The latest Gillette ad, We Believe: The Best Men Can Be (a play on words of their slogan: ‘The Best a Man Can Get’) initially flew by under my radar. I’m not usually one to pay much attention to advertisements, but when something is repeatedly shared and discussed by all your Facebook friends (in my case, that would mean a whopping 7 people, all of which are fake accounts created by my mom), you just can’t help but take a peek.
And I have to say, I’m glad I did, not only because it turned out to be a pretty effective and poetic advertisement, but also because I realised how ridiculously ignorant and small minded some people can be when I scrolled through the comments section, which effectively reduced my IQ points by 12.
The ad opens in what appears to be a rather conventional manner as far as men’s grooming commercials are concerned. We see men, of different colours and ethnicities looking themselves in the mirror, seemingly ready to shave. But what accompanies this imagery are broadcast news snippets that double as a theme setting voiceover: “Bullying… violence… toxic masculinity…”
Now the mirror bears a different meaning. It’s not just a tool for us men to groom themselves, but a medium of self-reflection. The ad is challenging us to look inward. It begs the question, is this the best a man can be? A brand that’s for the most part associated with looking manly now pushes us to behave the part.
A traditional Gillette banner with an image of a woman kissing a man’s freshly groomed cheek is ripped through by a young boy being chased by his bullies (does it signal the breaking of conventions or is it trying to say that the conventional structure births a predatory culture?) And the bullies continue to chase throughout the advertisement which intercuts various clips — a boss mansplains his staff, a man grabs a woman’s ass for comedic effect, two little boys fight. And then the most effective and surprisingly humorous image in the ad: A row of men standing in perhaps the manliest of settings, behind barbeque grills saying, “boys will be boys.” I let out a quick chuckle. It’s the kind of twisted dark comedy that I like.
And then the script flips on its head.
In complete contrast to the ad’s cold open, we now see and hear news presenters talk about the various sexual allegations and charges that started happening towards the end of 2017. The beginning of the Me Too movement. The music becomes more optimistic, the voice over more robust — “and there will be no going back!”
Gillette then challenges us, even if we consider ourselves the “good” ones, to hold our fellow brethren accountable. We see images of men stopping other men from catcalling. We also see a man leave his barbeque pit to stop his kids from fighting. And we see a man, walking down the street with his young son, stop the bullies from hurting a boy. The ad wraps up in emphatic fashion too, with young boys looking up to their dads and then looking up into the camera… looking at us.
“Because the boys watching today, will be the men of tomorrow.”
Simple, poignant, effective.
So naturally, a shit ton of people hate it. Frankly I don’t understand what the fuss is about? What’s with the hate? The likes to dislikes ratio on YouTube is baffling. Let’s look at some of the negative comments, shall we? Though I warn you, you’re putting your brain cells in jeopardy.
Most people are under the impression that the ad is condescending. That it alienates its primary demographic. That it paints all men in the same light as Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. The ad isn’t making a blanket statement that argues “all men suck.” On the contrary, it’s simply saying that we as a collective male species need to understand that the reason why people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey got away with what they did for so long is that a lot of us, even the innocent ones turned a blind eye.
Most of us aren’t sexual predators or bullies, but many of us have seen catcalling and rolled our eyes saying ‘boys will be boys.’ Many of us have seen our friends send filthy (non-consensual) text messages to girls they’re trying to “flirt” with and brushed it off because ‘boys will be boys.’
But BOYS WILL BE BOYS isn’t truth. It’s an excuse. Just because something is normal, doesn’t make it right. If you look through text messages I sent girls 10 years ago, when I was in high school, you’ll find some pretty disgusting stuff. I once text messaged a girl I just met and said, ‘you have great boobs.’ At the time, I thought I was flirting. Nobody told me otherwise. Not my friends that’s for sure (I went to an all guys school). Why? Because boys will be motherfucking boys.
One commenter sarcastically wrote, ‘I stopped raping women thanks to this video.’ So, haha, right? Buddy, this ad isn’t for rapists. I highly doubt they’ll be playing We Believe: The Best Men Can Be in prison rehabilitation programs. It’s for men as a collective, who indirectly reinforce the misogynistic culture simply by doing nothing. It’s for the people who close one eye. It’s for the ignorant who confuse borderline sexual harassment for harmless flirting. It’s for the bros who laugh and high five you when you send those text messages. It’s also for the harmless guy that’s sitting in the corner, overhearing your “bro-talk”, but just walks away.
That’s what this ad is about. It pushes us to look both inward and outward. To self reflect and look at (and react to) the people around us. And it’s crafted in a way that’s palpable for the general masses. Because enough is enough. We need to be the best that we can be. There’s an entire generation looking up to us. We need to break the vicious cycle. In fact, the haters in the comments section are exactly why this ad needs to exist.