Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse than the Surgeon General using Elmo on Sesame Street to hawk vaccines to the tiniest and most impressionable among us, Forbes steps up to the plate this month to compete for Most Disgusting Abuse of Marketing Drugs Directly To Children Award.
In Forbes' Jan. 20th "Pharma & Healthcare" section (where they tell us what Pharma wants us to "know"), there is an article titled, "Even Disney Princesses Need HPV Shots, Cervical Cancer Screenings and STD Testing". In this activist sales pitch dressed up as science journalism, Forbes contributor and self-assigned savior of the world's children from their own parents (and non HPV vaccine prescribing doctors), Tara Haelle, reports how "writer and sex ed speaker Danielle Sepulveres and artist/illustrator Maritza Lugo...collaborated on a series of illustrations at Sepulveres' Tumblr showing Disney princesses visiting their gynecologists to raise awareness for Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and all the healthy behaviors that women can take to reduce their risk of this almost completely preventable cancer." Apparently "Sepulveres became frustrated last fall when she and fellow writer friends had trouble successfully pitching stories to write about Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month in September. After sharing her frustration in a blog post at a cervical cancer "cervivors" site, she decided she needed a new approach to catch people's attention when January rolled around." So she teamed with artist Lugo "whose website features a style well suited to placing icons like Cinderella and Mulan in a new context".
Sepulveres and Lugo show the Disney cartoon characters that millions of children love and admire in various medical situations. Tiana is shown getting an HPV vaccine. Mulan is in the gynecologist's examination chair shaking his hand before putting her feet into the stirrups for her "cervical cancer screening". Belle is shown in the clinic picking up (I kid you not) "emergency contraception" (behind her are brochures on Birth Control, one partially hidden by the nurse's (?) head says in red "Your Sexual...", and then right behind Belle's head is a large picture of an IUD, white and blue on bright red).
Then there's Cinderella's "new context". You didn't think that Cinderella, who has been a teenager since 1950 when she debuted in her first Disney film, got away without having sex all this time, did you? Can't let a storybook princess maintain her decades long reputation for innocence, not in 2016 when there are so many drugs and medical services for her to sell - to children. Nope. Cinderella is all grown up now. Cinderella is shown in the lab with a needle in her arm getting blood drawn to test her for STD's, because, as the poster on the wall behind her head says "ONE IN TWO SEXUALLY ACTIVE YOUNG PEOPLE WILL GET AN STD BY 25". You just can't make this stuff up. CINDERELLA. What age is into Cinderella? 3? 5? 7? 9? Oh, now, wait a minute. Nine year old girls ARE targeted (their word, not mine) for the HPV vaccine. So, they get the babies ready for the idea that they're going to get this vaccine when they are just barely out of diapers so that by the time they reach the ripe old age of 9, they accept it without questioning because all their Disney friends got it and did just fine. Slick.
I saw one more. Jasmine and Aladdin are shown discussing family planning options with a doctor. Can you imagine your 7 year old proficient reader asking you, "What's family planning, Mommy?" "What's an STD?" "What's emergency contraception?".
There is a positive aspect to this sorry hijacking of fairy tales by Pharma and Fiends though. While consistently loyal Pharma friendly Forbes published this piece by Haelle, Sepulveres indignantly reveals on her Tumblr blog that plenty of other editors rejected the story:
*Important to note that this month, pitches to female editors about this topic were ignored or rejected by The Daily Beast, Cosmopolitan, The Establishment, Buzzfeed, Glamour, The Cut and several others.*
So, it is good to think that other editors realized how outrageously inappropriate this is on so many levels. Science journalists influencing minors to opt for certain medical and pharmaceutical products and services with or without using beloved Disney characters is marketing directing to children and it is disgusting. It's not that cervical cancer isn't a problem. There are lots of problems. It's that these women are not the children's parents and they are overstepping their bounds. They are trampling on parental rights and authority. They are trying to wedge their message between young children and their parents using Disney characters. If these women want to teach, they can reach out to parents with their message and then they should politely and respectfully wait for acceptance or rejection of that message. And they should take yes or no for an answer and know that there are BOUNDARIES. They have no right to push parents aside and go straight to the children with their biased, controversial, agenda. That goes for Surgeon General Murtha and Sesame Street too.
Unicef's Bo Viktor Nylund outlines the problem in an article in The Guardian, "Marketing and advertising to children: the issues at stake",
Marketing to children has expanded to include messaging at points of sale, children’s clubs, sporting events, concerts, websites, social networking sites and even in schools. Marketing messages may introduce children to inappropriate content like violence, sexualization and unrealistic body images....
Nylund's article was not specifically about HPV vaccine and sex education linked to various products and services, but it applies to these products and services as well, even and especially when they are marketed to children by government officials like Murtha. It is an overreach to market drugs and medical services directly to children that parents may not agree with. Birth control and cultural/religious ideals of sexual practices are personal as are decisions over what services and products will be chosen for use. These are not decisions for minors (no matter what California has decided - if they think children are able to make medical decisions then they should also grant children over the age of 12 the right to vote, but I digress). It is most interesting that the article states that Disney is one of a number of companies that has "already taken steps to integrate children's rights considerations into their marketing and advertising strategies."
So, would Uncle Walt and his successors at Disney approve of Tiana, Cinderella, Alladin, Belle and Mulan being used to sell controversial vaccines, IUDs and emergency contraception directly to kids (or even to adults for that matter)? I wonder, has Disney approved? If so, I want to know if Disney was paid for the use of these characters, how much and by whom?
Outrageous marketing of "sex ed" to very young children without their parent's consent aside, some may be thinking that this campaign is ok because HPV vaccine is proven safe and effective and necessary to prevent cervical cancer and other conditions linked to HPV viral strains. That's the sales pitch - the message the CDC puts out. But it isn't true. HPV vaccine is extremely controversial and has been from day 1 when the first version was introduced in 2006 (we're on version 2 now with the poorly tested Gardasil 9). In 2013 the Japanese government withdrew their recommendation for the vaccine because of concerns of serious adverse side effects. The HPV vaccine is also in big trouble in other countries including India, France, Spain and Denmark. Gardasil's history can be found in "Gardasil, License to Kill?", which is chapter 19 of the book, Vaccine Epidemic. That chapter is downloadable for free here.
No one knows if the HPV vaccine can or will prevent cervical cancer, but we do know that some children who receive this vaccine get very sick and many have tragically died. In his January 16, 2016 open letter of complaint to WHO, Dr. Sin Hang Lee explains the scientific rationale behind the serious adverse events including deaths after HPV vaccine. He conclusively shows that these illnesses and deaths are not coincidental to the vaccine's administration and he also proves using emails that he obtained that the damning science has been deliberately hidden from policy makers and the public.
Tara Haelle is one science journalist who needs to catch a scientific clue and she needs to learn her place. Her place is NOT between parents and their children. Her place is not in raising other people's kids. Like "The Daily Beast, Cosmopolitan, The Establishment, Buzzfeed, Glamour, The Cut and several others", Tara Heale and her Forbes' editors should have had the sense and (we can only hope) scientific understanding to reject Sepulvedes' transgressive and grossly inappropriate campaign.
Postscript: At the end of Haelle's Forbes' piece, she announces that she is writing a parenting book with Ms. :o) Emily Willingham, titled, The Informed Parent: A Science-Based Resource for Your Child's First Four Years. That's right, folks. These two will be explaining the "science" of parenting a child up to age 4 (notably a particularly vaccine intensive time) to parents so that parents no longer have to rely on, to paraphrase the intro to their book on Amazon: know-nothing friends, other parents, in-laws, and I will add, the growing number of doctors and scientists who don't agree with the Haelle/Willingham(Pharma/CDC) definition of "credible" science. Haelle with her infamously opinionated and not very scientifically credible partner, Willingham, apparently have their sights set on getting in between everybody because they're the experts and no one you know, including your doctor, knows as much as they (and their puppeteers) do.