Medicalization is the control over bodies and behaviors though medical interventions.  This began when penicillin was introduced around 1950.  People began to view medications as magic bullets that keep the body intact, but allow for destruction of sickness.  The mass media fostered acceptance of medications and doctors as reliable.  Americans started to think that biomedicine could solve almost all social problems.  This medicalization transformed into biomedicalization around 1985.  Biomedicalization is the enhancement of bodies and behaviors through medical interventions.  Bodies are now customizable.  Medical professionals are allowing, and even helping people to alter their bodies in new ways.  These modifications are not necessary, but rather desired as a result of cultural pressures.  Advertising and media coverage are making this ideology more popular.  This shows that our society is desperate to conform to cultural influences.  Everyone does not need to be as good as humanly possible.  Everyone is different.  People have different looks, intelligence and illnesses.

This link is an anti-aging Walmart commercial.  I think the commercial is meant as more of an advertisement for Walmart than anti-aging cream, but it provides viewers with quick, relatable information on anti-aging cream.  I think that the humor in this video is probably what appeals to viewers most.  When a mother tells her very impressionable, young daughters that she is putting on anti-aging cream to look younger, the daughter take matters into their own hands.  The young girls cover their grandfathers entire face with anti-aging cream while he is sleeping, and state that he is going to look like a baby when he wakes up.  This commercial is not like typical anti-aging commercials, because symptoms are not listed and a doctor recommendation is not included.  However, this commercial demonstrates cultural ideologies, social roles and the purpose of anti-aging cream in a very laid back, convincing way.  First, this mother has two young daughters and does not appear to be very old.  She probably has very few wrinkles, and even if she does it is not the end of the world.  Aging is a normal part of life, and cannot be avoided.  No matter how much anti-aging cream you use, you will get wrinkles as you age.  Unfortunately, society does not view wrinkles as a natural part of aging.  Society views wrinkles as ugly and unwanted.  Something natural is being transformed into a medical and cultural issue.  Also, this mother is already influencing her daughter’s beliefs by telling them that wrinkle cream will make you look younger.  By using this product in front of her children she is showing them that wrinkles are not something that someone should have.



This Post Has 1 Comment

  1. shivani says:

    Having wrinkles is a completely natural part of aging. As far as I know, there really are not any detriments that come with having wrinkles. The reason why wrinkles are being treated as some sort of illness is because of the way women are expected to be. These anti-wrinkle/anti-aging commercials specifically target women; I have not seen or heard of an anti-aging commercial that targets men. There is always an expectation for women to place a lot of emphasis on their appearance as well as the whole looking young and youthful deal. We do not expect this from men. It reminds me of the dynamics in film industries where an actresses’ shelf life compared to an actor’s shelf life is quite shorter. The industry thrives on having young, beautiful women next to middle-aged or even older men. The anti-aging commercials I have seen almost always feature older actresses, which I think says a lot. These anti-aging commercials pathologizes old age or aging – as if old age is an illness rather than something inevitable.
    Conrad and Potter explain medicalization as a process of domain expansion. These anti-aging serums are just another part of the medical-industrial complex where we are just creating things for a profit. The cultural ideologies we have about gender and what we expect from women (specifically women’s appearances) help this medicalization process.

    Conrad, Peter, and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems 47, no. 4 (November 2000): 559-82.

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