Humor: The Helper

It’s undeniable that cancer is a scary subject, and breast cancer is no exception. One simple statistic summarizes just how un-discriminatory and prevalent breast cancer is: breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in women, no matter your race or ethnicity. With the whole month of October designated as National Breast Cancer Month, reminders for women to get mammograms and to screen themselves appear regularly. So how do you get people to face one of the scariest diseases out there? The answer is humor.

Rethink Breast Cancer is an organization dedicated to changing the perspective of breast cancer from scary, to preventive and manageable. Most notably, they want to change how awareness is taught. Rethink Breast Cancer has moved away from fear-based education tactics to using “fear-free, cutting edge messaging, multi-media platform reach and positive energy [that will] revitalize the breast cancer movement and motivate young people to action.” The YouTube video they have created for awareness has done just that.

With over six million views, the video Rethink Breast Cancer produced in 2011 has done a remarkable job of not only raising awareness for breast cancer, but also doing so in an approachable manner. Based on the premise that “women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy,” it stars male models that educate the audience on how to check for breast cancer. Humor is interwoven throughout the video in scenes such as a female nurse tripping over a stool, and a slow motion of a male model bathing himself.

Together, all of these humorous scenes combine with raw education to make breast cancer awareness fun to learn about. By using a pop-culture medium, such as YouTube it is even harder to ignore the message. But most importantly, Rethink Breast Cancer is living up to its goal of helping to educate from a perspective of humor rather than fear. This is exactly the kind of video that women (and even men) will pass on to their friends, helping to spread the importance of proactively approaching breast cancer.

Carefully balancing humor and sex appeal, Rethink Breast Cancer has created the ultimate advertisement for spreading awareness on how to help catch breast cancer. By using humor the ad becomes persuasive and makes examinations less of a chore and more of a self-service. But is this particular message the way that survivors would want to caution the public? While it seems appropriate to use humor on occasion, could there be a point where humor starts to detract from the sincerity of the situation at hand? If ads like this can be successful for breast cancer could this type of levity be introduced in messages of other health campaigns?

Meghan Carey, Caroline Robinson