Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's Demi & Ashton Foundation (aka DNA) recently released a handful of online PSAs featuring Justin Timberlake, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper and Jamie Foxx. In them, the stars perform an unlikely "real man" activity (Timberlake shaves with a chainsaw, Penn makes a grilled cheese with an iron) to contrast with what real men don't do — namely, buy girls. Then Jessica Biel or Eva Longoria pops up to present a photo of yet another real man who doesn't take part in human trafficking. The campaign's tonally odd (peppy lite jazz doesn't scream "soundtrack for child-slavery discourse!") and calculated for controversy — even if the controversy amounts to, "Well, that's weird!"
The indie-flick quirk makes everyone involved appear to be trying too hard. But the thing is they are trying really hard — to end child slavery! Trying too hard for a cause is the best trying too hard of all. These videos are masterful in the line they walk — they aren't outrageous enough to provoke outrage, nor are they dry and stat-filled enough to repel an Internet of short-attention spans.
Granted, it feels uncomfortable to mix humor with the subject of buying and selling underage girls, but then the idea seems to be that the subject doesn't make people uncomfortable enough in the first place (if it did, people would be doing more about it). In Kutcher's DNA welcome message posted last year, he talked about creating a dialogue regarding the obviously insane and disturbing practice of child sex slavery. And indeed, if these videos do nothing else, they'll get people talking.
The Real Men Don't Buy Girls campaign: effective or offensive? Watch a few examples of the videos below: