Director: Léa Pool
Screenplay: Léa Pool, Patricia Kearns, Nancy Guerin
Producer: Ravida Din
MPAA Rating: G
Running time: 97 min.
As the closing credits rolled on Léa Pool’s excellent documentary Pink Ribbons, Inc., I was boiling with anger. I wasn’t angry with the corporations which use an ugly, deadly illness to grow their bottom line. I wasn’t even angry at the organizations that make it their directive to dispense millions of dollars for cancer research that has yet to yield any major breakthroughs. I was angry at myself that this “pinkwashing” (using cancer to sell goods and services) has been happening right in front of me, that I’ve seen it and even contributed to it and never considered the bigger questions. I blindly bought into the capitalist marketing machine that stands behind cancer research and never thought to make a stink about it because I, in some capacity, thought it great that companies were stepping up to the plate and helping the community at large by investing money and effort to try and save lives.
What a joke.
Based on Samantha King’s book which various sources note as being very academic in its approach to breast cancer philanthropy, Pool’s film takes a much more human and easily accessible approach to the subject. Questions on everything from where the money comes from to where it goes are addressed and Pool doesn’t shy away from the difficult questions. In some cases, we just don’t know the answers and it’s infuriating. How a disease that has been in the public eye since the 1940s with the Women’s Field Army for Cancer Control and for which various organizations have raised billions of dollars, still doesn’t have a cure… it’s staggering. There’s a good reason for this of course: money. It all comes down to money.
While major organizations like the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation are out there organizing walks and raising money for breast cancer research and the eventual eradication of the disease, most of the funding doesn’t go to research on prevention but rather to treatment. Not to say that finding better treatments isn’t important but doesn’t it make more sense to look for prevention methods so that women don’t become sick to begin with? The problem is that much of the funding raised by Komen and other foundations like it, comes from big business and sometimes those same businesses are responsible for women getting sick to begin with.
Alongside the non-profits raising funds for a cure are the billion dollar pharmaceutical companies and their studies into treatments and medications to help suffering women. Co-founders of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month AstraZeneca, one of the big pharmaceutical firms, seems keen on keeping women happy and healthy but by the same token, they manufacture pesticides that have been directly linked to cancer. They’re not alone: food chains, car manufacturers, cosmetics companies – they make millions of dollars a year by pinkwashing when often, the items they sell are direct contributors to illness or contain harmful ingredients.
What’s most apparent, and disheartening, about Pink Ribbons, Inc. is not simply what is says about the search for a breast cancer cure but what it means for anyone, man or woman, suffering from any illness. Medical research has, in many cases, turned into a capitalist game where money is of utmost importance. Sure, there are individuals within big companies that truly believe in raising money for a cure to (fill in the blank) but their bosses, presidents and board members are only interested in fattening their wallets and a cure for breast cancer, or any other illness for that matter, simply isn’t profitable. They’re not in it to find a cure but, as Ellen Leopold so bluntly puts it, to medicate it.
Pink Ribbons, Inc. isn’t all encompassing but it touches on many of the important issues surrounding breast cancer research and the ongoing gong-show that is the search for a cure. This battle has been raging for over sixty years and at this rate, it will be another sixty before we have any clear answers. Someone needs to step up to the plate and put an end to the current state of affairs because throwing money at the problem isn’t producing any answers. In the meantime, see this documentary, share it with the people you love and the next time you encounter a pink product, consider the bigger picture before shelling our your hard earned money. You’re likely better off writing a cheque to the charity of your choice.
Click “play” to see the trailer:
Flixster Profile for Pink Ribbons, Inc.