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Pink Ribbons, Inc. – My Review

I’ve wanted to see the movie Pink Ribbons, Inc. since its release in theaters earlier this year. I was even contemplating driving the 100 miles or so back to the Twin Cities to see it as it didn’t make it into theaters close to me. But of course, I waited too long.

About a month or so ago I decided to just order my own copy, which would allow me to pass it around to friends and family too. It was my plan to write a blog post about it in October. Well, the other day I realized I better get crackin’ before this crazy month has come and gone.

Recently I suggested to Dear Hubby that it might be the perfect night to watch it, but if he didn’t care to, that would be fine with me.

“I think I have some work to do,” he mentioned, which he did, but I don’t think that’s why he planned on bowing out. As far as following my blog and all that goes with it, he often reminds me and others as well, “I’m living it.” Sometimes he’s had it “up to here” with breast cancer anything, understandably so.

Once the movie got rolling, however, I noticed (but kept quiet) he did not leave the room. Nor did he nod off as sometimes happens when viewing movies I’ve selected. In fact, he seemed quite captivated.

I think this is a review in and of itself. (And thanks for watching it with me, David).

For those of you who don’t know, Pink Ribbons, Inc. is a 2011 documentary feature film based on the book Pink Ribbons, Inc. Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Dr. Samantha King, who is an associate professor of kinesiology and health studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada.

Click here or on the image at the end of this post to view the movie’s trailer.

The movie examines the origin of the pink ribbon, the pink ribbon culture that has evolved around it, what motivates people to keep walking and running in races, corporate greed as it relates to the pink ribbon, lack of change in how breast cancer is treated, environmental factors possibly at play in causing breast cancer, the questionable role of pharmaceuticals in all of this, the hypocrisy regarding safety standards and the lack of research collaboration to name a few things.

A main message of the movie is that breast cancer has turned into the poster child for cause marketing; in other words, just a fancier way to say what I’ve been saying a lot lately – breast cancer has turned into the shopping cancer.

Once again we come back to that million dollar question, who is really profiting?

There were numerous interviews in the movie, not the least being one with Nancy Brinker, founder of Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Komen’s fundraising tactics and lack of dollars marked for research were what I would call “attacked softly” in the movie.

The most moving parts of the entire movie were the conversations with women living with stage IV breast cancer. Even the way these women were presented in the movie, as a group separate from any other, made a statement. It was like they were completely separate from the rest of the movie in some way. It’s hard to explain and I wonder if this was staged intentionally. Several women from the group spoke eloquently and emotionally about this very feeling of isolation and disconnect from the “pink party survivor parades”.

Those scenes were by far the most powerful for me.

An eye-opening revelation for Dear Hubby was realizing the staggering amount of money involved in all this pinking. Vast amounts of dollars are coming in, but there seems to be little accountability and too many questions such as:

What exactly is all this money being spent on?

Why is so little going to research?

Why is research not more of a collaborative effort?

What exactly are we researching and what are the specific outcomes of research projects?

Why is so little (5%) spent on environmental risk factor research?

Why is so little spent on cancer prevention research?

Why is so little spent on metastatic breast cancer research when it’s what kills?

These are all valid questions.

One of my favorite things in the movie was hearing all this “pinking” referred to by Samantha King as the “tyranny of cheerfulness.” I am not a grumpy person, but I loved that.

Hands down, my favorite part(s) were whenever author Barbara Ehrenreich was on the screen saying anything at all. (It’s worth your time to watch the movie trailer just to hear her briefly there). I loved her candor, wit, humor and blunt honesty – something often lacking in pink cancer land. I also appreciated her discontent with the “survivor” label, calling it a put down to those who don’t survive.

That’s exactly how I feel about it!

I’m putting her book(s) on the top of my Christmas wish list.

All in all, I found Pink Ribbons, Inc. to be thought-provoking. While much of it was not new to me, seeing all this stuff compiled together in a movie format was powerful and well worth the ninety minutes or so of viewing time. The movie ends with the message to viewers that their actions matter; each of us can help facilitate change.

When ordinary people do a simple thing, it changes the world. 

And that’s a pretty empowering message don’t you think?

So, two thumbs up from my house!

NOTE: Click on the image below to view the movie’s trailer.

Have you seen Pink Ribbons, Inc. or do you plan to?

If you have, what’s something that “stuck” with you the most?

Do have any thoughts (any kind) about this movie to share?

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Edit Update:  Pink Ribbons Inc. is available to watch on Amazon Prime


Pink Ribbons, Inc. - My Review #Pinktober #pinkribbons








Wednesday 7th of November 2012

We watched it last week and thought it was very good! I guess the only complaint we had was how it just came to an abrupt ending. There was no real "call to action." I guess we have to come up with that on our own.

Also, I did feel bad for all those people doing those walks. I wouldnt want them to feel like their participation meant nothing. They are truly trying to make a difference. People generally want to help others, and participating in these is one way people think they can show support.

I personally have dedicated walks and runs to people I love, so I understand that feeling of using a walk to represent strength or remembrance or whatever it might be. I guess that is why I would've liked to see more of a call to action at the end. What should people do instead?


Wednesday 7th of November 2012

Lindsay, I thought the ending was sort of abrupt too. To me the message at the end by Barbara A. Brenner saying, “When ordinary people do a simple thing, it changes the world,” was very powerful though. The whole premise of the movie was to attempt to make people aware of what's been going on and to help them realize their actions, whatever they might be, matter. Participants in events are not to be blamed nor should we think their actions mean nothing. I agree, people want to help but sometimes this generous spirit is being taken advantage of in these events. The bigger issue is the cause marketing that has gotten so out of control and the huge sums of money being raked in. It always comes back to the million dollar question, who is really profiting? Why has there not been more accountability? Thanks for watching the movie and for sharing your thoughts about it.

Beth L. Gainer

Thursday 1st of November 2012

Hi Nancy,

I'm finally taking the time to catch up on all my reading. This is an outstanding review. The film sounds like it brings up a lot of questions, and now I'm curious about the "soft" attack against Komen. Anyway, I might see it eventually, but I'm so fatigued by Pinktober, I'm hesitant to see if right now.


Friday 2nd of November 2012

Beth, I hope you do see it when you feel ready, Beth. Yes, I thought the attack on Komen would be more harsh, but there's a fine line to walk there when you're making a movie. I hear you on the Pinktober fatigue. Thanks for taking time to comment on my review.


Sunday 28th of October 2012

Hey, everyone, if you have Netflix streaming you can watch it right now.

Nancy, I agree with your comments. The movie is very well done and compelling. I would recommend it to others (and I have). I have Stage IV breast cancer, so I especially appreciated the scenes with the Stage IV support group. And it made me grateful for my own group here in Boston.

I don't think the movie did as good a job as the book did at highlighting the switch from political activism to corporate sponsored "slacktivism" and exploring the implications of that transformation. Addressing a serious public health issue with "cause marketing," and creating a situation where "causes" have to compete for private philanthropy is ceding important policy-making and political power to mega-corporations. Neo-liberal economic policies of privatizing everything in sight and prioritizing expenditures of funds based on popularity, glamor, or the like are rendering citizens powerless and relegating all of us to a single role in society--that of consumer. We are not citizens anymore. We are the targets of marketing campaigns.

The book does a fantastic job of connecting those dots. The movie alludes to it (especially in the interviews with Barbara Ehrenreich) but does not explicitly address it.


Monday 29th of October 2012

Amy, Thank you for adding to this discussion. I have not read the book, so that's an interesting observation you make. "We are not citizens anymore. We are the targets of marketing campaigns." That's a pretty strong statement that I will need to reflect more upon. As I mentioned, I expected the movie to have a bit more of a punch, but I also understand the need for not "going over board." Sometimes you lose too many people if you do that and then your message goes no where fast. There's a fine line to walk there. All in all, I liked it too. Thanks again for adding your insights.

Suzanne Harp

Sunday 28th of October 2012

I had very mixed feeling about the film.

The stage 4 group was brilliant. I was glad their voices and their grief got a stage.

I don't even have a problem with the thesis about pinkwashing and so forth.

However you could slow down video and and add ominous music of people doing anything and it would seem tragic.

I felt like it actually was a little exploitative of the people at the walk. (I am sure some of you feel like they are being exploited period.)

I just felt like there was a lot of sloppy film making. Too many of the interviews were in chroma key, a good doc should show the people in some sort of relevant settings.

In the end, I felt like it was more of a manifesto than a movie, I am a big fan of documentaries and for general audience it was not that well produced.

I am really happy the social share box is not blocking the window this time. Sorry about my past sloppy post.

I guess I felt like the message was worthwhile, but the actual film could have been a lot better crafted.


Monday 29th of October 2012

Suzanne, I don't have film production knowledge, but I would imagine there were more than a few budget constraints when making this film. It wasn't perfect by any means, but I appreciated the questions that were brought forth and like you, felt the messages of the metastatic women were quite profound. Thanks so much for sharing your opinions on the film. It's great to get a variety of thoughts. And I'm glad you had an easier time commenting this time too.

Kim daCosta

Sunday 28th of October 2012

Watched last week on Netflix instant. Incredibly good at contextualizing much of the information I have come to learn in the 7 weeks since I was diagnosed and had a double mastectomy. Taught me a lot I didn't know, especially about METS. While when we are dealing with cancer we become focused on treatment, the movie reminded me of the necessity of focusing on both a cure AND prevention, both institutionally and individually. It blew me away to realize how easily and unconsciously I had accepted the early detection and treatment paradigm, almost to the exclusion of one focused on cure and prevention, even as I was asking myself how the hell I got this in the first place and would I get it again. It's a great film. At times difficult to watch. The juxtaposition of the experiences of women whose cancer has metastasized with the corporate-sponsored pink party that takes advantage of the good intentions of so many people makes me angry and sad. But now I know and can make informed decisions about where to put my money and my time.


Sunday 28th of October 2012

Kim, First of all, I'm sorry about your diagnosis and your need for a double mastectomy. I hope you are healing well. It's a lot to grapple with isn't it? I agree that this movie effectively contextualizes a lot of information and also asks a lot of questions that need to be asked and even more importantly need to be answered. Don't feel bad, you aren't the only one who had unconsciously accepted all that we've been "fed." I certainly had as well. It's great you feel better informed now and your future actions will reflect this. Thank you so much for sharing your insightful comments. Keep healing and please stop by again. My best.

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