Turns out the Saw series is more progressive than you might have assumed, and is using the eighth installment of its endless franchise to lobby the FDA to allow all people, regardless of sexual orientation, to donate blood. Wait, what?
According to the New York Times, the campaign, called “All Types Welcome” isn’t as totally out of left field as it sounds. Lionsgate’s chief brand officer, Tim Palen, has been organizing blood drives to promote the films since the first Saw hit theaters more than a decade ago:
Lionsgate initially came up with the idea in 2004 to generate buzz for the first “Saw.” Perhaps inspired by William Castle, the 1950s-era horror film director and promotional gimmick king, who once sent nurses to theaters in case anyone died of fright, Mr. Palen organized similar blood drives for the next five “Saw” movies. By 2009, these stunts, each with a different nurse theme, resulted in so many donations — some 120,000 pints — that the American Red Cross gave him an award.
The blood drive will be held again in anticipation of the film’s October 27 release, but this time, Palen and his colleagues wanted to address an issue that has seemingly been haunting them: The FDA rule that prohibits men who have had sex with men from donating.
Restrictions on donations from gay and bisexual men were first instated in 1985 in attempt to prevent HIV—at the time, donations from those groups were banned altogether. In 2015, the rule was updated to reduce the timeframe to a year of celibacy. As FDA spokesperson Lyndsay Meyer told the Times:
“While acknowledging at the time that the change to a 12-month deferral was less than hoped for by some, the F.D.A. considered this to be a first step,” Ms. Meyer said, adding that studies are underway to “help inform further changes to policy.”
The campaign employs several spokespeople familiar to social media dwellers, including model Shaun Ross and transgender socialite Amanda Lepore, the latter of whom called the restrictions “ridiculous” and “discriminatory.”
The move may be a craven publicity stunt, but would the means justify the ends if Lionsgate can successfully leverage its Hollywood might to correct a social ill? And if so, does that make it more defensible than a company merely invoking politics for the sole purpose of selling products?
Last July, the FDA put out a call for public comment on how it should proceed with its blood donation regulations, which seems like an extremely strange way of directing policy. That said, if the agency does lift the ban, it can result in a four percent increase in the nation’s blood supply.