Gillette released a “short film” on Monday titled “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be.” A subsidiary company of the multinational Procter & Gamble Co., Gillette used to be about selling razors. It appears now that Gillette (like Pepsi, Google, Nike, Red Lobster, etc.) is self-righteously succumbing to a high-pressure wave of woke capitalism.
Gillette’s marketing team uses the visual motif of men looking into the mirror to tie the act of shaving to a broader point about men needing to alter their inherently destructive nature.
From the beginning, the commercial is peppered with soundbites and visual vignettes depicting men as bullies, sexual aggressors, implicit defenders of violence, and patronizing bosses. Dramatic, haunting music (the opening notes are reminiscent of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings) carries these images of men and boys to the climax. Then, the music shifts to a more hopeful tone as Gillette proclaims their platitudinous “belief” in “the best in men.” Post-climax, Gillette offers us a vision of their ideal: Men either prevent other men from speaking to women or police child’s play.
This video is an overall assault on the senses by cliché and concludes appropriately: “It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.” To do more what? Get closer to our best what?
One scene from the video is particularly absurd. At 1:03, a beautiful young woman passes an equally handsome young man leaning against the door of what appears to be a coffee shop. The man notices her, expresses (to himself) some level of attraction, and moves to follow her. Just as he moves in her direction, some other guy emerges from the shop, pushes him back to his original position, and admonishes him, muttering, “Not cool, not cool.”
The handsome guy’s actions are only uncool in a world either of complete sexual incontinence or sexlessness. What healthy man does not desire the company of beautiful women? What well-adjusted woman automatically would be offended by such an innocent pursuit? Why is the subtext of the commercial that his motivations are sinister? Why also are we to assume that the woman, by default, does not want the attention? Also, how does the interjector know what the lady is thinking? Couldn’t one say he is “white knighting” and therefore patronizing this woman? By the style of depiction, the natural masculine impulse to pursue woman is pathologized.
It’s all so tiresome. This sort of message is not new, meaningful, or interesting. It is a drop in the ocean of the ubiquitous cultural assault on classically male behaviors that, over the years, has become utterly mainstream and banal. While the message is stale, the sense of moral superiority in its delivery is rich coming from the same corporation that was implicated in a child labor scandal less than three years ago.
“Get woke, go broke,” a meme conceived in response to the phenomenon of the corporate world’s embrace of contra natura social dogma, suggests that when a company engages in performative progressivism, it loses financially. Examples abound, from Miss America to EA Games’ “Battlefield V” to “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” So if the evidence suggests that pandering to a phantom audience of androgynous automatons is not financially smart, why do companies like Gillette continue to do it?
It seems we’ve reached a point in history where multinational corporations are more interested in molding culture than in making a profit. Or at the very least, the reward for signaling one’s compliance with the morality du jour outweighs the benefit of universal likability. Gone are the days of Michael Jordan’s neutrality. Republicans might buy sneakers, too, but they don’t matter anymore. Procter & Gamble is so large and so diverse in its portfolio that it can cover its losses. And, besides, the company is banking on a future full of “woke” and unthinking customers. Let us all mourn the death of the Left that once treated corporate pandering with a degree of cynicism.
It’s hard to take ads like Gillette’s seriously, but one should not allow oneself to become accustomed to being pushed around by the Junior Anti Sex League—which for Orwell was the division of youth activists dedicated to sterilizing sexuality and divorcing it from eros. The appropriate response for men who don’t hate themselves is to patronize another company or grow a beard. Let Gillette rely on the elusive base to whom they pander. Men of worth do not finance their own demoralization. Virtuous women understand that an attack on masculinity is an implicit attack on its complement. They shouldn’t buy from Gillette either.
The takeaway from Gillette’s sloppy and hackneyed characterizations is that “the best a man can be” is a clean-shaven hall monitor. No woman wants him. No man wants to be him. Sad!
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Photo credit: Gillette