Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are... See full summary »
Breast cancer has become the poster child of corporate cause-related marketing campaigns. Countless women and men walk, bike, climb and shop for the cure. Each year, millions of dollars are raised in the name of breast cancer, but where does this money go and what does it actually achieve? Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a feature documentary that shows how the devastating reality of breast cancer, which marketing experts have labeled a "dream cause," becomes obfuscated by a shiny, pink story of success. Written by
The National Film Board of Canada
I went shopping at a local supermarket today, bought roughly forty items, and three of them bare a pink box supporting some breast cancer awareness fund. When does the ambition of creating awareness simply become lucrative glamorization? I hear more about walks, runs, jumps, and efforts to promote charities raising money to donate to a breast cancer organization, but scarcely hear about advances in science, technology, or medicines to try and prevent the disease. Is our money being put to use or is it put to fund another gimmicky public charity? Breast cancer is the leading cause of death of women in America, and cancer in itself is one of the most common diseases among both sexes. I know for a fact I'm personally at risk of developing prostate cancer because of the checkered history in my family. I've long thought if companies really would love to find a cure for cancer, or would that cease in the immense profits that charities continue to turn in? Recently, I watched a documentary on the pitifully disappointing American healthcare system called Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare. A rare documentary, seemingly lacking a specific political bias, the film featured a female subject that bluntly stated that it's almost as if the system doesn't want you die or get better, but just keep coming back and handing money over the counter.
Pink Ribbons, Inc., based on the 2006 novel by Dr. Samantha King, professor of kinesiology and health studies at Queen's University, explores the possibility and the stunning proposition that the "pink ribbon campaign," whose efforts are directed specifically at creating breast cancer awareness, is only a shameless cash-grab for companies to utilize while contributing very little of their profits to famous organizations. Some companies products that are donating towards breast cancer research include chemicals that possibly contribute higher risk of developing the disease. Not to mention, with so many organizations, big and small, and so many corporations shelling out products apparently with profits being donated to cancer research, it results in very disorganized money patterns. Millions being donated, with little rhyme or reason, and little coming out that is revolutionary.
There comes a point where we can seemingly define the sincerity of companies attempting to fund breast cancer research and some simply trying to bank off a serious disease. When Susan G. Komen and Avon commit to holding a charity event, you almost feel compelled to trust them because they've given millions upon millions of dollars in efforts to find cures. But when we begin seeing pink handguns, we question how we've drifted from sincerity to shallow consumerism. I've frequently seen teenagers walk around with thick bracelets proclaiming "I LOVE BOOBIES. KEEP A BREAST." Do they wear them because they believe in stopping breast cancer, or do they just love having something as provocative as "BOOBIES" on their wrist? The same can go for those brazen "Cancer Sucks" t-shirts. Why? Interviews conducted are with the author of the Pink Ribbons, Inc. novel Samantha King, Barbara Eherenreich, writer of many books around the cancer, who resents the idea of softening the disease into making it "normal and feminine," and my personal favorite, the sassy, shamelessly blunt Barbara Brenner, a health activist, diagnosed twice, and not afraid to attack some corporations' lucrative practices. She makes no hesitation to call out Yoplait Yogurt for their "Save Lids to Save Lives" campaign, where if one were to peel off a lid of their yogurt, clean it up, then mail it back to the company, a dime would be donated to the Susan G. Komen Foundations. Brenner states that if you were to eat three cans of yogurt, everyday, and send the lid back for four months straight, the time the event was going on that, you'd successfully donate only $34 to the Komen foundation. "Bottom line, write a check," she says.
Easily, the most intimate shot of the picture involves an obese African-American woman who struggles to walk at one of the sponsored breast cancer walks. We are unaware if she's diagnosed with the disease, knows someone who is, or simply walks out of the goodness of her heart. For about thirty seconds, we watch as she pursues on, through sweat and exhaustion; something about that scene made me want to help her along or sit her down and give her the resources necessary to complete the walk. It is one of the most affecting shots in any documentary I've seen, mainly because of the impressionistic prints it leaves on the viewer.
The speakers we see in the film are mostly women, understandably so. One thing I caught early on that, beneath their deep intelligence and their wide range of talents, lied an angry, seemingly bitter core, in someways throwing the documentary a curveball. These women are mainly angry at the glorification of a painful disease that deteriorates the energy and body of a woman, but it seems they occasionally talk down to those who participate in walks and runs for the charitable organizations of the disease when they appear to be doing nothing but trying to take part in a community event to raise money or simply partake in the activities to memorialize a loved-one. It seems unfair to pull the "you don't understand suffering" card to those who are benefiting those who are actually suffering, don't you think? Starring: Barbara Brenner, Barbara Enherenreich, and Samantha King. Directed by: Léa Pool.
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