The photo looks like John Travolta or Divine playing Edna Turnblad in Hairspray.
Under the bangs of a Dynel doll wig a "floozy" with nasolabial folds, male facial features and leathery skin mugs for the camera--coquettish hair bow, mod sunglasses and gaudy plastic jewelry adorning her "look." The only thing missing is a Miami Beach style cigarette holder.
"Lady, Your Anxiety Is Showing," is pasted across her nose to leave no doubt we are laughing at her. "Over a co-existing depression" is added in parentheses.
But it's not an ad for Hairspray, Tootsie or Charley's Aunt. It's not an ad for a camp new boutique, salon or restaurant.
The full page color ad is the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1970 and it's selling the antidepressant Triavil.
"On the visible level, this middle-aged patient dresses to look too young, exhibits a tense, continuous smile and may have bitten nails or overplucked eyebrows. Symptoms of anxiety are hard to miss. What doesn't show as clearly is the co-existing depression that often complicates treatment."
On another page in the Journal we meet "Sally Wilson," also showing leathery skin and in appropriate, gaudy jewelry.
"In the last week or so, Sally Wilson's year-old reputation as an unpredictable grouch has melted away," says the ad. "She's been coming in on time and turning out more work." You see, "Sally's menopause had triggered symptoms that hormone therapy by itself apparently hadn't helped," but now her doctor has her on Valium q.i.d.
Depersonalizing "she" ads--"Has She Become a Fixture in Your Office?" "She Hides Anguish Behind Arrogance" "Does She Call You Morning, Noon and Night?---were the norm when doctors, copywriters and drug makers were men and charged with getting women to behave. So was pathologizing everyday conditions, a phenomenon which did not start with direct to consumer advertising.
In the 1960s and 1970s, antidepressants were suggested for telltale bitten nails and overplucked eyebrows, antipsychotics for "excessive use of the telephone" (a real ad) and Dexedrine for "housewives" who were "crushed under a load of dull, routine duties."
Then there was empty nest syndrome (called Magna cum Depression in ads) and divorce for which antidepressants were also prescribed-- and mothers who were "short tempered" with their kids who got antipsychotics.
Psychoneurotic women like "Jan" who were "unmarried with low self esteem" at age 35--"You probably see many such Jans in your practice"--were given Valium.
When women got to the arsenal waiting for menopause it was probably a relief!
Of course the Mephistophelean Marcus Welbys who treated the disease of Lack of a Husband and Kids with psychoactive drugs and the copywriters who mongered same are mostly gone today.
But today's top drugs like Seroquel, Pristiq, Lyrica and Cymbalta are still pushed for women and their notorious anxiety-that-is-really-depression, depression-that-is-really-bipolar-disorder, PMS-that-is-really-perimenopause and pain-that-is-really-fibromyaglia.
We won't even talk about what their kids really have.
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