When it comes to trying to catch the attention of the world to promote a cause you believe in, there are two homophonic angles one can take: There’s the “Ooh” approach and there’s “Eww” approach. The U.K.’s Male Cancer Awareness Campaign has sort of combined the two, partnering with Chris O’Dowd for a new campaign called “SkyBalls” that aims to send a hot air balloon shaped like a hairy scrotum fluttering across the English sky.
The Male Cancer Awareness Campaign aims to raise awareness of the forms of cancer that men need to be especially aware of: that is, prostate cancer, breast cancer, testicular cancer, and bowel cancer. These forms of cancer are seldom-discussed, often because they’re just kinda embarrassing to talk about. Stunts like “SkyBalls,” for which the MCAC is attempting to raise £100,000 via IndieGoGo in order to bring “the world’s largest flying scrotum” to the skies, aren’t new to the campaign, either. Their cheeky attempts to raise awareness include “James Bum 002,” a dashing hero in ass-less pants who battles bowel cancer and its evil minions, Mr. Severe Stomach Pain, Family History, Odd Jobby, and Dr. Strange Poo; Near Naked Man, who is clothed in a flesh-colored body suit and a motorcycle helmet, warns of the risks of prostate cancer; and Mr. Testicles, a smiling scrotal mascot who would resemble the Ren & Stimpy character Powdered Toast Man, but for the scattered strands of pubic hair dotting his scalp. O’Down himself has also participated in an MCAC campaign once before: having played the “Man with the Best Job in the World” in a video about the totally made-up Topless Female Trampolining World Championships.
Exploitative? Hard to argue. Uncomfortable? If and when you have to explain Mr. Testicles to your kids, we expect so. But–and this is a big but–these are life-and-death issues in a culture where men particularly are known for being particularly skittish in discussing personal issues with one another. Presumably, it’s the goal of the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign to reduce the stigma around discussing these particular forms of cancer by lowering the discourse so thoroughly that literally anything is more comfortable to talk about than the giant scrotum you just saw fly over the soccer stadium. This would thus include a conversation with your dad about whether or not he’s inspected his balls for an unexpected lump, a conversation that would be spurred on by the hashtag “#CheckYourBalls” printed at the base of the balloon. As far as ideas to bring up important personal issues in a culture that hates talking about them, it’s not the worst we’ve ever heard. If just one English bloke turns to his mates and says, “You know, I’ve had a weird lump on my bollocks for the past month” and is persuaded to visit his doctor as a result, then it’d be hard not to consider the campaign a success.