Gillette's New Campaign Actually Takes Responsibility for Toxic Masculinity

There'll be no going back

In a surprising act of humility and conviction, Gillette's new short film, "We Believe: The Best Men Can Be," directly challenges its longtime tagline, "The Best a Man Can Get." The copywriting is deft and unforgiving, redefining masculine identity from a tale of acquisition to one of character. 

The film, created by Grey, is equally brisk in its killing of darlings. In one scene, Gillette's jingle plays over an old ad where a woman kisses a man's cheek … then a bunch of angry men explode through it to chase a young boy. 

It's often awkward to see dudes appropriate birth narratives; in this case, Gillette's dudey glee literally births a generation of angry bullies. While it's kind of on the nose, we kind of dig it.

"Is this the best a man can get?" the ad asks.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film)

The work is gentle but firm. It takes bullying and harassment on, but opens with vulnerability: Men's faces flicker with uncertainty as soundcuts about #MeToo and bullying play in the background. 

It's hard to imagine a category more biologically intimate than personal hygiene. This means the advertising plays a historic role in teaching us what it means to be men and women—from how to smell, to what to shave and why. 

For obvious reasons, the past couple of years has seen some cool subversion within feminine hygiene—from singing vulvas to period blood that's actually red. But it's heartening to see how male hygiene is getting in on this, too, especially post-#MeToo, when laying the manliness on thick has started to feel not only dated but creepy AF. 

The biggest lesson I learned during #MeToo: Victims' voices don't matter to men who hurt them if everyone else ignores the abuse. If a toxic guy hears a complaint, but an all-around nice guy—one people like and respect—goes on treating him like a stand-up dude, he will probably conclude the complainer is crazy. It wouldn't be irrational. 

Consider Nike. After decades of cultivating a super dudey culture despite occasional complaints from women, Nike finally freaked out—not because women were getting all #MeToo-level uppity, but because men got angry and left.

This is what makes Gillette's work so enlivening. It cuts no corners, would rather overstate than be too subtle. Even after that birthing-the-bullies scene, in yet another, Terry Crews—of sister company Old Spice fame—actually does say what we've all just been dancing around: "Men need to hold other men accountable."

Here's the :30 cut:

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette

It's a heavy burden to ask victims to stand and be vocal against the waterfall of culture, shame and inquisition constantly slamming into them. What we get is not change but a clear sense of that wall in front of us—the electric silhouette of a system, bigger than anybody, reinforcing its own existence.

Changing that system—transforming a paradigm—requires more than "braver" victims. It requires braver allies—people who not only rally around them but vigilantly insist on a new normal. 

The acts themselves can be small (and this ad is full of small acts). What they can't be is that tacit mind-your-business silence.

Learn more at the subsite, The Best Men Can Be.

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