Toxic masculinity is under attack. The culture that normalizes harassing women and solving problems through violence has been challenged by everyone from Bear Grylls to the American Psychological Association. Now Gillette is adding its voice to the chorus with a powerful new commercial.
The spot opens with men looking into the mirror juxtaposed with audio from #MeToo news reports. A narrator flips Gillette’s slogan around and asks: “Is this the best a man can get?”
Images of cyberbullying, chauvinistic sitcoms, over-sexualized reality shows, and a real dick of a male CEO follow. Two boys tussling at a backyard barbecue, observed by a line of dozens of men behind grills saying “boys will be boys” in unison.
“But something finally changed,” the narrator says and we see a checkerboard of news anchors reporting on sexual harassment stories. The previously raucous sitcom audience is chastened.
Guys start to stand up for what’s right: helping a kid chased by bullies, stopping a friend from harassing a woman and breaking up the backyard scrap. “Because the boys watching today will be the men of tomorrow,” the narrator says as we see shots of boys that mirror those of men at the top of the ad.
The commercial has been viewed over three million times in less than two days. It’s part of a campaign, “The Best Men Can Be,” a series of $1 million donations annually for three years to non-profits whose work aligns with the goal. The first one? Boys & Girls Club of America.
You can be pessimistic about the effectiveness of the campaign and cynical about the company’s sincerity. Still, it is heartening that a company this big feels it’s a smart PR move to challenge toxic masculinity.
The popularity of the commercial will hopefully encourage other companies, particularly those that play a part in perpetuating this nonsense, to rethink their approach and make similar efforts.