Causes Going Too Far

May 11, 2012

I’ve got nothing against good causes.  But I am concerned when good causes go too far.  So far in 2012, we’ve seen a bumper crop of “good causes” which have, in one way or another, gone too far.

The latest one, and the one which has really raised my hackles, is the organized demand that Disney and Marvel Comics apologize for a laugh-out-loud funny joke (and yes, I really did laugh out loud in the theater when I saw it) in The Avengers, about Thor’s brother Loki (the movie’s really arch-villain).

Here’s the joke:

The joke is at the expense of Loki (Tim Hiddleston), the … adopted son of the god, Odin. Loki’s brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) defends him to fellow Avenger Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), who then points out that Loki had “killed 80 people in two days.” Thor then replies, “He’s adopted.”

Lots of folks laughed at this, including people who are adopted – and people who have adopted children (like me – I was adopted, and I also adopted one of my sons).   But sometimes, cause-oriented people can go too far.  As the Entertainment at article points out:

… in a petition created by Jamie Berke on, “According to your scriptwriter, the fact (Loki) was adopted is the reason he is a bad guy!…Being adopted is not something to use for the butt of jokes! Marvel, immediately cease using adoption as the butt of jokes AND issue a public apology to the adoption community!”

That same MSNBC article invited people to vote – should Disney/Marvel apologize?   The results are pretty specific:


Total of 69,976 votes
Yes, it insulted adoptees and adoptive parents
2,459 votes
No, people are too sensitive
67,517 votes

As someone who was adopted as an infant – who has lived his whole life as an adoptee – and as someone who adopted one of my sons, John David Barnett, I have very strong feelings about what it means to be adopted.  However, I also have a sense of humor, and as I said, I broke out laughing when I heard that joke.  I strongly believe that the folks who object need to get a life, or at least a sense of humor – it’s not like adoptees the world over will be demonized because the mythical/fictional Loki, God of Chaos, was adopted by the equally mythical/fictional Odin Allfather, supreme God of Norse mythology.

But there was another cause in the news today – the Swedish Cancer Society was lambasting a Swedish swim-suit manufacturer for catalog/ad photos showing tanned women modeling those suits – and the woman in question is Brazilian model Isabeli Fontana who is naturally dark-skinned, and whose color was apparently enhanced by computer, not by massive doses of sunlight.  Yes, skin cancer is an issue, for sure, but women don’t wear micro-bikinis to avoid the sun, and it isn’t the bathing suit manufacturers who lure innocent victims into the sun’s rays – it’s 65 years of post-WW-II sunbathing that has done it.  The swimsuit manufacturer, in this case, was savvy.  They apologized “if anyone was offended,” but didn’t withdraw the ads and didn’t promise to use exotic Brazilian models in future ads.

One of the classic cases of a cause gone too far is Susan G. Komen for the Cure – which flipped and flopped and flipped again, and in the process, offended potential donors on both sides of the Left/Right political divide.

First, for reasons that defy comprehension, they took money donated to them to, as their title mentions, find a cure for breast cancer, and gave it to America’s most popular (or notorious) abortion mill, Planned Parenthood – a move that thrust them into a bitter Left/Right political debate.

Then, they realized that this donation wasn’t part of their core mission – that PP didn’t really perform breast cancer screenings (as promised), so they cancelled the donation.  Planned Parenthood screamed bloody murder.  Donations from pro-choice groups and individuals plummeted (though donations from pro-life groups and individuals soared).

Eventually, due to political and favorable-to-abortion media coverage attacking them for their action, Komen caved in and rescinded their plans to cancel the donation.  And promptly lost support from pro-life donors, who felt betrayed (especially those who’d donated because of Komen’s stance against Planned Parenthood).

Finally, Komen decided to once again fund Planned Parenthood again – proving that some people never learn – this didn’t win back those offended by the original cancellation, but it further offended everyone who objects to Planned Parenthood’s premiere role in abortion in America.  A cause that had been hugely successful, and totally a-political, had become a political football and had lost support – probably for decades, maybe forever – from people on both sides of the totally-irrelevant-to-Komen’s-mission abortion debate.

To wrap this up, perhaps the best example of a good cause going too far is that of the La Leche League of New Zealand, a group which advocates for breast-feeding – they criticized a non-profit’s TV ad aimed at getting people to quit smoking – the ad featured a national-hero Rugby star bottle-feeding his infant daughter, and LLNZ raised immortal hell over this breach of “breast is best” – and in the process, spawned nearly 10,000 critical news articles and TV reports around the world, all mocking their holier-than-thou, self-centered attitude.

That is the best (0r worst) example of a non-profit taking themselves too seriously, and in the process, damaging their own brand.  Not just for themselves in New Zealand, but world-wide.

Bottom line.  Causes need to have some perspective. Whether they object to humor in movies noted for their humor, or whether they get involved in defending their cause at the expense of others – or, perhaps worst of all, if they inject themselves into political debates unnecessarily, causes will do better when they exhibit some perspective.

Ned Barnett – Nevada Conservative

Ned Barnett has worked in campaigns, and as a speechwriter to candidates and elected officials, since he was the “mascot” to the local Young Republicans in 1964 (Goldwater) – he has managed media and strategy for three state-level Presidential campaigns, and worked hand-in-glove with the legendary Lee Atwater in South Carolina in the Ford Campaign.  In 2009-10, as an active Tea Party supporter, he served as both the Clark County/Las Vegas and Nevada Republican Party Communications Director.  He owns Barnett Marketing Communications in Las Vegas, and provides a full range of PR, marketing, issues-management and fund-raising services for clients in Las Vegas, around the country, and in several other countries.  He can be reached at 702-561-1167 or …




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