In a short film she directed that deals with masculinity in her native Australia and in particular the beach body culture that has led to widespread steroid use, ad creative and director Kim Gerhig says she wasn’t looking to judge, rather she was looking to learn. The short is dramatic, powerful and disturbing.
Gehrig, a groundbreaking and award-winning director with an impressive résumé and reel, is the women behind the camera of one of the most controversial ads of late and one that while seeks to help men be better, has inexplicably created a firestorm, a combustible backdraft for some, mostly men who are angry at the message and even madder at Gillette, threatening to sign up with the Dollar Shave Club, growing beards and, in a completely unfunny way, attacking women and in particular the woman behind the lens: Kim Gehrig, a well-known, prize-winning force in creative advertising described as innovative, talented and radical.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Ad Directed by Gehrig, Its Message, the Praise & the Fallout. It’s Getting Hairy
The 117-year-old had a winning tagline in the early 1990s: “The Best a Man Can Get.” And so it’s that sentiment that is the jumping off point for the Proctor & Gamble company’s new ad: “Is this the best? Is it? We can’t hide from it. It’s been going on far too long,” the voiceover is heard as soundbites from the #MeToo movement accompany images depicting bullying and sexual harassment.
But it’s more than a new advertisement, it’s a movement the company says.
Gillette is pledging $3 million to non-profits that “designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal ‘best’ and become role models for the next generation.”
“But turn on the news today and it’s easy to believe that men are not at their best. Many find themselves at a crossroads, caught between the past and a new era of masculinity. While it is clear that changes are needed, where and how we can start to effect that change is less obvious for many. And when the changes needed seem so monumental, it can feel daunting to begin. So, let’s do it together.
It’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man. With that in mind, we have spent the last few months taking a hard look at our past and coming communication and reflecting on the types of men and behaviors we want to celebrate. We’re inviting all men along this journey with us – to strive to be better, to make us better, and to help each other be better.
From today on, we pledge to actively challenge the stereotypes and expectations of what it means to be a man everywhere you see Gillette. In the ads we run, the images we publish to social media, the words we choose, and so much more.
As part of The Best Men Can Be campaign, Gillette is committing to donate $1 million per year for the next three years to non-profit organizations executing programs in the United States designed to inspire, educate and help men of all ages achieve their personal “best” and become role models for the next generation.
Our tagline needs to continue to inspire us all to be better every day, and to help create a new standard for boys to admire and for men to achieve… Because the boys of today are the men of tomorrow.
We’ve all got work to do. And it starts today.
Gillette. The Best A Man Can Get.
Many are on board. Many more are not.
2. ‘Don’t be a Jerk. Don’t Raise a Jerk. Call Out Other Men For Being Jerks.’Or, ‘Sell Your Proctor & Gambel Stock’
If one were to use YouTube downvotes as calculus, then Gillette is facing a mountain of backlash. But if one were to look at the likes on tweets from men who are telling guys that are ticked off to raise their hands so everyone will know who they are, then that coin is flipped for Gillette. Regardless, this ad has cut it too close for some and just close enough for others.
If you’re a man who’s outraged over a Gillette ad that encourages men to not be horrible selfish pricks PLEASE let the rest of us know who you are.
I honestly don’t see the big deal with the Gillette ad. I was expecting something controversial. But this ad basically says, ‘Don’t be a jerk. Don’t raise a jerk. Call out other men being for jerks.’ My dad, who was a mechanic w an 8th grade education, told me that in 1987.”
3 But it’s Gehrig Who is the Subject of Vitriolic Criticism Ranging From Mean-Spirited to Threatening; She’s Being Viciously Doxxed
On 4chan, not known for its decorum, is the venue where the worst of the vitriol can be found. And the doxxing; her personal details have been shared on the site including phone numbers and family information. But it’s the comments that are at once shocking and not really; a testament perhaps to the point of the ad’s message.
For example, these comments are indicative of the many found on the 4chan thread on Gehrig.
“The bitch is a confirmed manhating cu*t …”
“She’s a fuc*ing cu*t of a whore hag shit eating, putrid, dry holed, frigid feminazi skank. Let’s not sugar coat this, gentlemen.”
“Out of control SJW nazi cu*t. Nothing further needed to say. BOYCOTT GILLETTE.”
“I hope she gets raped by a pack of wild ni**ers.”
All of these and many more just as vicious and threatening can be found on the 4chan thread.
It should also be noted that there is omnipresent anti-Semitic references and phrases peppered on the Gehrig thread. And worse, images of graphic violence and rape of an avatar resembling Gehrig by a Pepe character.
A thread on Reddit is another location where what can only be described as hatred is powering scathing and malicious commentary.
“Feminazi,” cu*t SJW” (social justice warrior, as a pejorative), “manhater,” and “Just another man-hating twat. Nothing new” are among the comments. And those are the relatively SFW ones.
4. Gehrig’s Body of Work is Provocative & Award-Winning
Born in Australia, Gehrig graduated from Central St. Martin’s School of Art and Design in London. She’s UK-based. Gehrig joined the ad agency Mother as a creative but moved eventually into directing. Her body of work is provocative, award-winning and she’s a sought after director.
Her ‘This Girl Can’ ad for Sport England from 2105 has been widely praised.
“Do you jiggle? Wiggle? Are you up for breaking a sweat? Lottery-funded This Girl Can is designed to inspire you to sweat like a pig – and feel like a fox while you’re doing it. Watch to find out how (and remember it’s players like you who are helping making it happen).”
She’s primarily a film/video ad director for products, brands, and companies, Gehrig has created stimulating, influential and controversial ads like the one she did for a Swedish feminine hygiene brand, Libresse called ‘Viva La Vulva.’
Some have cautioned the ad is explicit but as a man in the business said, “I have been involved for 35 years with the personal absorbent care industry. I have never seen in my long career a more creative commercial on this topic. I also loved the analogy on how the papaya seeds represent the pubic hair in a more discreet way. I am sure other colleagues may not be so pleased, but we need to change the attitude of men to this topic. It is about time we remove the taboos. Congratulations.”
5. She Directed Chaka Khan’s ‘Like Sugar’ Music Video & a Short Films, ‘You Think You’re a Man’ About Masculinity & the Steroid Culture in Australia
The video for R&B legend Chaka Khan, directed by Gehrig, was named to the PromoNews TV best videos of 2018.
In Gehrig’s short film ‘You Think You’re a Man,’ Australian artist Kirin J Callinan covers’ Divine’s original track of the same name, a study on “toxic masculinity,” which is the soundtrack for her film directing skills. She told Clash that when she returned to Sydney after being in London, she noted, “…the changing size of men on each of my visits back …(h)anging at the beach I became aware of how pumped up Aussie men had become. I continued to observe a culture of young men who seemed to feel a kind of pressure to conform somehow. To be something quite specific. …(w)as it that they felt they needed to be ‘real men’. ‘Real Aussie men’. And what did that even mean?” She said she was “not interested however in placing judgment on anyone or blaming any one thing… I just wanted to try and understand how it feels to be a young boy growing up in a culture where there are such specific expectations on what it means to be a man.”
And while steroid use and its relationship to masculinity are explored in the film, it’s an examination of masculinity in the #MeToo age she’s filmed in the Gillette ad.
And some men and women are just not fans. But Gillette anticipated this.
In a statement to CNBC, the company said in part that “…debate—discussion is necessary.”
“For every negative reaction we’ve seen many positive reactions, people calling the effort courageous, timely, smart, and much-needed. At the end of the day, sparking conversation is what matters. This gets people to pay attention to the topic and encourages them to consider taking action to make a difference.”