I believe that obesity has been medicalized in U.S. culture as a result of profit-centered weight loss related items. The weight loss industry is worth $60.9 Billion in the U.S alone. (http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/5/prweb8393658.htm) I believe that obesity has been medicalized largely due to the economic influence of the weight loss industry that has cropped up since the rise of obesity. However, this industry would not be possible without the ‘quick-fix’ culture of the U.S., where we expect to receive results that are disproportionate to the effort that we put towards those results. While there are always exceptions, I believe that the vast majority of individuals with obesity have it because they lead sedentary lives and eat unhealthy food.



The ad I found is for a diet supplement which is eligible for a health insurance discount. Essentially the product is made up of excess dietary fiber, with the intent that the sheer volume of it once expanded(Wikipedia has a decent article on the actions of dietary fiber in the intestinal tract) will physically prevent you from excess eating while also making you feel like you’re full.

Advertising Strategy: It is primarily marketed as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery. It is also marketed as requiring little effort from the patient; they claim that when taking this supplement you will feel full after eating only half of what you would normally eat, allowing you to maintain a calorie-deficient diet without having to feel hungry. At the end of the advertisement they also mention that it contains beta-glucan and that you wouldn’t have that advantage if you had surgery.

Cultural Values and Ideologies: This ad exemplifies the quick-fix mentality we too often hold in the U.S. They essentially market the supplement as controlling your cravings so you don’t have to. Emphasis is placed on the fact that you will eat less without having to feel hungry, and that it lowers your cravings for food. Instead of altering their calorie rich, nutrient poor diet, this supplement claims that individuals will lose weight without having to make any changes to their lifestyle.

Social Roles: The ad is pitched by a physically attractive woman, who speaks in an enthusiastic and friendly tone. The company wants to be viewed as a friend providing you with an awesome method for safely losing weight. The cost of the supplement is downplayed throughout the ad, they mention that it is $480 and compare that price to an $8,000 surgery, but fail to mention how long $480 worth will last. (Looking through their website (https://www.rocalabs.com/en/), it appears that $480 is for a four-month supply.)

Presentation of Medical Information: I did not see any information presented in the ad which I would consider to be medically validated, as they did not provide any tangible data with which to support their claims.

Doctor-patient interactions: None are presented, as this is a diet supplement marketed directly to the consumer by the company which manufactures it.

Erectile Dysfunction

I think the condition of erectile dysfunction is biomedicalized in U.S. culture because it is a large source of dysphoria in many American men and women. According to Conrad’s article, it is common in our culture for many conditions which cause social problems or are perceived as deviations from the “norm” to be heavily biomedicalized such as baldness, obesity and menopause. Erectile dysfunction is not a condition which fits this category, it is not hazardous to ones biological health on its own, merely a deviation from the perceived norm. E.D. is unique in that although it is uncommon in women, it is a condition which may affect those in a relationship with an affected man and in this regard, its effects are two-fold. In the United States, this is a large issue due to sexual prowess being a strong drive of the male ego. Feelings of inadequacy in this area may extend to other aspects of the individuals life, making him feel hopeless and less likely to connect socially with people. I think that because of the more holistic view of medicine which is popular in today’s society, this condition has been framed as an “illness”. U.S. society largely views an illness as something which has a solution, and by framing erectile dysfunction in this way, it is more likely that people will seek treatment instead of living unhappily. In addition to cultural and social forces which re-frame this condition, economically, pharmaceutical companies are reframing this condition as a disease in order to sell their drug treatments. In this advertisement for Enzyte, natural male enhancement, one of the main advertising strategies used is humor in order to transmit a message which is not socially appropriate for general public television. By using puns such as “this santa will no longer be mistaken for an elf” the company is playing upon the value of humor in American culture. By using this device, the advertisement is able to create a solidarity with affected men who may be watching. This commercial provides an image of a socially strong male with women fawning over him. It purveys the message “take this pill and you’ll be an alpha too” showing Bob’s social role as dominant over women and even other men. There is little medical information presented other than that it is a “natural” option. This commercial presents the drug in a light which is almost free of the medical setting, which may be a play for the “natural enhancement” angle.

Enzyte advertisement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7vOPPXkqm4

Erectile Dysfunction

In 1998 the Federal Drug Administration approved the drug Viagra to treat men with erectile dysfunction.  Erectile dysfunction is a condition were a man cannot achieve an erection to have sex or cannot keep an erection long enough to complete the sex act.  At one time this condition was called impotence.  Erectile dysfunction may occur at any age but it is most often found in elderly men and men experiencing other illnesses.  Viagra was initially marketed to older men who had trouble obtaining or sustaining an erection but Pfizer, the producers of Viagra, soon broadened its intended audience to include nearly all males.  Pfizer’s marketing campaign changed the direction of the drug by depicting men performing “masculine” activities such as “professional athletes likening sexual function to consistent batting practice or race car drivers smashing through barriers marked ‘erectile difficulties”[1]

The drug was no longer seen as just a treatment for older men but now seen as a treatment to enhance sexual performance in all sexually active males.  The notion that the drug would enhance masculinity, which is brought to the customer through enhanced sexual performance, increased the user base and increased profits for Pfizer.  The pill and the pills name even displayed the powerful potential of the drug.  The name Viagra has been interpreted as a combination of the words “vigor” and “Niagara” creating a theme of power, potency, thunder, and force surrounding the pill.[2]  Viagra is also the color blue which is the color of masculinity.  Pfizer’s marketing for the drug promotes a “normal” or “ideal” body and sex life including the idea of “sex on demand, sex for everyone, and sex for life.”[3]  Pfizer’s construction of normality is the key component of its medicalization strategy.  Such marketing has brought a new meaning to erectile dysfunction.  It no longer just applies to an elderly man who can no longer have sex but also includes younger adults who want to invigorate their sexual performance to levels they had in their youth and to which they see is “normal.”  All of this, according to Pfizer, will make them manlier and more successful.

A Viagra commercial that implies the success a man can have after taking Viagra was air in Canada in 2003.[4]  I found this commercial to be interesting because of the strict guidelines attached to pharmaceutical advertising in Canada.  Apparently the name of the drug cannot be said out loud during any pharmaceutical commercial which makes the consumer look more at the hidden content.  The commercial begins with an extremely happy man hopping and bouncing out of his front door and into the street.  His house and neighborhood looks like something straight out of “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best.”  The neighborhood appears to be abnormally “normal.” The man is dancing in the street and is apparently astatic over his new found sexual normalcy.  All the while, since the beginning of the advertisement, the song “We are the Champions” by Queen is playing in the background.  As he dances in the street we see a neighbor woman watch with disbelief as she waters her garden with a limp hose.  Soon, every middle aged man in the neighborhood is dancing in the street including a man in a wheelchair.  Just as the word Viagra is displayed on the screen the lyrics of the song “no time for loser’s because we are the champions” is heard.  The Viagra logo fades out and the words “talk to your doctor” appear on screen.  This was an attempt to display the happiness and confidence that come with erectile normalcy.  By living the sexual “normal” life you will become more popular, confident, successful, and more manly.  Anyone not living this life and not taking Viagra is a “loser.”  By making men feel as if they are less manly, popular, or even a looser if they suffer from any erectile problems they could possibly increase consumption and profits.

Funny Viagra Commercial 2

[1] Loe, Meika, “The Rise of Viagra: How the Little Blue Pill Changed Sex in America,” New York: New York University Press, 2004. P. 58-59.

[2] Loe. P. 53.

[3] Loe. P. 169.

[4] “Funny Viagra Commercial 2.” 2010. YouTube Video, 1:02, Posted by “PharmaOnline2010.”   Aug 12, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btRVajYQm80.


I chose to analyze acne as a highly medicalized condition in U.S. culture. Many people are affected by acne, but I think the sheer number of acne commercials and “treatment systems” have allowed it to become medicalized in our culture. Rather than a normal part of growing up, it’s seen as a malady that needs to be medicated. I think there are heavy cultural influences that re-framed acne as an illness. Teens and young adults with acne are subject to the constant influence of popular culture and media, which tells them they don’t fit the “ideal” if they have acne. Our culture emphasizes the importance of clear skin with every flawless celebrity that graces the cover of magazines and movies. There are hundreds of acne treatments on the market today, ranging from antibiotics to medicated face washes to chemical peels.

Additionally, everywhere we turn we find a new acne commercial for the next greatest acne treatment system. I included a commercial for Proactive that features Justin Bieber, a teen sensation and a very recognizable individual. The commercial shows the Biebs performing at a packed concert and playing basketball with a group of friends. This advertising strategy insinuates that it’s hard to have a good social life when you have acne. Pop media outlets such as television, movies, reflect this cultural ideology and magazines, and each shows us that the most important thing is to look good. Additionally, it shows how easy the product is to use and emphasizes its low cost, making the consumer feel that the choice to use proactive is logical and obvious. It also pushes the popularity of the product with a bandwagon approach; it is advertised as the best acne system in the country and uses a celebrity to get its point across. Lastly, the commercial shows a product that is backed by certified dermatologists, which makes the consumer feel the product is legitimate and makes the condition of acne a medically validated concern.


The condition I chose is Obesity.  This condition has become medicalized because of the high increase and the other problems that come along with obesity.  It’s no longer just about being overweight.  There’s the high risk of diabetes, heart problems and other health issues. In the Conrad article, it talks about how nonmedical problems turn into medical problems such as illness or disorders. Our culture is very focused on being thin.  Thin is the norm. This is why I think obesity has become an illness because it is not the norm. Over the past few decades, our portion sizes have increased along with the decrease in the amount of exercise.  Americans eat more and more fast food and spend more time in front of the television. This has led to an increase in the amount of overweight individuals.  Also, our culture is so focused on celebrities and what we see in the media.  We try to look exactly like celebrities.  Celebrities are wealthy.  There is an economic tie between health and socioeconomic status.  Wealthier individuals tend to be healthier.  If we aren’t rich and can’t look like celebrities then we say we have an illness and therefore need medical intervention.

The ad I found was for Sensa on their website. The ad shows a reporter that lost 20 pounds by sprinkling Sensa on her food and that numerous people lost an average of 30 pounds in a 6 month clinical trial.  One of the advertising strategies used in this ad was that the spokesperson was a reporter.  Our culture is so focused on celebrities that using someone famous makes it more relatable to the consumer.  The other strategies they used were saying how the reporter was skeptical also before she used Sensa.  They also offer a 30-day free trial trying to convince people that this product will absolutely work.  The cultural values and ideologies used in this ad were that when using this product your diet and exercise plan didn’t change.  Americans are lazy and like instant gratification without hard work.  The fact that you can still eat unhealthy and not exercise but lose weight makes the product very appealing.  The only presentation of medical information is that it states the product is clinically proven in the ad.  The product is also available without seeing a doctor and without a prescription.


Erectile Dysfunction in Society

Erectile Dysfunction is heavily biomedicalized in our culture because it deals with the enhancement of the body and behavior through medical intervention. According to the Mayo Clinic, erectile dysfunction or impotence occurs when a male is not able to maintain an erection. These problems can arise from chronic illness, poor blood flow, and heavy alcohol consumption. ED is further framed culturally as an ‘illness’ because treatments include lifestyle changes and medications. This comes with the social repercussions of society assuming that a male with ED has brought this illness upon himself. Economically, men with ED have medicine available to them to treat their ‘illness’ at a cost. Pharmaceutical companies are financially gaining through appealing to not only men exhibiting ED but also men occasionally experiencing impotence, who are embarrassed about their sexual performance and willing to go to great expenses to treat it.

On the other end of the spectrum, Conrad discusses medicalization, which is the control over bodies and behavior through medical interventions. Conrad defines medicalization as an extension of the medical boundaries. Conrad also points out how media claims can further identify a condition such as ED as an illness that requires medical attention. He describes how such medicalization can be associated with underperformance, which when applied to the context of ED can result in stress, strain on relationships, and a lowered self confidence. Medicalization can also focus on how nonmedical problems can be defined as medical problems.

I chose to elaborate on a Viagra commercial. In this advertisement, a man is driving through the desert and his car starts smoking so he pulls over to a gas station.  The background narration states, “You’re at the age where you don’t get thrown by curve balls, this is the age of knowing how to get things done.” The man is seen fixing the problem under the hood of his car without the help of the mechanic. This strategy not only portrays the man that seeks help for erectile dysfunction as masculine and strong, but implies the cultural ideologies that with old age comes impotence, which is something that can be cured as long as you take their medicine. Socially, the man is seen as self sufficient, as he is able to fix his car, which is a parallel to taking Viagra for his ED. The medical information is not presented until near the end of the ad, where the viewer is advised to talk to their doctor about Viagra, because 20 million men already have. This also plays into a social role that every one else has taken action against ED so it is now your responsibility. The side effects are also listed at the end. Interestingly enough, there are no doctor/patient interactions in the advertisement. Overall, this Viagra ad is effective in reeling in another Viagra consumer.


(3rd video down, “gas station”)


Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Definition.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 10 Feb. 2012. Web. 03 Aug. 2012. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/erectile-dysfunction/DS00162/>.

“WebMD Erectile Dysfunction Health Center – Find Impotence Information and Latest News on ED Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 03 Aug. 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/erectile-dysfunction/default.htm>.




Depression is a condition that has been highly bio-medicalized in our society. While I feel as though depression is real, affects a lot of people, and if a person doesn’t receive proper treatment there could be hazardous consequences, I believe it is highly blown out of proportion and people are given too much medicine for it. Depression is a process that an individual goes through, it is a part of the ups and downs of life; it takes time to get through it, and if a person is just getting medicated, then they are not truly helping to fix what is going on in their life.

Depression has become highly mediatized in our society since everyone in the world goes through depression, companies know that there is a large market that they are able to advertise their medication to, thus resulting in them earning a lot of money. While the medicine can help certain individuals, it does not help everyone; it is a quick fix that does not get to the root of the problem; all of the side effects associated with depression medicine may not even make it worth it.

The effect that these medications give, is that once you take them, all your problems are solved.  Since it is the most socially accepted form of treatment, several individuals take these medications, which can harm them more than help them. If teenagers take antidepressants, they are more likely to become suicidal; in my opinion, that poses a much stronger risk, than just talking to a therapist or trying to find alternative methods to deal with your depression.

This Prozac commercial an individual made shows an individual at a beach, illustrating the effects he has received from using Prozac, a medication that is supposedly going to make a difference with your depression. The side effects that an individual can experience can include anything from drowsiness, wheeziness, insomnia, loss of taste, jaundice, loss of bladder control, death, narcolepsy, hernias, and seizures, just to list a few. The video ends with him jumping into the water and not emerging, thus giving the impression he feels hopeless, since this miracle drug that was supposed to help him has not done anything for him.

The second video I found was for Cymbalta, another medication for depression. It states that when you are depressed, you don’t want to do anything or see.  In order to relive your life, you should take this medicine to improve your outlook and to make things better overall. It states that depression hurts, and Cymbalta can take all your pain away.  In the advertisement, it stated multiple times that you should talk to your doctor about this medicine and getting on it, since it is something that you should speak to them about immediately.





Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

Erectile dysfunction, ED, is a medical disorder that has been highly medicalized within the culture of the United States. One of the cultural influences that propelled this medicalization was the ideology that men who exhibited the symptoms of erectile dysfunction were viewed as less competent and ultimately were viewed as less of a man. This chip on the man’s ego compelled men to seek medical treatment in order to live a “healthier” happier life, and to restore his “manhood.” ED was no longer seen as a flaw in the individual, but rather a legitimate biomedical disorder in which the disorder and its symptoms could be managed and treated. An economic force that further propelled the medicalization of ED came from the pharmaceutical companies.

As men came in large numbers to their doctors for the drug to treat ED, Viagra, the pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer, pushed the advertisement for this drug. As stated in the BBC Horizon film, “Pill Poppers,” Viagra is now one of the most prescribed drug in the world; Six tablets are dispensed somewhere every second. After Pfizer discovered the economic potential of Viagra, ED and its diagnosis was further expanded to not only include the 9% of men with chronic ED that consistently couldn’t get erections (usually older men), but also men who only occasionally couldn’t get erections. (1) This implied that if men experienced occasional erectile dysfunction that they weren’t perfect, and that they were exhibiting some level of illness and this illness could be treated. This created an unlimited marketing potential for Viagra within Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies. Soon after, other drugs such as Cialis or Staxyn, started to play the same role or similar roles as Viagra.

In a 2011 Viagra advertisement, it portrays a strong confident competent man out sailing on the water. As the ad is talking about in this day and age an individual knows what needs to get done, it is also showing a problem that comes about on the sail of the sailboat. In the ad, the man quickly improvises and solves the problem and maintains sailing again; this is illustrating the American ideology that to be a competent man he must also be “Mr. Fix It.” The ad is implying that today with all this medical information and knowledge it’s not a question of knowing what needs to get done, but whether or not an individual will be smart enough to make a decision to fix the problem. The ad also states, “With every age comes responsibility,” which is implying that men have a responsibility to correct their disorder.

The music also contributes to the ad because it is upbeat and acts to aid in motivating the consumer/patient to take action and seek medical treatment. The physical appearance of this man is characteristic of the Western culture’s stereotypical manly man which most men whether or not they admit it strive to be like. This makes the ad more appealing to the consumers of the West. Also, at the end of the video it shows the man after a long day of fixing problems on the water returning home with a more confident smile then before because he knows he will have no more problems to face that night, thanks to Viagra. Lastly, the ad states that 20 million men have already taken action; which is basically asking, “Why should YOU be missing out?” At the end of the ad, it instructs YOU as the consumer to ask your personal doctor if it is right for YOU, implying that the pharmaceutical company wants to help YOU personally, while in the same sentence also mentioning that its product, Viagra, is the most prescribed treatment for ED. At the same time it is also implying that your doctor knows what is best for you. All of these factors are effective advertising techniques used by the pharmaceutical companies to hook you in as a consumer of their product which in this case means you first have to become a patient.


1.) YouTube, BCB Horizon, “Pill Poppers” (Part 2)

2.) YouTube, Viagra Commercial, 2011.



Depression is biomedicalized in U.S. culture because it is a culture that needs to fix everything with medication and when it can’t be fixed, people want to pretend like it does not exist. Anti-depressants might work for some people, but it seems like they do not work for many. Drugs are just a quick fix, with something like depression, if the person suffering is going to get through it, they need to work hard at it, and therapy is probably the best way to work through it, not just popping a pill and pretending the illness will go away. Depression is more than just having a bad week or month and being sad about it, it is when even when you have everything going for you and yet you still find it hard to put one foot in front of the other. That is not something that can be treated by some pills. Especially because for many people, they do not work, and they also have a  ton of side affects and can make you more depressed.

It is clear that the anti-depressants that are out there are not working because now they are coming out with drugs to supplement anti-depressants. Abilify is a drug that is supposed to be used if you are already on anti-depressants, but you still can’t “shake your depression”. In this ad they appeal to people who are already taking an anti-depressant, which gives them a very focused group. Since there are not trying to convince people that they are depressed and need an anti-depressant, they can be a little more specific to how they think people on anti-depressants feel. This could give the people the hope that the drug could finally be the solution they are looking for. The social roles make it clear that if you have depression, you should not show it by “putting on a brave face” and it shows that being unhappy is not acceptable. It presents the viewer as if they are already informed about depression and what it is and that the ad is just trying to inform them that there is a new supplement for their anti-depressant which makes sense, because they are targeting people already on anti-depressants. So not only do people need to take anti-depressants now, but they need to take supplements too. This just further medicalizes an illness that should not be treated as something biomedical.


Obesity has become majorly medicalized in society. Obesity is now said to have outnumbered the amount of malnourished people (C.Crandell, T.Crandell, J.Zanden). The condition itself is not considered an illness. But Obesity is very influential of other illnesses. A lot of people who are obese have illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (livestrong.com). The overall western culture primarily makes obesity, itself into an illness. For example, there are a number of commercials that advertise to people ways to become thin and go on crash diets sometimes.

Economically, this makes people a lot of money. People that advertise, insurance companies, and many other people because obesity is an extreme problem in Western Culture. Western culture emphasizes how important it is to be thin. In my opinion, it is better to be overall healthy than thin. If you go to a doctor’s appointment and your vitals are exceptional and your weight does not effect your daily activities, then you should be accepted by society.

However, you’re not accepted by society unless you are thin. Here is a video of an advertisement that uses the taste of chocolate and some other techniques to engage people into being thin and buying the product simultaneously.

As you can see, during the commercial, it starts off showing tons of chocolate and how good it tastes. They know that people tend to love chocolate and they use this to catch the audiences’ attention. They also try to say that this isn’t regular “dieting” its basically the primary way you should be eating. They use the social role of society hating to diet as the girl in the video says “I hate dieting but I love my slimmies.” This is what Western culture is. They think that being thin is healthy. They also present medical information where they briefly show a chart that measures the slimmies product compared to placebo effect. Therefore, people will think that this product actually works. I honestly think that this is very unsafe. People who use this product the wrong way can put themselves in an even worse situation.

I think that society needs to change the image of losing weight and being thin to focusing on the overall health of a person. Why doesn’t anybody think of doing advertisements where people check their sugar and high blood pressure and then have them say its because hard work, dedication to eating healthy, and exercise is the reason for weight loss instead of focusing so much on actual size? I think that this would encourage more people to become healthy the correct way.