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Variety reviews Pink Ribbons, Inc.

By John Anderson
Variety

King_PinkIndignant and subversive, "Pink Ribbons, Inc." resoundingly pops the shiny pink balloon of the breast cancer movement/industry, debunking the "comfortable lies" and corporate double-talk that permeate the massive and thus-far-ineffectual campaign against a disease that claims nearly 60,000 lives each year in North America alone. Veteran helmer Lea Pool, working from Samantha King's book, won't be making any friends with her full-frontal attack on the corporate co-option of the breast cancer cause, which could limit Stateside circulation of this Canadian production. But there are plenty of women who'll want to see it. And they'll be seeing red, not pink.

The thrust of King's thesis is that all the pink-themed walk-a-thons, parades, singing children and rose-lit monuments (the Empire State Building, Niagara Falls), actually do more harm than good. By putting a warm and fuzzy spin on the state of breast cancer, the public is distracted from some very ugly numbers: In 1940, a woman had a one-in-22 chance of developing breast cancer; today, the number is one in eight. Only 20%-30% of women with breast cancer have high-risk factors, which means no one really knows what causes the disease. The leading foundations involved in funding cancer research are peopled by representatives of the pharmaceutical, chemical and energy industries, so their ethics are inherently compromised.

The supposed beneficence of corporate-funded breast cancer campaigns often masks corporate guilt -- Yoplait, for instance, of the "Save Lids to Save Lives" campaign, had growth hormones in its yogurt until the company was embarrassed into taking them out; Estee Lauder has carcinogens in its cosmetics; the Ford Motor Co. virtually fills the atmosphere with suspicious chemicals. The single case that seems to outrage everyone in the film the most, perhaps because it's just so clueless, was a pink-bucket promotion by Kentucky Fried Chicken, in which -- as Breast Cancer Action chief Barbara Brenner puts it -- "the disconnect was shocking."

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