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?