Everyone, I think, knows someone who walked, ran, jumped, skydived or rowed to support the cause for breast cancer research. Docu-maker Lea Pool explores the origin of the famous pink ribbon and peels back the best intentioned surface to explore the industrial complex that uses that decoration for profit, from handguns to gasoline, in “Pink Ribbons, Inc.”
The original “pink” ribbon (actually, it was peach colored) was devised by a lady named Charlotte Haley, the granddaughter, sister and mother of women who battled breast cancer. She made the ribbon loops by hand and distributed them to bring awareness that the National Cancer Institute spends a mere 5% of its billions of dollars budget on cancer research. In 1990, the Susan G. Komen Cancer Foundation handed out the now bright pink ribbons to breast cancer survivors running in its Race for the Cure. The rest is history and the ribbon has become a profitable symbol for such corporate giants as Ford, Monsanto, Avon, KFC, Estee Lauder and Yoplait.
“Pink Ribbons, Inc.” says two distinct things: corporations are making billions off of their products just because of their association to the awareness cause, and not nearly enough of the moneys collected for the cause actually go to breast cancer research. The status quo of cancer treatment – slash (surgery), burn (radiation) and poison (chemo) – is no longer the way to go in the fight against the disease. Environmental issues, full product testing (only 20% of personal care products are tested for carcinogens by the FDA) and investigations into cancer-causing industrial practices (auto-workers are often exposed to carcinogens in their work place) are obvious targets for helmer Pool and she hits them with accuracy, also pointing out the lack of coherent international direction in cancer research.
The bright optimism and dedication of the millions who have done the running, walking, etc. for the cancer awareness cause is to be richly lauded. But, corporate earnings are more important than curing cancer, so why kill the cash cow that makes billions? Pool examines the industrialization of the cause that made the Komen Foundation a self-fulfilling corporation and does a fine job in raising my awareness. She juxtaposes scenes of the smiling faces of people walking to fight cancer on a bright, sunny day and the talking head interviews with stage 4 breast cancer victims discussing their being ostracized and forgotten because they are terminal.
This is a straightforward and heartfelt documentary that will open the eyes of the viewer to what the cancer awareness really is – a gigantic profit-making business. I give it a B.
Personally, I've always regarded those pink ribbons and pink products askance, but for those who haven't, this documentary will be an eye opener. I was expecting something a little heavier hitting as regards corporate greed and 'cause' marketing, but did take away a couple of ideas I hadn't really considered before, like the 'prettifying' of breast cancer with upbeat pink messages and the celebratory events, like those group walks, that often make real cancer sufferers feel left out or angry that they are not among the 'lucky' survivors who 'fought' - who knew early detection only works for a minority of those diagnosed with this disease? B
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