Gillette came for its own base demographics’ neck with a blockbuster ad.
Y’all. This jawn was tough! Like tough to watch, in a good way. In a ‘we see the role we’ve played in toxic gender-based behavior and we not with the shits no more’ kind of way.
Gillette just rebranded their entire corporate intention in one long-form commercial. In the Black South folks say, ‘charity starts at home’. Maaaaannnn, Gillette is trying to clean house with this one. They overtly came for their own.
First, by having a boy being hunted down by a group of young men literally bust through a screen projecting the 90s Gillette commercials of ‘manly men’ getting the girl. As if to question whether Gillette itself was ‘The Best A Man Can Get’; questioning if it was endorsing the toxic behaviors responsible for the recent (and overdue) rising tide of sexual misconduct and assault allegations. The image of a boy being held by his scared mother as he is surrounded by cyberbullying text messages; frightening and commonplace these days.
The commercial shows out and shows off the (many) ways male-identified people have held sway over society by ‘might makes right’ and other subtle shows of force. Watching them play out on screen in all of those ways was staggering.
Gillette’s marketing team is talking some serious (and overdue) smack to their bread and butter consumers. The media piece? With the TV showing a jury of men whistling at a woman then switching to the unwarranted domestic booty grabbing in front of a studio audience that switches to the dude-bro pool party with the women on display? With the voiceover like, “We can’t laugh it off.” That was a slap on the wrist of male privilege, a tiny something to get men’s attention.
Gillette was like, “Nah. That’s not enough – we need more. Take it to the board room.” Where Tanner McGee Esq., CEO, makes his way into the Mansplain Hall of Fame. He hits the pose, putting his hand on the only woman present and delivers the keynote address from the podium: “What I actually think she’s really trying to say…” That was a slap box smack in the face for most guys. Like, ‘I know you playing but damn, I feel like I might have said that before’.
Gillette was like, “Okay. Now let’s turn it up another couple notches. Unleash the toxic man slogan.” But they said it in the key of “Release the Kraken!” Watching two prepubescent boys slug it out, we hear the refrain, “Boys will be boys.” One dad says it, then the next dad, then a never-ending chorus line of dads repeating it nonstop. Let me pause here.
For folks that are male-identified, this is a 400-yard no-scoped sniper shot that hits a bro right in the feels. ‘Boys will be boys’ has been a phrase men have used to harm other men: same-sex abuses, excessive force, and police murder, fist fights in the street, homophobic violence, etc. Seeing a line of dudes saying that phrase as a write off for normalizing deadly, toxic behavior was Gillette dropping the mic and picking up feedback loud enough to make men’s ears bleed.
Then we get the flipside of the coin. Terry Crews’ testimony regarding male sexual harassment. Men, acting as allies to women and holding other men accountable in a montage of real life and produced ‘moments’. These men do so in the presence of others, but a special focus is placed on the boys witnessing these acts. Lingering on their gaze and reminding men that they need to do more because these boys will be the ‘men of the future’.
This is legit Gillette’s’ Nike-Kaepernick/Serena moment. Do you remember? The one where a corporation says the thing they needed to say way earlier. But they say it way late in the game to pretend they’re on the cutting edge of said issue. That thing. Yeah, this is that. Job well done though. Really well done.
Gillette’s short film-slash-commercial shifts the corporate responsibility back on the corporation, from its ad campaigns on through to its endorsements. It also uses its platform to shift accountability from the company to men and male-identified people at large. A loud, but small step – in the right direction, at least.
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