Chances are pretty good you have some breast cancer-branded merchandise in your home.
That might be an odd way of describing the "pink ribbon" campaign. But it's an accurate one. And after watching the hard-hitting documentary "Pink Ribbons, Inc.," you'll never look at that pink toothbrush, food processor or T-shirt the same way again.
Based on the 2006 book "Pink Ribbons, Inc: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy" by Samantha King, Lea Pool's film features doctors and sociologists, fundraisers and organizers, cancer survivors and terminal patients. The doc opens with Washington's Race for the Cure, when the National Mall is a sea of pink, as women (and a few men) gather to raise money for the Susan G. Komen foundation.
|'Pink Ribbons, Inc.'|
|3 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Barbara Ehrenreich, Samantha King|
|Director: Lea Pool|
|Running time: 97 minutes|
People talk about what the pink ribbon means to them. "Solidarity," says one -- women and men working together. "Hope," offers another.
By the end of the film, we hear a very different view. "When I see a pink ribbon," one activist says, "I see evil."
How Pool gets from "hope" to "evil" -- and convincingly -- is by not talking to the marketers who came up with the idea of a pink ribbon. (Really, they stole it from an activist who didn't want her peach ribbons used to sell products.)
Writer Barbara Ehrenreich notes that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she didn't research the science behind the disease. "I became fascinated more by this breast cancer culture," she says. "What's with all these pink ribbons?"
It's a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign, and a fabulously successful one -- if you're not talking about eradicating the disease. Because more women are diagnosed with breast cancer now than decades ago. There might be many reasons for that. But the experts here made a persuasive case that not enough of the money raised is going toward preventing the disease.
Many of these activists argue that the disease is growing due to environmental causes. It's impossible to know if that's true -- there's no scientific evidence presented here. But regardless, Pool and her interviewees ask a crucial question with this film: Has the pink ribbon campaign actually helped save lives? Or is it simply a way for companies to look good -- and sell products -- on the back of women who have gone through terrible tragedies?