Jennifer Aniston Movie Will Glitz Up Breast Cancer: Why?

Jeanne Sager

breast cancerWell, ladies, breast cancer is about to get the Hollywood treatment in a big way. Jennifer Aniston, Alicia Keys, Demi Moore, and Patty Jenkins have all signed on to Project Five, a Lifetime movie about the big C. And I'm not holding out high hopes.

I'd like to be. Breast cancer affects a quarter of a million American women. A movie on Lifetime could save some woman's life one day. But on the long list of people already signed on to this project are a host of screenwriters, people like Stephen Godchaux (Spin City), Jill Gordon (Cupid), Howard Morris (Women Are Crazy), Deirdre O’Connor (The Electric Company), and Wendy West (Dexter). Great credits there, but I have one question for all of them.

Why Hollywood? Why do you need writers to tell America what breast cancer does to our ladies? Don't you have a quarter of a million women's REAL stories to pluck from?

I'm more than a little put out that Hollywood thinks it can tell this story better than real American women can. According to Deadline, the point of this film is to "mix drama and comedy to explore the effect that breast cancer and its diagnosis have on women and their relationships." They say they want real. But let's face it, breast cancer is not a sexy topic.

A serious one in need of as much press as it can get? Yes. But the very concept of one of a woman's most highly sexualized organs being sliced open is not glamorous. It's real. Too real for Hollywood it seems. They want the glitz of a Hollywood ending, written by accomplished screenwriters.

But in the real life, we don't have Hollywood endings, do we? We have moms who lie in hospital beds while their kids cry. We have aunts who die. We have men who leave. And then we have the good side too. The cancer caught just in time. The lumpectomy. The miracle cure. The husband at her side every step of the way. You can't write that stuff, but you don't need to. Because women live it every day

To be taken seriously, the topic of breast cancer can't be glitzed up. It needs to be laid out on the table as reality. The reality of thousands of newly diagnosed women every year. Of young moms and elderly grandmothers, of middle-aged businesswomen and stay-at-home empty nesters.

If we want to affect the world with a Lifetime movie, we can't tell the same old Hollywood stories. The people who would be moved by them already have gotten on board. It's the rest of them we need, the people who have yet to think, "Yes, I need a mammogram ... today if not sooner." We have to get to the men who can't come to terms with their wife one day maybe facing a mastectomy because they can't get past the sexual aspects. We need to get to the young women still thinking it's "weird" to feel themselves up in the shower to suss out a lump in time.

I've seen breast cancer in the movies. I've read it in books. And I'll maintain that the single story that has hit me the hardest in life was that of a young mom I know tangentially -- a friend of a friend -- who was recently diagnosed in my area. It wasn't personal for me; we don't "know" each other, probably wouldn't even have reason to say hi in the grocery store. But she was a real mom with two kids younger than my own daughter. And when I learned she had been diagnosed, I cried real tears for her.

I didn't need Hollywood to cue the waterworks with sweeping violins. I didn't need Jennifer Aniston or Alicia Keys. It was the thought of a real woman with real kids fighting for her life. It left me gasping for breath. If they want us to watch, that's the story that Project Five needs to give us.

Are you going to be watching the Hollywood treatment of breast cancer when it hits Lifetime?


Image via mel_rowling/Flickr

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