A new commercial from Gillette opens with audio of chattering news reports about the #MeToo movement, bullying and “toxic masculinity.” A narrator says in a sonorous (and masculine) voice: “Is this the best a man can get?” — a variation on the company’s 30-year old motto.
“Is it? We can’t hide from it. It’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off,” the narrator says as a scene from a fictional TV sitcom shows a man grabbing a woman’s behind. “Making the same old excuses: Boys will be boys. But something finally changed. And there will be no going back. Because we, we believe in the best in men.”
Then the ad cuts to actor Terry Crews, about as masculine a man as you’ll find anywhere, saying: “Men need to hold other men accountable.” Then the ad concludes by saying that some men already are acting the right way “in ways big and small. But some is not enough, because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.” End of ad.
And then a s—tstorm started.
First, there’s the obvious: Maybe Gillette should just tell us in its ad about all the great new things its razors can do, and perhaps even announce that they’ve dropped the price a bit ($22 for an eight-pack of Gillette Mach3 Turbo razor cartridges is highway robbery).
But this isn’t your father’s razor blade because this isn’t even your father’s world any more. Nowadays, everyone has a platform with social media, and companies big and small are expected to participate in the culture in ways that never would’ve been dreamed of in the past.
Throw in this factor: Whenever anyone suggests that maybe fathers and men should knock a little of the immaturity out of their boys, hold them accountable, focus on raising them as gentlemen who can be both masculine and compassionate, accusations fly about the wussification of America’s boys. And how dare some company say that perhaps men should also act better. The effrontery!
Piers Morgan, the former CNN talking head who’s about as milquetoast as they come, went bananas after seeing the spot, which was created by Procter & Gamble’s ad agency and titled “We Believe.”
“All the qualities that were good in men are being portrayed as evil. Gillette used to celebrate fabulous masculine qualities, now the presumption is we are all horrible people. They have changed their tone from celebration of masculinity,” he said.
The ad campaign is getting wrecked on social media, with more than 200,000 “dislikes” on YouTube and climbing fast. Many critics vow to boycott the company, which explained that it’s simply participating in the national conversation.
“This is an important conversation happening, and as a company that encourages men to be their best, we feel compelled to both address it and take action of our own,” Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette brand director for North America, told The Wall Street Journal. “We are taking a realistic look at what’s happening today, and aiming to inspire change by acknowledging that the old saying ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is not an excuse.”
And what’s so wrong with that? As a father, it was my task — my most important task — to raise my son to be a gentleman, to be masculine while also being considerate of others — most importantly, women. And as a man, is it not also my responsibility to take issue with other men when they act poorly or, worse, sexually harass women? Of course it is.
The world really has changed in the new #MeToo world — all for the better. Scumbags like movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey and comedian Bill Cosby have all seen their careers crash and burn over sexual harassment and rape, after years or decades of their antics being not only known, but tolerated. And I’ve been a reporter for 30 years and seen sexism (and sexual harassment) in the workplace that rivals “Anchorman.”
The #MeToo movement put an end to all of that.
Back to the ad. Nowhere does Gillette say “all men are rapists” as outraged critics claim (and to all those guys with their panties in a wad, maybe you should just man up and get over it). Nowhere does the ad say that we should dress little boys in petticoats and force them to play with dolls. Gillette simply says “the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow” — and that’s making them all pansies? Please.
That declaration is exactly right, and, frankly, impossible to refute. So everybody just calm down. What Gillette is preaching is perfectly fine.
And by the way, you do realize that you’ve just been played by a mega-corporation, right? Procter & Gamble is reveling in the reaction to its ad, which is getting free media coverage everywhere — just as intended. The ad’s makers knew the social justice warriors would come out in force — just as they have.
Well played, Gillette.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl.
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