21 July 2010

Medication Time

One of the best dystopian science fiction films ever made was George Lucas' THX 1138 (Robert Duvall, pictured above, in the title role). The film is chilling in its depiction of a sterile underground society where everyone looks the same, has a number instead of a name. The entire meaning of each citizen's life is simplified: work and consume. Love and sex are forbidden. Each citizen is required to take their daily dosages of drugs. Their entire world looks like a shopping mall. They go to something that looks like a phone both to pray to an image of a guy that looks like Jesus but whose name is Omm.
The main character, as are all the characters in the picture, are addicted to drugs. This is one way that the social structure stays intact and keeps people hypnotized into doing their meaningless and robotic jobs. THX 1138's room mate and later lover, LUH 3417, desiring a lasting meaningful relationship outside the constrains of their society, succeeds in getting THX off the drugs he is taking. Once having all his senses, THX is confronted with the full significance of the oppression under which he and LUH must live. He then begins his escape from this place. How he does this is for you to find out on your own. No spoilers here. Yet there are certain images that are pertinent to the drug angle of the picture.
Imagine a medicine cabinet talking to you when you open it, asking, "What is wrong?", every time that you open it. Imagine this same medicine cabinet having a hidden TV camera where your every movement is also scrutinized. There is no sunlight down in the city. It is all metal, white, and light.
And the medication.
The day that I viewed my first prescription medication advertisement on contemporary TV was the day I realized how prophetic THX 1138 has become. No we don't yet live in a shopping mall. Yes, we murdered the mom and pop stores of the past and littered our landscape with McDonalds, Burger King, Walmart, and the like. Yes, we have taken this massive rubber stamp and created neighborhoods that look exactly alike. And yes, we are slowly and subtly being directed by that hidden government: corporations, and yet we have not yet gotten as far as the film depicts in all its claustrophobic horror.
Nevertheless that day that I saw the first prescription drug commercial on TV, I experienced a chill. At first, I thought they were flukes, not something that was going to become a fad, but as more and more prescription drug commercials appeared, I couldn't ignore the signs. The creator of the insipid Star Wars movies and one of the founders of the so-called summer blockbuster film, Mr. George Lucas, is also a prophet.
When I am not looking at the horror behind these 'script ads, I am laughing about their pitch. Each has to stick with a format. The first part of the ad identifies the product and the ailment it is supposed to help or relieve. The last part, the best part, is the part where the drug company has to list all the side effects. You want to deal with your joint pain? Take a Celebrex, but be forewarned it can cause heart failure, kidney failure, liver dysfunction, among other things, in certain cases. That last preposition, "in certain cases", is supposed to reassure you that you can hardly ever be one of those cases. The side effects they list for one of the erectile dysfunction drugs can literally give you a heart attack laughing at it. "Any erection lasting more than four hours," it says, "is a sign that you better get your ass to the doctor or that thing is finally really going to fall off.." That last part is my own contribution to that classic ad.
One of these drug ads actually did me some good. I got so angry at its message that I took myself off the 100 Mgs. of Zoloft I had been taking daily for close to 10 years. Basically, this ad, the one that annoyed me, featured a depressed person, of course, who is actually already on an anti-depression medication. The soothing voice over, god like inquires, "Your anti depressant medication not working correctly?...." Simply add this new drug, and both, in concert, will battle that depression. You would think that they would encourage people to get off prescription drugs entirely, not encourage them to take more, but then how would drug companies stay in business?
I began taking the anti-depressant Zoloft, Generic: Satraline close to 10 years ago. It actually did a good thing by helping me get through the last 8 years of my teaching career. Living those post 9-11 Bush years did little to make me feel well either. So I popped a pill a day until the day I saw that ad. Yes, there are good things to say about medication, but for me, the Zoloft was simply a bandage. Underneath there still lurked the problem that no drug was ever going to cure. Since I've been off the drug, I find that I've gotten my feelings back. I don't like some of the things I see in myself, but Zoloft wasn't going to cure me of that. I simply have to face the truths of myself and deal with them with as little medication as I can. The other way, I am kind of like a zombie.
Prescription drug use should be a last resort. But in our THX 1138 consumerist society, prescription drugs are just another thing to buy. We use all of what we consume, but consuming large quantities of drugs have negative repercussions on the body that sometimes makes taking them the least desirable option. Over the years, more and more doctors seem to be prescribing more and more drugs, especially antibiotics which should only be used sparingly. I remember when I was a kid, penicillin was the antibiotic of choice. Now, I can't believe how many different antibiotics we have now. That's how strong the germs have become thanks to us.
I imagine one day that future generations will be so addicted to prescription drugs that in order to go out into the sun, you're going to have to take your sunlight pills, and in order to go out at night, you are going to have to take your night time pills. Don't forget that before you even think about walking back into your house, you are going to have to take your indoor pills. You never have to worry about failing in bed because you're taking your penis pills. Don't forget that you have to take your sleeping pills to get to sleep. When you wake up, you take a nice healthy bowel movement because you've taken your colon pills. And just like Lucas predicted in THX 1138, Children will no longer have to go to school. They will be given education medication intravenously throughout the years of their youth, except during the summer. No catheters in the summer. It interferes with good consuming.
The question remains: why are we addicted to prescription drugs? As it always has been, human beings have made this planet into a hole, a trash pile reeking of our racist filth, our lust for war, and our desire to consume and destroy everything. For most of us, work has made us into unhappy machines. Check out the early scenes of THX 1138 that show just how robotic the workers are who, ironically enough, work on building robot police used to keep everyone in line. Most of us hate our jobs, and most of us are so stressed that we take more and more drugs to assuage all our ills. The problem again is that prescription drugs are the bandages covering over the real ills: people are just not very happy, and they are simply being used and abused.
As we cruise along in this, the second decade of the 21st century, we eat too much, and we take too many pills. Forcing people to take medication by making it a law, as is the case in the movie, is closer than we think. That time will soon be upon us as we move closer and closer to the era of pure terror and pure consuming, the era of the talking medicine cabinet.
In THX 1138, everytime you open the medicine cabinet, it asks you, "What is wrong?"


Avi said...
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Avi said...

Looks like a good movie. Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

Avi said...

And good insight about the meds we take. The side effects, indeed can play havoc on our bodies and minds.
I will watch out for side effects, particularly, like wandering genital syndrome, and speaking in tongues.

Avi said...

And of course, those medical doctors who enable us and cause people to be dependent on prescription drugs are criminal, in my opinion.