FILM #1: YOU HAVE JUST BEEN BLACK BOX WARNED
About the Film
- by J.A. Carter-Winward
This film is the ANTI-pharmaceutical ad.
If you'll note, we don't make any claims to make all your dreams come true. We're not selling anything. We're showing you what happens if the worst of those side effects come true, because they did in our family, and have to countless others.
Well, the second worst since we're still here to tell the tale.
Every night on our TVs, we're shown what we should eat, buy, and how we should look. We're shown what "happy families" look like, what our homes and cars should be like. But when it comes to pharmaceutical ads, we're shown how we will feel—not might, but will, and even more potent, how we should feel.
Here's why this is so insidious: whether it's an antidepressant, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, we get a distorted view of how life looks for everyone else--but not you, not me.
We are given the message that all that "happy-joy-joy" in the 30-seconds of sunshine is how our lives ought to be and look. Forget average, healthy, human beings who don't have that kind of life. They're selling the idea of how life should look to people who are in pain, dealing with chronic illnesses or debilitating conditions. The most vulnerable of us.
They play on guilt: "Why would you put your family through the wringer by NOT taking our drug? You're selfish—a bad parent, a rotten partner, a terrible employee." And all the ads, rife with emotionally provocative visuals, show us how our lives look "before medications" vs. "after."
Before: Frowning faces, pain, inability to work or play, discomfort, isolation, wincing, missing out on special occasions, grimacing, being left behind by friends, all while alone, staring out a window on a rainy day… Unhappiness.
After: Smiles, pain-free relief, community, improved family relationships, productivity, better health, working out, physically active and fit, endless energy, frolicking on beaches, satisfaction, not missing out on the most important parts and events/people in our lives… Happiness.
But what the drug companies are really selling you is an intangible promise they can't keep, not to everyone, and not even to those who use their medications.
They try to sell us the same thing Matthew McConaughey sells in those obtuse, but emotionally (and visually) compelling Lincoln commercials for luxury cars, SUVs, sedans, etc., and that intangible thing is HOPE.
When we're short on hope, especially when we see, all day long, how everyone else is doing so much better than we are via social media, snapshots of only the good things in everyone else's lives, we know, on some level it's an illusion, but on another level, we are desperate for even a small taste of relief, so we don't mind the 100-word a minute run-through of side effects. We pay scant attention when we decide that the drug might just be our ticket to all the good feelings those commercials generate and promise us.
But they don't show you the dark side as you watch all the false relief and fake dreams come falsely true for the fictitious actors onscreen.
YOU HAVE JUST BEEN BLACK BOX WARNED shows you the dark side, the stark reality of what happens to a family when someone is injured by medications.
Unkempt yards and ill-fitting dresses are the least of your worries, and the more they try to normalize the pathological drug-chain reactions of Polypharmacology, the more our actual lives reflect the absurd, nightmarish realities of all the ways medications can—and do—go wrong.
And while pretty to think drug companies would surely disclose safety issues from their clinical trials—literally the most controlled environments imaginable—they don't.
There is no legal mandate in place forcing them to reveal, before FDA-approval, the statistical data and lives ruined in their clinical trials. We get to find that out all on our own—and when that happens, you and your family find out quickly what "on your own" means.
Like most artistic representations of a narrative, the ideal interpretation of something, to me, is something that speaks to a universal human experience. Even though we're all different and our experiences, diverse, this is why the terms "subjective" and "objective" are used in medical terminology as well as art.
I didn't want to create a story and characters that could be easily dismissed as "that isn't me" or "I've never seen that before." And while we tried to create imagery that speaks to the widest possible audience, we didn't just want to reach people who take medications or who have already taken them.
I want the films to reach those who knew, know, or should know better—those who continue to make, market, prescribe, and willfully ignore the dangers of these medications, making a risk v. benefit decision without all the facts, or without giving their patients all the facts.
I want to tell them this—
Now we know, too.
Watch the first film here.