Thursday, August 06, 2009

Better Pacing through Chemistry

This decade, as I've chronicled in running features, has seen lots of memorable films, sporting events, music, etc. But what I haven't done enough is interpret the wholesale effects that media has had on society. One reason is that a lot of those attitudes can't be calculated yet. And how far does the arm of media reach? By only using entertainment to make sense of people, I'm being hopelessly limited. It might be helpful to look at cause-and-effect in the past ten years, to work backwards. I asked myself, "What's a difference in the way people act today versus how they acted ten years ago?" One thing that jumped out was that people seem more honest with each other, and one reason I thought for that was drugs.

The miracle anti-depressants Prozac and Zoloft became more readily available in the '90s, but it wasn't until the '00s that they and other pharmaceuticals like Paxil became widely accepted. And it wasn't until this decade that erectile dysfunction drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis, were approved for use. In an age of instant gratification, there seemed to be a treatment for any problem, even those that seemed most natural.

Because of the widespread avilability of these drugs, as well as the ubiquitous ads for them (every one of which is a government tax write-off), we as a culture are more open with each other about our deficiencies. Some people, like the parents who have to explain what an erection is to an eight-year-old, are nervous about this development. For that matter, patients are misdiagnosed and over-served with these drugs. But don't the ends justify the means?

For example, imagine a man admitting to another that he has E.D. ten years ago. It didn't happen. It was an emasculating condition. Now such confessions are a joke: "Better pop a few extra Viagra tonight."

The downside? Listening to hundreds of "if it lasts four hours..." jokes.

Since there are apparent treatments for every malady, we speak up about our own frailties. You hear people say, "Everybody's on something" or "everybody's got something wrong with him." Instead of something like clinical depression being the taboo it was in the 1960s, we now see it as the slight weakness of a healthier whole. The drug boom of the aughts has not made us perfect--it might not have even cured us--but it has made us more realistic. I mean, nobody's perfect, right?


Michael said...

You're perfect, Bowes. You're perfect.

Anonymous said...

I think there is a flip-side to this coin though. While it is nice that in the last decade we have been more open and honest about our inadequacies, we are at the same time more likely to accept them. Why bother working to fix a minor character flaw if that's just your inadequacy, and everyone's got one. On a different note, I think that the overabundance of flawed television characters over this past decade may reflect the public's acceptance of their own flaws. I mean, Tony Soprano started out in the late '90s, but he came into his own in this decade. Now there are a slew of shows such as Damages, Mad Men, Rescue Me, Dexter, Weeds, etc. that all tend to focus on moderately to extremely flawed main characters. At any rate, I enjoyed this post.

Scott Pruett

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