The backlash against the Gillette #MeToo advert shining a light on toxic masculinity was as predictable as it was depressing.
You’re seriously looking for things to be offended about if an advert for razor blades urging men to behave better towards women, other groups and each other is on the list of things guaranteed to make your blood boil.
Self-appointed people’s champion Piers Morgan took umbrage at the advert – which covered sexual harassment and reframed Gillette’s marketing motif by asking “Is this the best a man can get?” – in keeping with his habit of pouring his particular brand of toxic ‘white noise’ onto whatever happens to be that day’s trending topic. It was veganism the week before.
Here’s hoping shoplifters will now take a moment to reflect on their relationships before nicking a pack of Gillette Mach 3’s from the local supermarket. But putting the “most shoplifted items ever” aside for now, I have no problem with glossy ads conveying a deeper social message.
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work out Gillette’s goal is still to sell us razor blades or that the Nike ‘Dream Crazy’ campaign, which focused on American football player turned political activist Colin Kaepernick on the back of the Black Lives Matter movement, is aiming to promote a ‘cool’ product. Market dominance is the goal here and connecting with the younger generation of consumers is vital.
These ads act as CV trailers for future generations of filmmakers in much the same way as they always have. Celebrated directors Sir Ridley Scott and Sir Alan Parker cut their teeth in advertising before pursuing successful careers in Hollywood – promoting anything from Hovis Bread to Heineken beer. I can’t help but feel the ad agencies have one eye on award season when the big messages arrive on our screens, but despite my obvious cynicism I feel it’s a price worth paying to shine a light on these controversial subjects.
Don’t shoot the messenger.
The Gillette advert came at the right time as gender is very much in the spotlight, no more so than on our television screens, where women are stepping into roles traditionally held by men.
Fiona Bruce has recently taken over from David Dimbleby as presenter of BBC Question Time and we now have a female pundit, Alex Scott on Sky Sports football.
Both have fitted seamlessly into their roles as expected – I would argue you only really notice the really bad television presenters anyway, whatever their gender and Bruce seems a safe pair of hands.
Former Arsenal and England player Scott, on the other hand, is as effortlessly boring as her colleagues Jamie Redknapp, Graeme Souness and Jamie Carragher, who is back after serving a six-month suspension for spitting on a car carrying a 14-year-old girl.
Scott can talk dreary analysis with the best of them and hopefully, for her sake, she’ll get bored of it and move on to bigger and better things before she matches Alan Shearer as a cure for insomnia. Of course, this has got nothing to do with her being a woman, just a football pundit – and it’s still progress.
I don’t blame Scott, football analysis is a bit of a thankless charade – filling in the bits before the match, the 15 minutes while the viewer makes a cup of tea and the bits after.
What normally happens is the team with the best players, bought for the most money and increasingly the fastest runners wins. On the occasions, when you get a more even contest, the winner often comes down to a mistake or a refereeing decision. That’s pretty much football analysis in a nutshell, before anyone mentions underlapping full-backs or zonal marking.
What makes the Alex Scott story interesting viewing is the shift in dynamic that the introduction of a woman brings to the men in the Sky Sports studio.
They are all petrified to overstep the mark and are clearly watching their Ps and Qs. This is endearing in the same kind of way the local psychopath in the pub apologises for “swearing in front of your burd”.
Souness in particular looks terrified despite the obvious crash course he’s had in the perils of ‘mansplaining’ and is doing everything in his powers not to be labelled a dinosaur. Redknapp is his usual vapid self and Carragher ... well he’s doing well just by not spitting on anyone.
Hopefully, once things settle down in a season or 12 the pundits will be more natural and not afraid to speak their mind in front of Scott.
The dinosaur label is a clever bit of retaliation from the Millennial generation who seem sick to death of being called snowflakes. It proclaims that your views are outdated and will lead to your ultimate destruction. As everyone knows, dinosaurs became extinct and snowflakes melt, so we’ll call that one a score draw in the name of ageism. Having grown up around footballers, I understand the mind of the dinosaur and the resentment that is often attached to it. I joke with friends that as a teenager I thought lasagne was something only women ate as I never saw a man order it and, in truth, I had no idea what it was. We weren’t quite cavemen back in the 80s but a tap on the shoulder before a dance round the handbag in Buster Brown’s was about as far as understanding women went.
Resistance to Scott would come from former players who have the mentality that she cannot talk knowledgeably about the men’s game because she’s never experienced it.
Bruce was written off before she even took hold of the Question Time reins, with accusations that she was only getting the job because she was a woman and wouldn’t be forceful enough to control the panel and audience.
This dinosaur attitude is prevalent in all walks of life and the resentment comes from the feeling that the other individuals or groups have had things easier. The common bond of shared experience that brings people together becomes weaponised to attack the next generation down the line – all the more uglier when gender is thrown into this poisonous mix.
Thanks to #MeToo, change is happening at a decent pace. Advertisers are perhaps more switched on to these shifts in society than the rest of us. We don’t have to buy the product, but it does no harm to think about the message and make an informed choice.