In the United States today, medications take many forms of health and beauty seeking, from treatment to prevention of disease in some cases to enhancement. Since the mid 1980s, biomedicalization has emerged and even overpowered medicalization. Biolmedicalization can be defined for our purposes as “the enhancement over bodies and behaviors through medical interventions” (1). This trend has stemmed from mass media promotion of new technologies and consumer advertisements for pharmaceuticals. This emergence of the biomedicalization trend as demonstrated through the purchasing of quick-fix products reveals that the image of health and/or beauty in society is more valued than health itself. The fact that health and the image of health do not go hand in hand today is slightly deceiving and even perplexing, and reveals a rooted materialization in western society.
In the ad for America’s #1 weight loss pill, Hydroxycut, patients claim fast weight loss that is legitimized in before and after pictures (2). The images of the thin models holding before pictures and dancing around confidently linked happiness with weight loss or being thin in general. One girl claims, “I feel beautiful.” Culture and society value beauty. Although the actress only says, “I feel beautiful,” an implicit assumption exists that society will think she is beautiful. In the particular advertisement, medical information about the supplement is not discussed at all. The only things that legitimize the product are the before and after photos and phrases like “It really works.” The presentation of the ad itself is very simple: girls dancing on a white background, black letters claiming its authenticity, a song in the background with lyrics that claim living free (of excess weight? Of unhappiness? Of society’s harsh judgments of those that are overweight or obese?) Additionally, no doctor and patient interaction is mentioned, suggesting that a person can buy hydroxycut and lose weight independently, even without consultation from a medical professional.
(1)“Medical Anthropology Trends in Biomedicine.” Michigan State University Department of Anthropology. Viewed July 30, 2014.
(2)“Hydroxycut Weightloss Commerical LIVE Campaign.” Youtube. Published Jan. 4, 2013. Viewed July 30, 2014. < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofA2sm5zbCk>.