We live in an era in which everything is so politicized that a razor company makes a political statement of its commercials and it’s fodder for heated cultural commentary for a week.
Gillette’s tag line, most people will know, is “the best a man can get,” and the commercial turns that around into an insult:
“Is this the best a man can get? Is it?” a voiceover says in the ad. “We can’t hide from it, it’s been going on far too long. We can’t laugh it off, making the same old excuses. But something finally changed. And there will be no going back. Because we…We believe in the best in men. To say the right thing. To act the right way. Some already are, in ways big and small. But some is not enough. Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow.”
Here’s the thing that’s insulting. It’s BS. The whole thing is a lie. It isn’t just “some men” who behave well. Contrary to the commercial, men don’t stand around and watch boys beat each other up. They let boys be boys until it gets out of hand, then they jump in.
The commercial also understates the complexity and risk of some of the activities it states are obvious. In one scene, a kid is being chased down a city street by a gang of bullies. The Good Man runs across the street with his young son in town and intervenes. The bullies simply dissipate the moment he steps forward, which is not an outcome on which anybody should count in real life.
But more to the point, none of the supposed “best in men” activity is new. Men’s being caring and (yes, I’ll say it) chivalrous is not an indication that the #MeToo movement has changed the world. Being a man is not something different. The mainstream culture has simply spent some decades setting up this strawman about men, and now it’s knocking it down.
This pretension is telling:
“We expected debate. Actually a discussion is necessary. If we don’t discuss and don’t talk about it, I don’t think real change will happen,” Pankaj Bhalla, Gillette’s North America brand director, told CNN Business.
They aren’t asking for change. They’re simply reasserting what most of us have always understood masculinity to be as if it’s been reinvented and handed back to us by our moral superiors, who are part of the same cultural movement that has been eroding masculinity.
I’ve often noted something in response to school shootings and scenes like the representation of one in The Basketball Diaries. I was a black-trench-coat loser, and my big fantasy was never to massacre the other kids. It was to have the chance to protect and save my classmates, and thereby prove myself. To the extent the attitude young men used to have has faded, you did that, mainstream progressives. Don’t now turn around and behave as if the false image of men you created is the invader from whom you’re going to protect the world.
Real men will see exactly what you’re doing.