Noble messages said for the wrong reasons can be more poisonous than their nefarious counterpoints. How so? Because when sincere concern is substituted with a covert agenda, the moral points of the message are perverted, misleading, and can be culturally divisive.
At face value the Gillette commercial was not a bad message. I think everyone would agree that it was a positive message. What's so bad about telling men not to be bullies and to set a good example for young boys? But the problem wasn't with the face value message. The problem lies deeper than that, and is about as subtle as decaf coffee at 5am.
1. The insincerity was real, for two reasons:
One: I'm sure many of us have seen the picture of the women in skin tight uniforms with "Gillette" printed on their hind quarters. Gillette, you can't lecture men on sexualizing women while manufacturing clothes intended to sexualize women.
Two: Proctor and Gamble, Gillette's parent company, saw an opportunity to capitalize (literally) off of the #metoo movement. Taking a neutral-ish approach without going too deep into male-bashing or identifying particular cultural events, P&G took a swipe. Why do I think they're insincere? Because marketing. Everyone does it. The #metoo culture paired with the clever twist of their "the best a man can get" slogan to "the best a man can be,"...who wouldn't see that as a brilliant strategy move? Did they see a stock increase? Yes and no. They're up about 2.7% since the video's release, which is really good for a two-ish week period. However, to be fair, the market as a whole is up that much and then some, so we can't fairly associate the increase with the commercial.
2. The use of the phrase "toxic masculinity."
I understand that the "toxic" adjective was perhaps meant to isolate the behavior from standard masculinity. However, given today's narrative, "toxic masculinity" and "masculinity" are not so different. To open a door for a girl, offer to protect a girl, compliment a girl (without cat-calling or making unwanted advancements), or offer to pay for a girl etc. is now seen as "toxic," really just because these noble characters are falsely associated with dominance or misogyny. That said, I think it was irresponsible for them to use that phrase, given it's close silly correlation to noble masculinity. They got away with bashing masculinity without actually bashing masculinity.
I don't think the commercial in itself generalizes men. However, while the commercial wasn't directly bashing men, it does cater to the narrative of male-bashers. I think the marketing department knew that. Again, they got away with an agenda without directly advocating said agenda.
4. Racial undertones much?
The commercial is broken into two halves. The first half shows 7 examples where boys/men are misbehaving, some individually and some in groups. Every one of these examples of misbehavior include only white men as the bad guys, and in one circumstance victimizing a woman of color. Even the groups of misbehavior include only white men.
The second half shows 7 examples of good behavior such as breaking up fights and stopping men from harassing women. 5 out of 7 of these examples of good behavior include only black men, in some cases correcting white men.
Am I offended by this racial agenda? No. This isn't something a race did. This is something a marketing team did in order to objectify a race (specifically the black community) while capitalizing off of a narrative of racial inequality. I'm not stating the race analytics of this commercial to complain. I'm just exposing the inarguable truth that Gillette used race as a means of capital. Gillette's profiteering is staunchly objectifying towards the black community, and a behavior that should be shamed.