In the latest addition to the Gillette #ShavingStereotypes campaign, Gillette says that being brave enough to cry is 'The Best A Man Can Get.' Through the story of Lt. Colonel Manoj Kumar Sinha, Gillette attempts to challenge the idea that to be a man, one must hold in their emotions.
Such a message is definitely welcome today, in a society where hypermasculine ideas of never crying and expressing emotions still exist. With higher suicide rates and a lower tendency to seek professional help, regressive ideals for masculinity are harmful to society. However, did Gillette deliver this message effectively?
Lt. Colonel Sinha narrates how his father told him as a boy, "Men don't cry," and how much this belief impacted him until he was... shot in the cheek. Explicit imagery of the wounds follow, and Sinha is shown face to face with his father on a hospital bed, where they hug and he finally cries.
While the beginning is quite relevant to most men in the audience who would've experienced something similar, as a soldier, the narrative quickly progresses into a very extreme scenario. Not everyone lives a life as dangerous as a soldier's and certainly may never experience an injury that extreme. The visuals almost suggest that it takes something as grievous for a man to finally shed a tear, and the video does not spend too long detailing how things would've been different if men were not taught to bottle everything inside.
It can be argued that presenting a soldier helps use the associations of strength and bravery in order to relate these attributes to someone who can cry, but this also stereotypes men as traditionally strong and brave. However, one often feels weak, helpless, or sad when they are reduced to tears. Without validating such emotions, the aim of #shavingstereotypes is almost backfired upon.
There is no denying it; the advertisement is extremely graphic, with no warning preceding rather gory imagery of wounds and pain. Shock value, while possessing the power to be effective, can also desensitise people to the actual message or make them wince and turn away. How many times have you seen the PSAs against tobacco before a movie, only to shift your gaze from the tragic impacts displayed?
Graphic imagery only further insinuates an extreme nature to an otherwise touching narrative, distracting attention from the intended delivery. The lack of a trigger warning, too, is concerning, as people with similar experiences or trauma may be negatively impacted. Even I, while being an avid horror fan, couldn't help but turn away at times due to the sheer pain displayed.
A Corporate Dilemma
As has been a constant remark for the campaign, Gillette's message is rather subverted by a three-word term known as Corporate Social Responsibility. A profit-driven company, people argue, is never primarily concerned with social change or benefit. If the audience doubts Gillette's intentions as simply trying to appeal to a more progressive audience, the message itself ends up taking the backburner.
A* For Effort
There is no denying that the ad attempts to serve a good cause, as can be said for most of the #ShavingStereotypes campaign. However, a few notable elements have the ability to throw off the entire point of the video in the first place. Placing more narratives, or a more relatable protagonist in the spotlight may have helped Gillette achieve more than just trend across news outlets for a while.
Unless, of course, that is indeed all they aimed to do.