Monday, May 02, 2005

Drug style

A Target advertising insert in the Sunday New York Times pitched their stores' new pharmacy services on the basis that their pill bottles and their pharmacists are more stylish than you ordinarily expect at the drug store: In the ad there was a hip-looking young Asian woman with stylish eyeglass frames, and sleek pill bottles in fun, bright colors instead of the drab old institutional orange. So apparently no corner of our economy is immune to lifestyle-oriented advertising. You are expected to make the contents of your medicine cabinet look cooler and more impressive, presumably for those inevitable snoops who peek in there when visiting. And you should regard medicine not as a necessary product, one that should be available to all citizens in our society, but as a distinctive, positional product that demonstrates your knack for designy accoutrements. Adding a style component to a basic necessity like this adds justification to arguments that would deny it to a significant portion of society who can't afford it. It starts to seem optional rather than a baseline essential that should be provided for everyone. And it suggests that no matter how mandatory the consumption is for the consumer, our economy will try to trick that consumption out into a choice laden with options. (This is the core of deZengotita's argument in Mediated.) Meaningless options such as the choice of what color bottle your antibiotics will come in masquerade as power in our cultural, and encourage us to forget what constitutes real power.

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