (Best & Kellner. The imagery is most striking in the animated sequence featured in Zoloft television ads (also seen at the Web site zoloft. Haraway. this is the fundamental relationship between consumer and product in the consumer society. 1979. 1991). Delusion. The “offness” of the “synapse” is equated with the “offness” of feeling and selfhood. 1991). directed movement (the typical Western progress narrative.” And when the synapse is off. conceived as such. Against the malaise.” When you feel a little bit “off. The malaise. and its state of activity. both the density and the speed with which bubbles move through the gap are increased. see Gergen. energized. the synapse can either be “on” or “off. Lasch. Products depicted in ads acquire a powerful meaning and significance because they give a feeling of completion. but insofar as they lack substance. This lack of contact between cells might cause depression. and satiation is achieved only with Zoloft. Indeed. and Consumer Choice I have suggested that. .com by Gerard Stan on November 26. Bubbles emerge out of “Nerve A” in slow and directionless movement. the antidepressant promises the satisfaction that no other products in the consumer society are able to provide.
This is especially relevant to antidepressant ads that redefine vast areas of human life and suffering as biologically determined behaviors and feelings. 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. or.” “can’t concentrate at work. 1999. Though implied by most. Words: “feel on edge. . while at the same time constituting the reader as a free subject who is able to make his or her own choices. In this respect. a state in which individuals cannot recognize the truth of their condition. 1997. these people cannot see beyond the cloud of their illness. Defined as biological illness. 336-337). alcoholism. definitely beyond the control of the individual. 28-29). freedom. as a consumer. madness poses a growing risk to the self. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. the force of the argument depends on modern notions of the selfhood: authenticity. 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. like those depicted in television police dramas. The problem becomes. titled “What It Is. illustrating the ad slogan “Serzone: calms the chaos of depression. they play off older stereotypes and fears of the out-of-control madman. 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. Indeed. wide awake with worry and sadness (Serzone. 1965). In the second image. the ads suggest.” “nothing matters anymore” crowd around her. In these instances. mental illness is depicted as madness. Psychological illness becomes an entity. then. His colleagues look at him with curiosity and interest. I will return to the role that this little narrative plays within the bigger narrative at the end of this article. Antidepressant ads regularly pose the possibility that the reader is in a deluded state of mind. within the unbalanced neurotransmitter system. and perceptions. feelings. does not only relieve the symptoms of illness. deepening its hold on individuals and submitting them to greater risks. the person who suffers social anxiety. As mad men and women.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. I turn to the way in which the self is depicted in ads. biological imbalance can proliferate and spread. even thoughts of suicide” (Paxil. He is bound by tight ropes and confronted with the glares and accusations of his colleagues. because he does not know that these feelings are really symptoms of disease. All rights reserved. not only his psychological well-being but also his capacity to perform at the workplace are under threat. are fundamentally out of contact with lifesaving and self-constituting forces. depression. Furthermore. pp. If left unattended. The ethic and spirit of market capitalism depends on this ideological move. In the first image. In contrast to historical conceptions of mental illness that opposed Reason to Madness (Foucault.” SmithKline Beecham uses a similar technique to depict a male character’s delusion in a Paxil ad.” the character sits inches beneath a glaring lamp. misunderstanding. This imbalance is the source of confusion and fear that are far beyond his control. but it also restores the man to a state of self-transparency. independence. refusing to date. some ads explicitly depict the suffering individual as someone overwhelmed and caught up in a swirl of symptoms and misperceptions. because even though biology is given a crucial position in antidepressant advertising. Indeed. The first page of a two-page Serzone advertisement features a middle-aged women in bed. This is one way in which the ads integrate mental illness into the circuits of consumer capitalism. they also retain an image of the self as an agent capable of consumer choice. “People with social anxiety disorder are at higher risk for depression. Risk is located internally. pp. and as a result.sagepub. he is unable to help himself. Once working. How do antidepressant ads create agency for individuals. and turning down job promotions. in most advertisements. titled “What It Feels Like. at first originating within the recesses of the brain but then growing outward to overtake wider areas of the life world. the depiction of biology is a narrative within the greater narrative of the ad space. the Paxil not only relieves the symptoms of anxiety. subsumed and overtaken by alien forces (Foucault.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. in other ads. and misrecognition. as Williamson (1978) points out. The message of the ad is that this man’s misperception is a product of a chemical imbalance. Downloaded from http://bst. and wholeness. 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. Even as antidepressant ads operate through the promise of scientific authority and honesty. in the middle the night. The ad summarizes. Paxil. 1965). but it also allows this man to distinguish between himself and his illness. They pose a risk to self and others because the illness has gained control over their thoughts.” he is pictured as the center of attention at a boardroom meeting. including the possibility of suicide. For the moment. He lingers in a state of disease. as if awaiting an answer to a question.
show improvement after they seek treatment. It is punctual in the sense that all of the qualities that matter to it exist at a single abstract point. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 In this kind of maneuver. there is nothing that individuals can do by themselves to clear the problem away. the narrative perspective.30 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. Very broadly. 2002. the decision to get treatment becomes an existential choice. takes the self as a phenomenon that exists in its expressions. GlaxoSmithKline emphasizes the decision to get treatment: Depression can make you feel hopeless and helpless. then. antidepressant ads provide an influential technique for affirming and achieving selfhood. shaped by the ideals of science and utility. and its position within a social and moral community. 28-29).sagepub. 1987. see also Habermas. they have no causal efficacy. as we learn from the Paxil Web site. pp. This is the self whose essence resides in its ability to step outside of life and manage itself through disengaged reason. even those with severe depression. as it were. Thoughts and wishes are made up of a different material than brains and neurotransmitters. 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. Though certainly not a new or unfamiliar view of self (as many argue. 2002). In contrast. depression and anxiety speak a different language than human beings. 83). . the individual is divested of one kind of agency and introduced to another. the individual becomes the only kind of agent he or she can be. Here. In short. Freedom comes in the decision to recognize oneself as a person with disease. its symbolic relations to others. It knows itself not by slipping into its own narrative skin. it is possible to gain control over one’s life. They may be comforting. But just taking the first step—deciding to get treatment—can make all the difference. antidepressant promotional campaigns rely on the narratives developed in organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous and the popular self-help culture. antidepressant Downloaded from http://bst.): Most patients. 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 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. On the Depression . 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. Indeed. favored in this article. Instead of the narrative self that is “distributed” across its own life and across social and cultural institutions. p. More than depicting suffering as biological imbalance.com (n. and they cannot simply will it away. In this view. people become selves by articulating and speaking about their understanding of their life circumstances and their position within a shared symbolic universe. 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.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. the self assumed in antidepressant advertisements is more like what Charles Taylor (1989. this is the form of modern selfhood.d. Here.d. And again on the Paxil Web site (n. It is also a vision of selfhood that articulates well with the market ideology of consumer societies and its emphasis on personal choice. Because depression and anxiety—and the broad range of symptoms associated with them—are products of biological imbalance. As a system of thought and practice. Taylor traces this conception of selfhood to the writings of 17thcentury philosopher John Locke. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. They cannot turn to talk therapy because that does not clear up the imbalance (it is. In this respect.” This is the central message of all antidepressant advertisements and promotional materials. 159) calls the “punctual” self. In this context. and the recognition of depression and anxiety as biological entities requires an acceptance of laws outside of normal human control. 1999. “just talk”). 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. In this choice to get well. but rather through symptom checklists. 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.) Web site. All rights reserved. This is emphasized in most ads that equate the decision to seek medication as a choice to “feel more like ‘yourself’” (Paxil. the punctual self always exists in a moment of disembodied choice. It is a view that has powerfully influenced contemporary scientific cultures. p. Horkheimer & Adorno. the punctual self acquires new tools for self-management and control in the biomedical age. 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. it is a choice in which individuals are expected to recognize that they have no control over certain areas of their being. it is helpful to distinguish between two possible visions of the self. but ultimately.
In the first part.” Anxiety. and selfhood have been restored. The butterfly is there. more like ‘yourself’ is within reach” (Paxil. However. the choice is simple and miraculous. and unable to show herself to the world. and the bubble follows it. These. Downloaded from http://bst. smiling. These are made intelligible and available for narrative through various metaphors that give them life and meaning. The top panel featured a middle-aged woman lost in a crowd. This is most obvious in the television ads for Zoloft. activity. the butterfly disappears.8 This commercial unfolds in three parts. In this. A graphic “millions suffer from chronic anxiety” cuts across the woman’s body. p. in 2001. . 83). 2002. and after. in which happiness. hardly able to contain its fluttery excitement. In so doing. When we return to the bubble character. the muscles in her face and neck are drawn tight. waiting to be offered its choices. it is no longer inside of the cave but outside. but the bubble is always slightly out of synchronicity with these possibilities. Before-and-after narratives are visibly built into the formal structure of ads. It is turned away from the cave door. The picture is framed by the product name “Paxil” and the campaign slogan “Your life is waiting. as the second ad in the series says. 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. smiling. the people addressed by advertisements are constituted as agents insofar as they can make the choice to get well. She looks afraid. A horizon and blue sky can be seen through the door in the distance. In the first. hanging in midair. The Paxil ad for depression catches this sentiment as well. I argued that even though the biological argument threatens the self with biological determinism. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. they also play a crucial role in bridging the move from the before state into the after state. health. Zoloft’s restorative properties are introduced. and looking around. is the thing that is “standing between you and your life” (Paxil. near the entrance. All rights reserved. reactive. of course. Paxil used this technique in ads for both chronic anxiety disorder and depression. tense. happiness. bouncing. 2002. I showed how depression and antidepressant medications are constituted as biological entities that operate under their own power according to their own laws. The second part of the ad switches to the neurotransmitter image discussed in the first section of this article.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. It is something that can bring the bubble into synchronicity with the world outside the cave. p.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 31 advertisements constitute the self as a disembodied essence. The ad featuring chronic anxiety was divided into two panels (Paxil. 83). The ads distinguish two discrete conditions: before. I have drawn attention to elements constituted in the antidepressant ads. television commercials are able to depict transformation as it occurs over time. In this section. The qualities of specific brain states are given further meaning through their resonance with background social dilemmas involving information transmission and communication.” It is accompanied by a second image of the woman. This nearness of a solution—the ease with which the self can be put back to rights—is captured with the phrase “feeling balanced. Where depression and anxiety are constituted as real things that get in the way of life and selfhood. the undefined future. The medications take on the properties associated with happiness and good health and therefore are associated with the after stage of selfhood. bright eyed. For example. or depression. are all images of wide-open possibility. and social involvement. her arm held across her chest tightly holding a bag. the well-being of the self is bound to the well-being of neurotransmitters.sagepub. This pattern is repeated in numerous ads. Paxil removes the barrier and restores selfhood. Unlike the stories told in magazine ads. Indeed. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. The second panel opens with the claim “millions can be helped by Paxil. 2001. they once again turn our attention to the ideal of complete or whole selfhood. p. Happiness is just within reach. and open to the world. This before-and-after story is duplicated in advertising narratives about the self. Narrative Magic and the Perfection of Self In the previous two sections. The bubble seems unaware of the butterfly that flutters near the entrance. in which a person is caught up in depression or anxiety. the bubble character is found facing the back wall of a cave. Take for example Zoloft’s “cave” commercial. to meet up with other bubbles that are happy to see it. I have already indicated how the Zoloft image of neurotransmission introduces this narrative as a story about the changes in brains treated with antidepressants. as well as the modern aspiration toward a complete and energized selfhood. a relationship mediated through antidepressants. Zoloft is presented as a solution ready at hand. Consistent with the theme of choice introduced in the last section. I want to show how these elements fit into the larger narratives developed in the ads. overwhelmed by anxiety symptoms—her body is drawn inward. and when it finally turns to catch a glimpse. antidepressants come to stand for revivified selfhood. In the second section. 55).
10 Though not as spectacular as Paxil. 2002. sociality.” “anxious. bridges past and future through a choice made in the present. It builds on historical conceptions of medications. the camera zooms in on the palm of a hand displaying the medication. they are able to see themselves clearly for the first time in a long time. A piece of the story. consider a television commercial for Paxil CR. and antidepressants bring selfhood back.32 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. a mirror. confrontation and interpretation of a difficult and shocking past was crucial to the development of self-understanding. represented through four separate vignettes) is introduced as they walk up to.9 Like the Zoloft commercial. 1997. the pill comes to embody a wide range of values and meanings. For the Biblical figure Job. the magic of antidepressants are most obviously highlighted in contrast to older narratives that valorized suffering and despair as central to personal growth. suffering was a test and lesson from God.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. Perhaps it remembered a friend outside of the cave.” and “panicky. Paxil asserts “Your life is waiting” (Paxil. We’ll never know for sure. Or put another way. and love potions. antidepressant narratives promise the restoration of selfhood. It begins to sparkle and release evanescent. magic tonics. is snipped out or bypassed. 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. pp. for good or for bad. the only semblance that we have of a present is the moment in which the self makes a choice for well-being. The latter will become clearer in a moment.” “self-conscious. religious and even psychoanalytic narratives made sense of suffering and despair by narrating them as central components of personal development. These are the climactic moments of the commercial. glowing energies. 18-20). Under the influence of medicine. and. or at least to a decision to take Zoloft. p. . This is implied by most campaigns and explicitly captured in some slogans: Prozac uses the phrase “Welcome Back” (Prozac. and Effexor brings you “Back to me” (Effexor. In these stories. this one is divided into three segments. and this desire was more powerful than its fear. Oftentimes. This is the controlled release of the medicine inside the pill. The pill changes from white to pink. there are two “selves” in Downloaded from http://bst. If there is any doubt that antidepressants are a kind of magic pill. as I want to now argue. Thus. These campaigns play on themes of authenticity and the promise of a “real” self free from the burdens and imperfections of the present. the ability to begin to answer my questions. burdened by anxieties and compulsions. consider the way in which the pills are fetishized in the ads. midcommercial. however. It provides a therapy that in older systems would have been realized through interpersonal relationships. The pill is both a commodity that stands in for and covers over social relations. The first segment depicts people in anxious states— their identity is overtaken by the illness. In the Wellbutrin television commercial. and it is an object that stands in for fantasies of wholeness and completion. Now. 83). To the neurotic.sagepub. the Zoloft solution is magical. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 I’m interested in what happened while we were watching the neurotransmitters cross the synaptic gap. Perhaps more than anything. In Decoding Advertising. I am using the term fetish in both the Marxian and the psychoanalytic sense. The medication is in hand.” “nervous. In this sense. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. this magic plays with the laws of time and space.” the camera cuts to a full screen product shot. Williamson (1978) studies the magical properties that advertising bestows on products. 154-155). important to the affirmation of faith. or sit down in front of. In this ad—and all antidepressant ads—some time has been lost and. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Indeed. even if a cure was not always assured. and the future beckons. but first. The 2004 Wellbutrin campaign also promises to make people “feel like themselves again” but illustrates this recovery process through an extensive use of mirrors. The pill also assumes a central narrative position in the television commercial for Wellbutrin XL. antidepressant medications allow the self to move from the past to the future. unhindered by the need to say more about the source of suffering experienced in the present. Perhaps it realized that it did not want to die before seeing the sun again. Clearly. each character (four in total.” As these people begin to realize that they can become the “real me. as I have been arguing. with it. All rights reserved. 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. and the desire to be with this friend drew it out. and Paxil’s “controlled release” properties are demonstrated. Depression and anxiety destroy selfhood. It also. The choice has been made. it stands in for happiness. The medicine and the punctual self are united as a kind of fulcrum around which the antidepressant narrative turns. In antidepressant ads. something seems to be missing from antidepressant narratives. Finally. in this respect. once filled in with more elaborate explanations of the purpose of suffering. complete and full selfhood. 2003. pp. and this is symbolized by nametags worn by each character: “fearful.
or the blurred shoulder. Although selfhood inevitably depends on others.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 33 the story: one in the “real” world and the other reflected in the mirror. Relationship is no longer a means to self-understanding but an end pursued only after the individual has pulled him or herself together. of the real character. sexual impotence. As illness. this choice for well-being is firmly associated with the choice to begin antidepressant therapy. frames the ads. is forgotten. The central presence of the mirror underlines the connection between narrative magic and the conjuring of the image of complete and full selfhood. I would argue. 1990). This claim is associated with the work of psychoanalytic theorist Jacques Lacan. despite the danger of delusion and disorder that are imputed to follow from chemical imbalance. as if those experiences of fragmentation. The focus of attention is the mirror image that primps. is required to gain coherence and emotional stability long before it enters into relationships. the blurry figure of the past self that stands in front of the mirror. the self in the mirror is contrasted with the blurry self in the world—the self before Wellbutrin. They promise selfhood. Christopher Lasch (1979) develops a similar theme in his critique of late 20th-century consumer culture. The self. and anxiety are only a part of the illness and therefore not really a part of one’s life and relationships with others. now herself again—is ready to go out into the evening and into life ahead. As argued.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. Here. the self depicted in antidepressant advertising is readied for commodification. 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. It is not merely a choice to cure one’s suffering. The paradox and inadequacy of this kind of solution should be clear.sagepub. These are stories that have a clear beginning. in his term. As viewers. they can. Moreover. antidepressants function as technologies that help to prop selves up. . the restoration of selfhood is divested of all social qualities. In contrast. and smiles for the evening ahead. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. prepares. I suggest that the ads respond to these same fears by promising the perfection of self through antidepressant medication. It is a self that can only be restored with the aid of the advertised medications. be put into the category of other. This is the central danger of the ads. It is a self that is found lacking in self-sustaining neurochemicals. middle. dislocated. This narrative closure Downloaded from http://bst. which. In the Wellbutrin ad. individuals are increasingly thrown on themselves for self-definition and coherence. and end. According to Lasch. The mirror image is also a glimpse into the undefined future—the character. we only see the back. chaos. 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. 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. persons are left without the interpersonal resources of family and tradition. the ads construct selfhood and illness such that they are easily integrated into the emerging circuits of pharmaceutical capital. it is a self that retains the capacity to choose its own well-being. In part. the mirror has come to signify a narcissistic attraction to the illusory image of selfperfection and completion. a vision of selfhood that depends on the complex and open-ended notions of narrative and interpersonal dialogues resists commodification. even as interpersonal and psychosocial resources provided by previous communities and shared forms of storytelling disappear. The before-and-after narratives emphasize closure. 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. Clearly. in all of its problems and complexities. and. it is a larger existential choice to take responsibility for one’s life and to choose one’s self. embracing narrative of self. alone in front of a mirror. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Lasch argues that in the late 20th century. The difference is captured in the concept of the before-and-after narrative. In this context. as I have argued. At once. 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. in a sense. All rights reserved. In this context. who argues that the image of a whole and complete ego disavows the fragmentation and incompletion out of which human subjectivity emerges. 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. In one line of social thought. depression. Conclusion As I have argued throughout. “besieged” by the growing set of dangers and risks in everyday life.
the decision to take antidepressants introduces people to a sometimes lengthy process in which (a) they learn how to use antidepressants (i. a full appreciation of the social and historical significance of these technologies. it also creates a simplistic expectation about what the medications do and how they work: Depression is a biological imbalance. They seem to offer a straightforward solution to a medical mystery that psychiatric science has now attempted to unravel. which antidepressant to take. In particular. the magical passage from misery to selfcompletion). No doubt there are many new stories to be told about the engagements with biomedical technologies and the possible futures onto which these open. highlight the relationship between persons. doubt. how different medications make their body and self feel) and (b) they learn to assess the significance of antidepressants for their sense of self. which. Ultimately. and others is situated within broader narratives and sociological processes. 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?). TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 supports the images of wholeness and completion depicted in other elements of the ads. have now become problems for biological analysis and treatment. does not permit direct to consumer advertising of pharmaceuticals. biology. This is not to say that the images and ideas depicted in this article do not have significance outside of the United States. Health Canada. As demonstrated. In this context. they disavow their location within these social and historical discourses. Furthermore.e. this analysis has been offered as a critique of the image of self presented in antidepressant advertising. in a set of interviews that I conducted with people who have taken antidepressants. 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. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Notes 1. It has also served as an opportunity to describe changing conceptions of selfhood and suffering. all pharmaceutical companies discussed in this article are based in the United States. and the biomedical view more generally. Antidepressants correct the biological imbalance. For Downloaded from http://bst.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. However. contrary to the scientific neutrality and objectivity implied by the ads. which dose to take. At the surface. these ads.. but very practically. one of the central problems of the antidepressant ads is that even as they rely on longstanding stories about selfhood. In this respect. Paxil. Moreover. waiting for stories that could make better sense of the contemporary dilemmas of everyday life. Indeed. However. requires continuing work on the character of narrative in the biomedical era. For instance. Zoloft. the scientific knowledge offered in the ads is directly related to larger social processes of medicalization or biomedicalization. magazine and television ads regularly slip across the border into Canada. I’ve demonstrated that the version of self promoted in ads for Prozac. 1993). In other words. 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. but they also introduce new forms for realizing these ideals. Here. With the exception of U. Indeed. . The exception are the Internet promotional materials.34 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. The advertisements thus resonate with larger cultural aspirations and anxieties even as they suggest that mental illness is the product of individual disorder.sagepub.-based Wyeth pharmaceuticals. have a global audience. and uncertainty. these emerging conceptions of self certainly depend on long familiar ideals such as authenticity and selfcontrol. and their implications for selfhood. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. Furthermore. Depression and anxiety. the advertisements discussed in this article appeared in American magazines and on American television. Antidepressants restore selfhood. the ads claim that antidepressants heal depression and anxiety by restoring chemical imbalance. New characters are introduced (neurotransmitters and antidepressant agents) and new storylines are developed (the activity of neurotransmitters in my brain.K. and psychiatric technologies. antidepressants do not ensure the restoration of complete selfhood but rather act as stop-gap solutions. All rights reserved. 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. once interpreted through the lens of psychoanalytic and psychosocial approaches. in theory. Wellbutrin. For example. I learned that narratives of antidepressant use are neither simple nor closed (see also Karp. the antidepressant narrative is clean and uncomplicated. However. although the Canadian government agency. the ads rely on a relatively smooth and unproblematized story of scientific progress and human betterment. where previous theories of selfhood highlighted the transformative power of interpersonal relationships. antidepressant ads must be viewed as components of a culture that increasingly relies on biological imagery to communicate and resolve social problems.
4.). (2001). J. I viewed it at www. technology. The distribution of gender in the advertisements was as follows: nongendered character (e. SNRIs. 6. 1-2. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and selective norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) are promoted as a distinctly new breed of antidepressants. Goetzl. Self. J. D. U.com. this is an arbitrary decision. fashion. Gender & Society. and Sports Illustrated. 7. As such. the one of two Paxil ads that featured a male character portrayed him overwhelmed by anxiety in a boardroom. I viewed it at www. Lakoff.d.ad-rag. (1991). pp. (n. Best. 2005. the Zoloft bubble): 64/132 = 48%. p. New York: Henry Holt and Company. 599-611. Time. All rights reserved. The theory of communicative action (Vol. Wilson. For example. (1991). 8.html Diefenbach. In K. 269-286. 185. References Ad groups protest ruling on Paxil. Metzl. I included only ads for the antidepressant medications: SSRIs. (2002. New York: Vintage. In some ways. 289-302. which blocks norepinephrine and dopamine. MA: Harvard University Press. Adweek. Blum. To ensure a complete collection of ads. from http://depression. whereas PMDD medication relies on different imagery and presumably addresses a different audience and problem (though. Essence. 82. which ran a series of ads between 1997 and 2000) and medications for premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). P. the relationship between gender and psychological suffering reproduces conventional gender stereotypes. 154-155. The antidepressant Wellbutrin (dopamine reuptake inhibitor. e. This commercial ran on television in 2004. Advertising Age. Paxil anxious to get message out. Cambridge. In contrast to earlier antidepressants (the tricyclics and the monoamine oxidase inhibitors). see. P. This said. Though I collected a wide range of ads for psychiatric medications. for this analysis. and two broad-based news and current events magazines: Time and Reader’s Digest. 2006. (1965).com. Cambridge. Finally. These included women’s lifestyle. Both Prozac and Zoloft campaigns feature nongendered cartoon figures (though a closer analysis might reveal gendered characterizations of self and suffering. This is based on numbers provided by IMS Health. (2004). of course. Ads for Effexor. D. cyborgs and women: The reinvention of nature. Retrieved September 30. Simians. D. and peace. New York: Routledge. this research was concerned with the impact of the idea of antidepressant medications. 9.com. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. Men’s Health. Serzone. Esquire) and in one women’s magazine (Glamour). New York: Guilford. The saturated self: Dilemmas of identity in contemporary society. Individualization. (2002). of which Prozac was the first. Habermas.adweek. Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the age of reason. and fitness magazine: Self and Glamour. Gergen.. and sports magazines: Esquire. MA: Harvard University Press. and general audience magazines (Glamour. even in presumably neutral advertisements). see Petryna. S.g. K. I have not attempted a rigorous analysis of the relationship between magazine type and the depiction of self. J. & Watt.). August 26). I. (2003). American Psychologist.Stepnisky / ANTIDEPRESSANT ADVERTISING 35 further discussion of the global significance of pharmaceutical medications. Although the ads centered around the female characters appeared in women’s. Beck. London: Sage. female characters are frequently depicted in relationship to family and motherhood. J. June). depression is also a gendered disorder. S. Falk. Realities and relationships (pp. (1997).jsp#Kaplan. J. Self-narration in social life. L. and a DRI. (1999). DRI). (1997). and Esquire). & Kellner. 2. is also included among this new breed of antidepressants. & Beck-Gernshiem. from www. 25(3). London: Sage. 18(3). Healy. 2). and PMDD medications are SSRIs (Prozac and Zoloft) marketed under different names for a differently constructed disorder. Journal of Community Psychology.com/treating_depression. 2003). and Kleinman (2006). Gilbody. 5.com/aw/industry_reports/report_ cards/2003/arc2003_national.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. (1990). British Journal of Psychiatry. Sports Illustrated. 3. 185-210). Boston: Beacon. fashion. and they have relatively limited side effects. The antidepressant era. Gergen (Ed. The anti-anxiety medication Buspar does not fall under that umbrella and more closely resembles the tranquilizers of an earlier era. & Stracuzzi. I viewed it at www. 45(5). men’s lifestyle. Direct-to-consumer advertising of psychotropics: An emerging and evolving form of pharmaceutical company influence. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. and cultural studies at the third millennium. (1987). Agency report cards 2003. female character: 46/132 = 35%.. Paxil ads feature both male and female protagonists. (2005). (2003.ad-rag.. N. Beck. 70(40). as antidepressants are also marketed for the treatment of anxiety. a popular psychology magazine: Psychology Today. E. (1992). Hello to all that: A memoir of war. D. Gender in the Prozac nation: Popular discourse and productive femininity.ad-rag. Reader’s Digest. as suggested by Metzl and Angel (2004).. D. long associated with women’s “moodiness”. Downloaded from http://bst. M.. as well as its interaction with factors such as gender and race. K. Advertising Age. 10. However. and male character: 22/132 = 17%. Retrieved February 6. This commercial ran on television in 2004. the ads that featured a male character appeared exclusively in male magazines (Sports Illustrated. 9. fitness. (2004). a quick review suggests that when depicted.g. (1994). specifically SSRIs (and their cousins SNRIs and DRIs) and the promotion of these medications as a new kind of antidepressant. these are promoted as “targeted” medications in at least two senses: They were scientifically designed to block the reuptake of specific neurotransmitters. Haraway.. I coded the gender of the central character (the individual suffering psychological illness) in each magazine advertisement. The portrayal of mental illness on primetime television. Cushman. The postmodern adventure: Science.sagepub. New York: Basic Books. The analysis presented here focuses on the way that the self is represented in general across all of the advertisements. a few general observations are warranted. Foucault. and Wellbutrin featured female characters. Effexor [advertisement]. Zoloft. Serzone does not have a Web site. This commercial ran on television in 2003.com. U. Self.. men’s. Gergen. The analysis excludes ads for anti-anxiety medications (most notably Buspar. I chose magazines that target a number of different audiences and social groups. Depression. . Why the self is empty: Toward a historically situated psychology. Risk society: Towards a new modernity. an African American women’s lifestyle magazine: Essence. In contrast.
00. from http://paxilcr. total dispensed prescriptions. (2002).6652_ 40054611_1004878. All rights reserved. Lupton. Stepnisky is an assistant professor of sociology at Wilfrid Laurier University. biomedicalization. 41(1). Lasch. His area of specialization is social theory. (1978). 2005.d. Pfizer shuffles roster. markets. (1999). Paxil Web site. A. Decoding advertisements: Ideology and meaning in advertising. Retrieved September 30. Zoloft Web site. dispensed prescriptions. 337-359. 2005. MA: Harvard. J. Ontario. (2004). Retrieved September 30. Taylor. (1989). Canada: Anansi. Zita. & Kleinman.6652_ 49695974_68914714. (1997. Time. Neurochemical selves.com/content/node/28349 Prozac [advertisement]. D. mental health. 28. Leading 10 therapy classes by U. Qualitative Sociology.. Advertising Age. Risk. and consumption. 18-20. & Angel. p. November). & Fishman. Society.com by Gerard Stan on November 26. September 30). from www. J. May 14). London: Marion Boyars. Durham. & Thomaselli.).zoloft. Prozac diary. R. Paxil [advertisement]. (1993). 160(14). (2003. (2002. 7(4). The malaise of modernity. disenchantment. Time. New York: Penguin. Dialectic of enlightenment: Philosophical fragments. Metzl.com/derpession. E. 2005. Pfizer launches “Zoloft for everything” ad campaign.sagepub. Slater. 2007 © 2007 SAGE Publications. from http://www. C. 2005.S. (2004). with particular interest in theories of the self. . Body & Society. 83. Prozac nation. L. from www. Rose. Global pharmaceuticals: Ethics. Sources of the self. Television. Not for commercial use or unauthorized distribution. 39(18). D. pp. Retrieved November 23. A. IMS Health. 150(3).. Time. Serzone [advertisement]. 158(17).imshealth. Rose. New York: Warner Books.com/ims/portal/frton/articleC/0. (1998). Cambridge. Leading 29 therapeutic classes by total U. Assessing the impact of SSRI antidepressants on popular notions of women’s depressive illness. 16(4). refocuses ad strategy. (1991).html IMS Health. C.d.theonion. 2000. p. Taylor.S. M. Stanford.com/ims/portal/frton/articleC/0.2777.. J. trial commitment. (2001). 13-35. (1998). madness and community care. NC: Duke University Press. Wurtzel. (2003. 46-59. Zoloft [advertisement]. 2004. 158(3). New York: Riverhead Books. Paxil [advertisement]. Mamo. NC: Duke University Press.36 BULLETIN OF SCIENCE. Downloaded from http://bst. 213-228. Journal of Community Care & Applied Social Psychology. October 15). (1999. Taking anti-depressant medications: Resistance. Williamson. 37.com/zoloft/zoloftportal?_nfph = true&_ pageLabel=how_zoloft_works Jeffrey N. (2001.. 154(13). practices. 8. Durham.html Karp. (2001.). CA: Stanford University Press. L. (2003). (2000). N. (1997). J.00. L. 28-29. C. 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. 336-337. New York: Columbia Press. London: Routledge. J. The Onion. T. July 21).. pp. (n. Social Science & Medicine. Time.jsp Petryna. p. August 4). J. Body talk: Philosophical reflections on sex and gender. TECHNOLOGY & SOCIETY / February 2007 Horkheimer. The culture of narcissism.imshealth. pp. A. Metzl.2777. (1997. (1998). (n. Sanders. Lakoff. Glamour. 577-584. September 27). 55. Retrieved November 23. Potency in all the right places: Viagra as a technology of the gendered body. N.. & Adorno. 4. 2005. Retrieved September 30. D. Prozac on the couch: Prescribing gender in the era of wonder drugs. (1979). conversion. pp. Time. (2003). from www. (2006). 58. July 23). Paxil [advertisement]. Concord.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?