“It’s only by challenging ourselves to do more that we can get closer to our best.” So concludes the dramatic and somehow controversial Gillette commercial that reminds the cracked out on too much testosterone (for lack of anything else worthwhile to justify their existence) adult “men” of today that they are raising a generation for the future. A generation with the potential to put an end to the highly antiquated notion that to be a “man” means to, in essence, treat women like shit. To demean them, to ogle them and to subjugate them lest they lose their own sense of place and self-worth.
As the commercial opens with buzz words of the moment as stated by a newscaster tossing out phrases like, “Bullying,” “The #MeToo movement” and “Toxic masculinity,” Gillette proceeds to invite its viewers and regular users of the product to reexamine what it might actually mean to be a man. Not the version of the man that’s been indoctrinated into both sexes’ heads for centuries to the point of not even knowing what’s real and what’s a self-imposed archetype anymore. That Gillette is holding itself accountable for its own chauvinistic tag line of the past–“The Best a Man Can Get”–by altering it to “The Best a Man Can Be” (even if this does smack just a little bit of the U.S. Army’s “Be All That You Can Be” mantra) is in and of itself a bold statement. But for the brand to take the risk (and clearly it was, based on the absurd backlash) in challenging parents–who never like to be challenged or accused by anyone, least of all a company they might buy something from–to rethink what they’re teaching their “sons” is what really shows gumption.
Scenes of “boys” fighting each other like animals with oversized pituitary glands and “men” catcalling a woman dressed in “asking for it” attire combine to provide the opening for the voiceover, “We can’t laugh it off. Making the same old excuses: boys will be boys.” It is around this moment we have to take pause to admire the creative team at Grey New York for presenting this concept to Procter and Gamble. Even if both parties are likely just trying to sell a razor to the non self-mutilators of America by appealing to the very person who truly controls the household budget: Mother. It’s a step in the right direction, and Gillette has proven to be one of the few brands geared toward “men” that has been willing to re-focus the accepted lens of how to advertise something to the douche bag “male.”
So as these “men” stare at themselves existentially in the mirror wondering not what a best a “man” can get is, but what the best a “man” can be is, maybe–just maybe–they, in true American consumerist fashion, owe it all to Procter & Gamble (taking a huge gamble indeed in their faith in the politically polarized climate of the U.S. to send such a message). And anyone offended by this notion of reassessing masculinity to exist without the “toxic” in front of it can go fuck themselves. Which is what they’ll have to do when no woman wants to.