Does the anti-cancer campaign obscure the reality?
How can anyone say anything negative about breast cancer awareness? And why should pink ribbons, a symbol of hope and sisterhood, make some women feel angry and alienated?
"Pink Ribbons, Inc.," a documentary by Lea Pool, addresses both questions with the orneriness and attention to detail of a committed gadfly.
All we need do, the film contends, is look at the many corporate tentacles entwined in the cross-marketed ribbon campaign to see a money-making entity as brazen and far-reaching as it is pink. The film asks where, exactly, the money goes. It concludes that no one is really paying much attention: The money raised goes toward pharmaceutical research, mainly, but there's a great deal of overlap and repetition. Not much goes toward understanding prevention and causes. "Pink Ribbons, Inc." is most damning, and most effective, when it follows the money and suggests hypocrisy in some of these corporate tie-ins: It ticks off the carcinogens in dairy products, beauty products, cars.
Author Barbara Ehrenreich criticizes efforts to make cancer "pretty and feminine and normal," and activist Barbara Brenner extols the virtues of anger in working for change. Executives from the Komen Foundation, Avon and corporate-philanthropic giants make the case for the other side.
Scattered among the interviews, historical overviews and perky graphics are deeply moving comments from women with stage 4 breast cancer. They object to the cuteness of the worldwide ribbon campaigns. And they object, they say, to being branded with a logo. "We're human beings," as one of them says. "We're not just a little pink ribbon."