An exposé in the purest, most pissed-off sense, director Léa Pool’s Pink Ribbons, Inc. digs into the bizarre elision of philanthropy, corporate sponsorship, and sanitized pseudo-activism that comprises the breast-cancer-awareness industry. The hallmark of this “movement,” of course, is the proliferation of pink doodads—everything from yogurt cups and teddy bears to cars and, incredibly, fast-food packaging—ostensibly bringing attention to the disease but mostly serving as promotional detritus for companies eager to cash in and camouflage for a few with carcinogenic product lines. The clueless, PR-challenged Susan G. Komen Foundation, whose flack offers an on-camera defense, spearheads these efforts, which Pool and experts such as Barbara Ehrenreich and Dr. Samantha King (whose 2006 book inspired the film) methodically reveal to be, like the color itself, vomitously distracting and of marginal utility. Pool doesn’t discount the efforts of rank-and-file pinksters, but she doesn’t let them off the hook, either; their commitment in the wraparound scenes of marches, rallies, and runs is undeniable, but they ultimately come off as misguided adherents to a ginned-up pseudo-religion. This is uncomfortable territory, but that’s precisely the point—above all, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is an argument for reintroducing into the public discourse the uncertainty, fear, and complexity that cancer sufferers and their loved ones know all too well.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 30, 2012