When I walk downtown in our city, I pass the Medical School. I guess we need it to produce a steady supply of doctors, to competently handle our ongoing medical issues. But then when I watch television, I see a concerted effort to educate the general public to second-guess doctors. I’m talking about all the health-related commercials. Just the superb animation alone, used to show the workings of our vascular, neural, skeletal and other systems, is enough to make a layman think he has completed anatomy 101. Computer artists take us on journeys through veins, bowels and electrical pathways in the service of solving or at least alleviating distress and dysfunction with their specific patent medications. These value-added ads are a much more sophisticated version of a carnival huckster offering cure-all nostrums by the bottle. Viewers who grew up on Sesame Street flashes of information, feel at home with the gorgeous visuals, graphs and progression from ‘the heartbreak of psoriasis’ to clear skin in thirty-second info-bursts. Who needs to dissect corpses like Hippocrates (he of the oath) and anatomical artists like daVinci to grasp the intricacies of body systems? “We saw it on television, doctor: ‘This is the letter C for Cold, Constipation and Cramps.”

And then there are the ads related to mental/emotional conditions. It’s enough to get viewers wondering what’s wrong with them if they aren’t depressed, sleep deprived, suicidal, forgetful or addicted to one substance or another. OTC comfort meds for colds, throbbing sinuses, itchy bottoms and gippy tum… what a relief they are! get addressed with more ads.

An additional bad side effect of medicinal ads is the list of side effects rattled off in a near unintelligible rush in the last three seconds of the commercial. Any hypochondriac worthy of the name will register every single one and whisper, ‘thanks for reminding me.’

To anchor my point, have you noticed that you almost never see a doctor wearing a lab coat, x-ray in hand, endorsing a medicine in a commercial anymore? There’s no need. We are all expected to be our own doctors. We’ve just been shown how our bodies work (or don’t) and what treatment/medications we require. Doctor authorities are currently relegated to guest appearances on evening news shows speaking to breaking developments in pandemics and other health issues too fresh for ad agency animation.

And just in case your aches have momentarily subsided, a good ad can quickly remind you of all the age-related throbs, pains and disabilities you might expect—if you don’t yet have them.

2 thoughts on “Health by Commercials

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