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||IMDB Rating: 7.3/10 from 558 votes
||Release: November 2011 (Netherlands) /
||Director: Léa Pool,
||Synopsis: 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
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You can't walk into a store these days without being inundated by the
ubiquitous pink ribbons adorning every sort of product from food stuffs
to clothing to automobiles. You've probably purchased something that
promised a donation towards the "fight' against breast cancer. Maybe
you've even participated in a 5K run to support family or friends
dealing with the disease. You have the best intentions, and you're not
alone. One organization has raised over 1.9 billion dollars via this
method. So what has the real impact been of this phenomenon?
Sadly, not much. This disturbing fact, along with many others of equal
discomfort, are at the heart of "Pink Ribbons, Inc.," a new documentary
now in general release. Director Lea Pool takes Dr. Samantha King's
2006 book "Pink Ribbons, Inc. - Breast Cancer and the Politics of
Philanthropy" and expands upon it via interviews, documentary footage,
and current data.
Here are three facts gleaned from the film that should give everyone
cause to pause:
* Since 1940, the chances of a woman developing some form of breast
cancer have gone from 1 in 22 to 1 in 8.
* Only 5% of the money spent on breast cancer research goes into
researching environmental causes.
* A large number of products sold that donate a portion of their
proceeds towards breast cancer organizations contain ingredients known
or suspected to cause cancer.
The film traces the transmogrification of the "fight" against breast
cancer from political activism to consumer activism. Remember the days
when you just wrote a check to The American Cancer Society? Or you
joined a protest march against a corporate polluter? Now you can spend
50 cents on a container of yogurt, peel off the lid, wash it, stick it
in an envelope, spend 45 cents on a stamp, and mail it back to the
company so that they will make a 10 cent donation. Do the math.
And what about companies that "enlist in the war on cancer" that are on
one hand developing pharmaceutical treatments for breast cancer but on
the other hand sell pesticides containing cancer-causing agents?
As good as this film is in exposing the issues surrounding cause
marketing, it fails to answer one simple question (though apparently
not from trying. Companies are notoriously tight-lipped on the
subject.) How much do these companies profit from the sale of these
products versus how much do they contribute to the cause? As one of the
members of a Stage IV Cancer Support group asks, "Are they profiting
from my disease?" If the answer is yes, would you still buy that paper
The film's bottom line is this - Has the cheerful, fuzzy pink aura
built around breast cancer to facilitate "awareness" and charitable
giving obfuscated the harsh realities of the disease? We still don't
know what causes it; the treatments are pretty much the same as they
were 50 years ago, mortality rates are the same as they have been. Has
the "branding" of the cause led us to fail to ask the tough questions?
Where is the money going? How is it being spent? What exactly is being
See this film. It may give you something to think about before you sign
up for that next run...
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