In short, there are a lot of things for which you can take Big Pharma to task without also treating the people who depend on these medications like total shit. One of these things is advertising and direct-to-consumer marketing, at which Big Pharma seems to be really quite good! And by “good,” I mean totally ridiculous. Let’s take a look at five different ad campaigns that should never have left a pitch meeting, much less been made with gargantuan budgets, professional actors, and voice-overs that calmly inform the viewer/listener of possible side effects.
5. Cialis: Yes, the one with the make-out music in the background and the couple sitting side-by-side in the bathtubs out in a meadow or something. Why is it so difficult for these folks to find a tub big enough to fit them both?
4. Uloric: Granted, this one may not be as ridiculous as some of the others on this list, but the visual of a dude carrying around a giant beaker of green liquid (which looks suspiciously like it should be in some sort of fancy alcoholic drink that costs upwards of $7) is pretty bizarre, as is the voice-over that helpfully informs viewers that side-effects may include flare-ups of the very condition that Uloric is used to treat. This might be the entire point of the ad, though; since Uloric is a medication intended to help with Gout symptoms, wouldn’t it be more accurate to have the guy wear shoes to which giant beakers are attached? Perhaps we could see a live-action depiction of the 16th-century drawing included in the Wikipedia article on Gout, instead of a guy with a big beaker of neon-green energy drink? That would be awesome, and might get the Gout-is-horribly-painful-and-this-medication-could-help message across in a way that actually makes sense.
3. Lyrica: Every time I see this one, I want to yell at the TV, particularly when the one featuring the classy middle-aged lady who bakes bread has somehow made its hellish way into my precious rerun of Dirty Jobs or another show that I don’t like to admit to enjoying. The actress in this ad pronounces “Fibromyalgia” like it’s a seasonal root vegetable or something (like “FYE-bro-MY-al-GEE-AH”) and all I can do is give the television my most hateful death glare. Oh, and even better is when she says that “My doctor diagnosed it as FYE-bro-MY-al-GEE-AH muscle pain,” and I want to scream, “Lady, IF YOU KNEW what fibro was actually like, you would not be saying that. You would probably be in too much pain on some days to do very much.” Or baking loaves of crusty bread en masse, for that matter. As someone who’s dealt with fibro for the past few years of my life, I only wish I had enough energy to bake many loaves of bread, like the woman in this commercial. Sweet, delicious carbs might help my pain, or at least give me something to focus on other than constant pain and fatigue.
2. Cymbalta: My personal favorite moment is when a kid runs up to hug the woman (presumably a relative?) and the camera focuses on her face, and she just looks so sad that the explanation just has to be terrible acting (or depression, according to the good folks at Eli Lilly). Depression’s symptoms are much, much more complex than walking around looking like the emoticon for sadface , but you wouldn’t know it by watching this commercial. I think someone should make a parody of ads like this, except that some other person approaches the woman, tells her to “Snap out of it,” and then the woman gives that person the finger–or, more accurately, gives them the face, because that is what certain aspects of depression make you feel like doing. You’re not only sad all of the time, but often you feel too hopeless to respond to people’s asshattery when they feel the need to comment on your depression and/or tell you that you Just Need To Buck Up.
1. Viagra (“Viva Viagra” spot): Truly the stuff of nightmares. The first time I saw this ad, I was awake at 3 or 4 AM due to pain (go figure, right?) and thought I was hallucinating when the opening chords of “Viva Las Vegas” started up in the opening seconds of this ad. I was, at first, confused as to what that particular song had to do with a medication used to treat erectile dysfunction. And then four middle-aged dudes–one playing a guitar–appeared on the screen and started to sing “VIVA VIAGRA!” to the tune of a song that most people associate with Elvis Presley, or any buddy comedy that has some sort of drunken Vegas montage. If you’re sure that this one won’t give you nightmares, I urge you to find it on YouTube, because it must be seen to be believed. Unfortunately, it’s been replaced in recent months with 30 seconds of yet another middle-aged white dude driving a car around in the dark. The penis = car association makes more sense than hanging out with your best buds and singing about Viagra, I suppose, particularly if you know anything about psychoanalysis.
Readers, what are your least favorite Big Pharma ads, and why? Short descriptions (and links to videos, if you have them) can be helpful for people who may have not seen the ads; please include them, if possible, so that we may all share in the unintentional hilarity.]]>
So what’s the problem? People who want lap-band surgery can now obtain it, and get it covered by insurance. No big deal, seemingly. Until you dig a little deeper to see who is behind this push, like the LA Times did:
The people behind TopSurgeons are the Omidi brothers — Julian, whose medical license was revoked in 2009, and Michael, who was placed on three years’ probation for gross negligence in 2008,according to the Medical Board of California.
* The inspectors found unsanitary conditions in the surgical areas. Medications and supplies to treat complications from anesthesia were expired or missing, though 23 patients were waiting for surgery.
* Surgical instruments weren’t being properly disinfected. Medical supplies that were supposed to have been tossed after use on a single patient were being reused. Two employees had positive tests for tuberculosis, but there was no record that they got required follow-up chest X-rays.
* The crash cart, which carries equipment and supplies for cardiac emergencies, contained opened and expired drugs and supplies, including some more than 4 years old. Other drugs and supplies, including emergency drugs, were months or years past expiration. Filled and inadequately labeled syringes were found in the operating room. Most of the scrub sinks weren’t working.
* Patient records, which contain such confidential information as psychological exams, were left where unauthorized people could read them.
Um, wow! That sounds like a safe and well-organized and overseen place to undergo major surgery under general anesthesia! But at least the people who are undergoing surgery really need it and it will significantly benefit their health, right? Well, no, says the LA Times:
Medical guidelines endorsed by the National Institutes of Health say the prime candidates for the lap-band are morbidly obese patients, defined as those with a body mass index — a comparison of weight and height — of 40 and above. (A 5-foot-10 person would register a 40 BMI at 279 pounds, or about 100 pounds overweight.) Patients with a BMI of 35 (244 pounds for our 5-10 subject) would be candidates if they also had weight-related conditions such as diabetes.
The patient selection principles of TopSurgeons seem to be rather liberal. Its website says it “can help those with a BMI of 27 or greater.” (For our 5-10 patient, that’s a threshold of 188 pounds.)
There are two problems with those broad patient selection rules. First, patients who do not really qualify for the procedure and who are not expected to benefit from it are undergoing major and potentially life-threatening surgery for no good reason. Second, the insurance companies base payment off those NIH criteria, so are not likely to pay for surgery for those folks who opt for surgery but do not meet the NIH guidelines. Given the marketing push, the tie to fat shaming, and the extremely liberal acceptance guidelines of these doctors, a majority of their patients are likely to be considered “voluntary” and thus not eligible for insurance coverage of the surgery.
This surgery costs around $18,000. So if insurance isn’t paying for it, who does? Most of the people targeted by these billboards and ads are low-income and predominantly Spanish-speaking, so don’t just have $18,000 in their checking accounts to pay for this surgery. Instead, they’re offered credit lines to cover the cost of the surgery – and charged 13.9% interest on the costs.
That kind of predatory lending would be bad enough if it were limited to people who actually opted to undergo the surgery. But the entire operation seems to be an effort to get people to sign up for financing:
According to Nancy Wambaa, a 51-year-old Los Angeles woman, TopSurgeons “encouraged” her during an office visit last year to fill out an application for the card just to check her credit. A full-time student and Medi-Cal enrollee, she was surprised to be told within hours that she’d been approved, and even more surprised a month later to get a bill for $15,000 from GE, even though she had told TopSurgeons that on her doctor’s advice she had decided against the surgery.
TopSurgeons eventually refunded $12,000 but kept $3,000 as a “cancellation fee.” She sued the Omidi brothers in state court Aug. 20, 2009, alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and violation of the state consumer protection law. The court file indicates that they never answered her lawsuit, and in December she won a default judgment for the money.
Nothing like being billed $15,000 at 13.9% interest for a medical procedure you did not sign up for and for which you had no actual medical need!]]>
They don’t just offer advice about cars, sometimes there are discussions about life problems, and I’m thinking in particular of an ongoing series which ran when a college student who was really confused and unhappy called in to the show to ask for help. Not only did they give great advice on the show, they read followup letters from readers in future episodes, and eventually got a letter back from the student, and it was pretty neat. Not just for her, but for other people in the same position who might have heard it and gotten something out of it.
I say this to set the stage for a promotion the station airs sometimes.
Car Talk sponsors a program called the Vehicle Donation Program. Basically, if you have an old car you don’t want, you can donate it, and the program will sell the car and send the proceeds to your radio station, and then you get to take a tax deduction. Car Talk has recorded a couple of promotional spots which radio stations can air to alert listeners to the existence of the program. Since public radio relies on support from listeners, stations want to make sure that people are aware of as many donation options as possible, and thus the local station airs some of these promos on a pretty regular basis.
Some of the promotions for the car donation program are cute and funny. Jokes about clearing the driveway of old jalopies, or trading in your gas guzzler for a car with better mileage, for example. Tom and Ray, the hosts of Car Talk, are good at silly patter.
One of them isn’t. It centers around the idea that people who are reluctant to get rid of old cars are ‘suffering from Vehicle Dissociative Disorder.’ Har har har, it’s so funny, get it?
Yeah, I don’t laugh either, and the radio station plays this promo all the time. I just…want to throw things every time I hear it. I wrote a letter to Car Talk and the station about why that promo bugs me so much, and why can’t they use the promos that aren’t so enraging, but I haven’t heard back.
I’m just one listener, right? What does it matter.
And I thought about the fact that the local station just ran their biannual fund drive, and how, honestly, one of the reasons I did not want to donate was because of this one promotional spot. This one thing, this casual ableism, is a barrier to me joining the station as a member. And the station could swap it out for a different spot, and solve the problem. Does the station care about not having my membership? I don’t know. And I don’t know if there are other listeners out there who are also choosing not to contribute to this station’s fund drive because of this promo, or who choose not to be involved with fund drives at other stations (Car Talk is syndicated) because of this promo.
I am not the only person who writes letters about things like this. And these letters are ignored all the time. Even when people organise a mass letterwriting campaign, it doesn’t seem to work very often. Sometimes, the consequence of saying ‘hey, please don’t use this language’ is having your letter presented for mockery, or being banned from the comments of a web site, or having people roll their eyes every time you start talking. It’s a hard thing to do, to say something unpopular, especially for people who keep doing it, and I have immense appreciation for people with disabilities and allies who communicate about this stuff on a regular basis, sometimes in very hostile spaces.
It never ceases to amaze me that we make up around one fifth of the population and, for the most part, we are treated as though we don’t matter and don’t exist.]]>
Found via kaninchenzero’s Tumblr.
ETA: Shortly after this post went live, I learned via access_fandom that Glee is being recognised with a ‘Television with a Conscience‘ award for its depiction of disability.]]>
I’d like to take a moment to talk about some basic principles of anti-oppression activism and social justice work that intersect with the work we do here at FWD, as some very specific structural issues and contexts are absolutely relevant in this discussion. Often, marginalized people are encouraged and expected to be sensitive and accommodating to the attitudes and prejudices of the dominant culture and to those of less-marginalized (ie: more privileged) people. However, this sensitivity and accommodation usually does not run both ways. Marginalized people, if they criticize something that (for example) leaves them out or makes them feel awful, are often told that they are being overly sensitive or overemotional, that they just misunderstand intent, that they are exaggerating, or that their tone is not polite enough. They are then expected to modify their behavior — and their self-expression — to fit with the norms and values of those who are more privileged.
What the less-privileged have to say is usually not accorded much importance, critical thought, or respect, and yet they are supposed to prioritize, be patient with, and generally assign more importance to views, values and norms that are not their own. People in marginalized communities are often expected to educate the more privileged majority. They may be expected to patiently explain basic concepts, sometimes repeatedly. And if those with more privilege decide that they do not agree (with the less-privileged group’s tone, focus, or any number of other things other than the actual argument that is being made), those with less privilege are told, with varying degrees of subtlety, to shut the fuck up.
All the while, the perspectives, attitudes, norms and values of those with more privilege are made neutral. The power dynamics are rendered invisible, because that’s just the way things are, so there’s no point in trying to change any of it. Why are you so angry? You’re just looking for things to get mad about. You just like being offended. Why can’t you focus on other/more important things? It wasn’t meant that way. You need to hold your tongue until you’ve done x, y and z. Quit taking it personally. You’re ruining everyone’s good time. Stop trying to make everyone pay attention to your pet issue, because it doesn’t affect anyone other than you. Your demands are unreasonable. Stop complaining. Shut up.
And when things don’t go entirely smoothly (which happens often), those not in a position of privilege are often blamed for it: Well, what did you expect, using that tone? You’re the one who brought it up; you’re the one who rocked the boat.
Unfortunately, these tactics are extremely common when it comes folks’ objections against many sorts of media and pop culture critique and/or backlash against critical engagement with cultural works. In other words: These are not new patterns.
I am definitely not saying that everyone has to agree with the critiques that I and others have made regarding Evelyn Evelyn; I am not suggesting that ideological lockstep is a worthy end-goal. What I am saying is that the humanity of marginalized people — those who have traditionally been left out, and who are often on the receiving end of justifications for said exclusion(s) — is not up for debate. The humanity of the participants in this discussion — that of the creators/artists, fans, and those of us who have come forward with critiques — is similarly not up for debate. What I posted, and what I am posting here, was (and is) my take on the matter. I do not, nor do I want to, claim to speak for all PWDs, or all disabled feminists, or all fans of AfP and/or Jason Webley who are also disabled or feminists, or both. We all have our different takes on Evelyn Evelyn and how things have unfolded, and I think it is a good sign that so much discussion has come from this.
As I have stated here on FWD and elsewhere, I am a fan of AfP and have been for a number of years. Many of the people who have raised concerns about Evelyn Evelyn are fans, potential fans, or former fans (and there have been solid points raised by non-fans, too). Dreamwidth’s Anti-Oppression Linkspam community has, at present, four round-ups collecting posts on the matter from around the web. I suspect that many of us who have posted on the Evelyn Evelyn project with a critical eye are not raising these concerns simply to bug or irritate Amanda and Jason, or their fans. However, there are quite a few people who seem eager to dismiss those of us with legitimate concerns as “haters” who just don’t understand art. The hostile messages from “haters” that Amanda has received are not legitimate critiques. These are personal attacks, not arguments of substance.
I almost feel like it should go without saying that I do not support people making these attacks on Amanda, but just to make it very clear: I am very much against people using this controversy — and the complex issues raised — as a bandwagon upon which they can leap to make personal attacks and/or comments about Amanda’s personal life or who she is. Unfortunately for those of us who have been trying to bring attention to Evelyn Evelyn-related issues and seriously discuss them, the “haters” are distracting from these same issues (and are apparently effective at it). I have also heard that people are making threats of physical violence against Amanda. That is not okay. It is never, ever acceptable to make threats of violence against anyone, regardless of your disagreement. That is basic human decency. It is truly disheartening to me, and to the other FWD contributors, that some are using this very difficult situation as an excuse to make horrific threats. We fiercely condemn these attacks.
One of the comments I received was from someone who, as far as I can tell, thought that my post seemed “insincere,” with a bonus implication that I was and am making other PWDs look bad “in the eyes of the abled.” Comments of this sort are often aimed at members of marginalized groups who are expected speak for everyone in their group when confronted; it basically boils down to “You are making other [disabled people] look bad.” I have to wonder why this same thing was not said to the AfP fans who found it necessary to show up here to derail, break out tone arguments, tell me and my fellow contributors that we are crazy and/or should shut up, and who dismissed us on Twitter as just bitching about the project. It’s interesting, and rather telling, that some fans have used these tactics against me, my fellow FWD contributors, and other people who have critiqued the project, but could not (or did not want to) step back and consider their own behavior.
We were, in various other places around the web, called “retarded,” “angry bloggers,” had the legitimacy of our contributors’ disabilities questioned, and (trigger warning) threatened with rape (link goes to a screencap of a comment left on Amanda’s blog) — among many, many other things. In the comments thread to my original post, I was told that I need to focus on more important issues, that I was blowing things out of proportion, that I was censoring people and/or trampling on their free speech rights by laying out guidelines that specifically told potential commenters to not leave derailing comments, and that intent should excuse offensiveness. Eventually, I lost my patience.
There were also quite a few personal-attack comments left in the moderation queue; for obvious reasons, these were not published. These attacking comments were a significant part of why I closed comments on the post, though I did not explain that in my final comment. My decision was not about “censoring” what anyone had to say, or infringing upon “free speech” rights (this is a private website – one that has contributors, commenters and readers who are not only from the U.S.), or only about the fact that I lost my patience after having explained certain concepts over and over again; I and my fellow contributors simply could not deal with the personal attacks, threats, and violent language being left in the mod queue anymore.
Here is just a sampling of some of these unpublished comments from the mod queue (possible trigger warning):
“What’s the matter with you?”
“cant handle it? then just fucking die!”
“fuck u die slow nigga!”
“ONOEZ SOMEONE WANTED TO SMACK SOMEONE SUCH VIOLENCE!!! Typical retarded comment on an idiotic, stupid, moronic, weak, and lame blog. Fucking oversensitive twits.”
I think there is something analogous here to some of the more hateful comments that Amanda received on Twitter and elsewhere, but that is a bit of a tangent.
Going through the mod queue for that post was not an experience that I would want anyone to have. I could talk about the fact that it got to the point where it exhausted me to look at the comments; about the extreme anxiety and emotional hurt I felt while reading some of the comments that attacked me as an individual and/or questioned my mental health status; about how it feels to notice that your physical pain level — already there as a result of a chronic pain condition — goes up a few notches as you read criticism(s) directed not at your argument, but at you. I have a feeling that were I to discuss this in depth, some would likely construe it as “ANGRY BLOGGER BLAMES AMANDA PALMER FANS FOR HER OWN PAIN” or accuse me of using my disability as an excuse for being “too sensitive.” I get more than enough of that outside of the blogosphere.
I need a break from having attempted to be civil and polite and explain very basic concepts to a select few people who have no interest in substantially engaging with me or with others who have raised concerns about Evelyn Evelyn. Simply put, I need some time to recharge my politeness batteries, as well as my hope that some people — and I include many of Amanda’s fans in this category — do want to listen, learn and discuss without derailing or attacking. I wish I could address every critique that’s come our way, but I am pretty worn out (and I suspect that many of you — disabled and not — know the feeling).
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that Jason and I have been communicating via e-mail — he emailed me shortly after my other post went live — and discussing many of these issues in more detail; for that, and for his willingness to engage, listen, and consider the critiques that have come up, I thank him.
I wish Amanda and Jason success with their endeavors; I do not wish to shut either of them up or, worse, endorse that Evelyn Evelyn not go forward at all. There is, as I have said, quite a bit of difference between critiquing a portion of someone’s work and wanting to shut them up or silence them; I have aimed for the former. I ask, however, that they engage critically with and take seriously the numerous points that have been brought up, both about (trigger warnings apply to the first two links) specific aspects of the project and the response to critiques so far. Taking on such huge issues will doubtlessly be a difficult and ongoing process. Of course, Amanda and Jason will probably interpret all of this in different ways. What happens next does not have to be “perfect” — nor 100% Annaham-approved (because that would be unrealistic and silly), but it would be fantastic for these two very talented musicians and performers to bridge the gaps between their good intentions and what actually shows up onstage and on the album.
What are the ultimate lessons here? What can people on all sides of this discussion take away? Right now, I don’t know, and for the moment, that is okay with me. I still believe that better things are possible. I refuse to give up that hope.
[Special thanks to meloukhia for ou’s help in putting together links and other material for this post.]
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Description [emphases are mine]: The ad is headed, in red,
“Drive stupid and score some kickin’ new wheels.”
This heading is placed beside the image of an slim adolescent boy, white-appearing and dark-haired, wearinga red T-shirt, black jeans, and black Converse-style sneakers. He is sitting in a hospital-style wheelchair. His arms are slumped on the armrests, his back hunched, and his head bent such that his face is in shadow and not clearly visible.
The small text in the ad reads:
“Nothing’s cooler than the day you get your driver’s license. But as soon as you start driving stupid, it’s not so cool anymore. Texting, using your iPod, racing, they all fall under the category of stupid. And dangerous. So before you get behind the wheel and try to prove how cool you are, here’s a little harsh reality. Nothing kills more Utah teens than auto crashes. Not fazed? Okay, how does the thought of spending the rest of your life in a wheelchair grab you? Look, every year far too many Utah teens go from cool to crippled in the blink of an eye. So if you’re one of those drivers who think they have something to prove, you can start shopping for your wheelchair now. And hey, if you think that’s harsh, wait until the day you roll it into school.
Drowsy Driving | Distracted Driving | Aggressive Driving | Impaired Driving | Not Buckling Up
As Bad Cripple says:
But the ad relies on antiquated and deeply rooted fears to scare teens noting that “every year far too many Utah teens go from cool to crippled in the blink of the eye”. Great, this undermines forty years of legislative initiatives meant to empower people with a disability. Teens are being taught that a wheelchair is akin to a tragedy, a fate worse than death.
If you go to the website, the header currently has a headshot of a conventionally-pretty white brunette girl with sutured wounds on her cheek and lip. The heading says, “Driving stupid can really make you look bad.”
So there’s the Don’t Drive Stupid campaign: it is assumed that for teen boys using a wheelchair is worse than death – and for teen girls, the worst possible fate is to have minor wounds on her face.
It is interesting to contrast these official messages – ableist, sexist, objectifying, dehumanising – with the posters made by high school students themselves for the campaign: a car knocking the motif off a signpost, ‘When you drive you hold someone’s life in your hands”, “you know you’re tired when you swerve to miss your car freshener“, “Last message received” with a crash and a breaking cellphone, and various others – none of which rely on stereotypes about marginalised groups at all.
Next up, Bad Cripple brings us this Nike advertisement:
Description: A Nike shoe sits on a red background. The text reads:
Fortunately, the Air Dri-Goat features a patented goat-like outer sole for increased traction, so you can taunt mortal injury without actually experiencing it. Right about now you’re probably asking yourself, “How can a trail running shoe with an outer sole designed like a goat’s hoof help me avoid compressing my spinal cord into a Slinky on the side of some unsuspecting conifer, thereby rendering me a drooling, misshapen, non-extreme-trail-running husk of my former self, forced to roam the earth in a motorized wheelchair with my name embossed on one of those cute little license plates you get at carnivals or state fairs, fastened to the back?”
To that we answer, hey, have you ever seen a mountain goat (even an extreme mountain goat) careen out of control into the side of a tree?
Didn’t think so.
Bad Cripple commentary reads, in part (check out the rest):
If anything is unusual about the above Nike ad it is the fact it was pulled. Imagery of this sort is sadly the norm and abounds. I see it every day on television, in newspapers, on the internet and in a plethora of magazines. Some people in disability studies call such images examples of the “defective person industry”.