Published April 13, 2011
Demi Moore, husband Ashton Kutcher and their self-titled the Demi and Ashton Foundation (DNA), which seeks to combat the sexual exploitation and slavery of minors, have come under fire this week over a campaign many consider to be inappropriately light and fluffy given the severity of the issue.
The Hollywood power couple enlisted an array of their A and B-list friends (including Sean Penn, Jessica Biel, Eva Longoria and Justin Timberlake) for a public service campaign which consists of several short videos featuring the slogan “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.”
In one spot, Sean Penn proves that “real men know how to use an iron,” by ironing his sandwich before eating it. Justin Timberlake exemplifies that “real men know how to shave” by taking to his facial hair with an electric chainsaw. Bradley Cooper shows that “real men know how to make a meal” by pouring milk into a cereal box and eating it with a giant spoon.
Not everyone is amused.
“This is what happens when celebrities do an issue divorced from the movement. Once you chose an issue and don’t do it in collaboration with people who have been doing this for a long time, this is what you end up with," Norma Ramos, Executive Director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women told FOX411.com. "There is a general dumbing down that is going on and this is an example of dumbing down a social justice movement with the narrowest message possible.”
Ramos said the ads are also completely ineffective. “Those men who are buying girls and children are pedophiles; they’re not going to be swayed by that campaign," she said. "They have got to have a campaign which is ‘real men don’t buy sex.’ You have to sacrifice wanting to be cool for wanting to be effective.”
In another spot, Jamie Foxx shows that “real men know how to use a remote control” by using the device to open his beer bottle while happily engaged in an episode of Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” Ramos said the casting here was particularly inappropriate.
“Donald Trump is CEO of a beauty pageant which simply fosters reducing women to sex objects. Once you reduce a human being to a thing they become disposable and putting him in this category of people,” Ramos continued. “I would have chosen the men a little more carefully.”
Furthermore, Los Angeles-based psychologist Dr. Nancy Irwin, who predominantly works with sex offenders and their victims, concurred that while Moore and Kutcher’s hearts are in the right place, the execution of the videos was simply wrong.
“The ads are not addressing the issue; they are veering off in another direction in a ‘gender joke’ attempt. With the enormous amount of heart and creativity available in both Moore and Kutcher, it would be preferable and a stronger message for the public to present male models of healthy sexuality with respect for women,” Irwin said. “Taking on traditional female activities such as knitting, ironing or cooking does not make a man. The answer to abuse of females is not to make men more like women.”
Matthew Vadum of the Capital Research Center in Washington D.C also said that he feels the campaign only worsened the reputation of celebrities trying to do good.
“It’s even more difficult than usual to take celebrities seriously when they put out flippant ads like this. Justin Timberlake shaving with a chainsaw? What exactly is the message here? There is a huge difference between ‘funny’ and foolishness,” he said.
Reps for Kutcher and Moore did not respond for comment.
However, Allison Trowbridge of the anti-slavery Not For Sale Campaign said that in spite of suspect campaign, their involvement has a positive impact.
“Such viral buzz can be a true catalyst for individuals to engage and take action against modern-day slavery,” she said.”Not only do celebrity voices generate mass attention around the issue, but more importantly, they affect the cultural shift necessary to address the demand for this thriving criminal enterprise.”
And campaign controversy aside, Kutcher and Moore are certainly passionate about drawing awareness to the subject of sex trafficking.
“I was seized by a feeling of wanting to find the guy who is raping a 7-year-old girl and just beat the (expletive) out of him, really take his guts out. Well, that feeling won't change for me five or 10 or 20 years from now, wanting to take that guy to the woodshed won't change, fighting for that girl won't change,” Kutcher told USA Today this week while at a safe house for women rescued from sexual slavery. “So whether I'm tackling this on a large platform or am just a guy with a sign, I'll be doing this in 20 years."
Deidre Behar contributed to this report.