Celebrity Anti-Sex Trafficking PSAs: Good Intentions Gone Wrong?

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Raising awareness about child sex slavery? Great! Doing so while making light of the crime? Not so great.

Demi Moore and Ashton Kucher’s new series of anti-sex slavery PSAs are clearly well-intentioned. The celebrity couple have started a foundation against sex trafficking and sex slavery, and they’ve enlisted the help of big-name celebrities to help them raise awareness.

(More on TIME.com: See the top 10 public service announcements)

The clips advertise what a “real” man is, playing up gender stereotypes in a goofy, beer-commercial type way. After Justin Timberlake shaves with a chainsaw or Sean Penn irons a grilled-cheese sandwich or Bradley Cooper eats his cereal straight out of the box — all examples of what “real men” do — the deep-voiced narrator tells us know what “real men” don’t do — buy girls. Following that, either Eva Longoria or Jessica Biel depending on the clip, purr into the camera, asking viewers if they too are real men.

Now NewsFeed hates to criticize any effort meant to raise awareness, especially when it’s such a worthy cause, but we can’t help noticing how incredibly misguided these ads are. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with using humor to garner attention, though when dealing with as weighty a topic as child sex slavery, you’d better be sure you’re doing it right and not just trivializing the crime. Also, we’d have preferred if at least a little attention had been paid to sex slavery in this anti-sex slavery ad.

(More on TIME.com: See South Africa’s sex slave industry)

But, c’mon NewsFeed, you might be thinking, these are celebrities, not experts. Maybe they’re just using their talents to try and do something. Yet, many other celebrities have appeared in PSAs that are far more moving.

Take Kiera Knightley in this powerful (and disturbing) ad against domestic abuse:

And you needn’t even use violence to make waves. In this PSA about gender inequality, there is almost no action, but Judi Dench and Daniel Craig use facts and their star power to drive their message home:

Though these two PSAs are like night and day, they both effectively get the message across in a way that’s memorable by either using information or by viscerally displaying the problem. Sure, not everything has to be doom and gloom to be effective, but then again, we fail to see how making light of sex slavery raises awareness. (via Salon)

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