Pimp This Bum: salvation or exploitation?

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Marketing specialist Kevin Dolan and his son Sean were looking for a way to test out a campaign to generate buzz for Ascendgence, their Internet marketing startup, when they approached a homeless man named Tim Edwards and paid him $100 a day to hold a cardboard sign advertising their Web site, Pimp This Bum. Now, the whole thing is making headlines for the Dolans, and thousands of dollars in donations for Tim Edwards. Corporate sponsors have even signed on, and Tim is receiving free rehab services from Sunray Treatment and Recovery in Seattle, airfare provided by Southwest Airlines. However, some homeless advocates are upset over the word "pimp" and are alleging that Tim is being exploited. If you listen to Tim when he asks you to consider his options and think again about labeling the site as exploitation, he makes it hard to get uppity about it—even though the name is reminiscent of tasteless YouTube spoofs like Pimp My Shopping Cart and MTV Cribs: Homeless Edition. When something makes us uncomfortable, there's a fine line between laughing at the situation and crying. With surprising tenderness to its subject, Pimp This Bum manages to walk that line.

—Posted by Rebecca Cullers