There’s probably no single metric that is a slam dunk indication of cultural decay. But I believe it’s a fair bet that when society is learning what it thinks are the most important lessons — get this — from shaving cream television commercials, things might not be going so well.
If you care enough to read this column, you’ve likely already seen Gillette’s recent ad decrying toxic masculinity. The ad agitated the vast majority of men who are not rapists and harassers and bullies.
Their agitation then triggered the social justice warriors and sympathizers who indignantly stake out the position that if you don’t eagerly like being preached at constantly by a corporate America now held hostage by progressive agenda politics, then — by gum — you ARE the problem.
Some courageous (or stupid) pundits on the right asked, “What about toxic femininity?” Their point — which I would never make publicly — is that if a feminine hygiene products company womansplained to the entire female population about stopping the less desirable behaviors often attributed to their gender, it might not be so warmly embraced and defended. But, again, I wouldn’t ever make that point publicly because that would soften the most important takeaway, that men are generally horrible.
In recent years, corporate America has become a favorite vehicle for the promulgation of progressive politics. I can’t figure out if these large companies embrace this marriage of their brands with controversial political movements, or if it’s more of a shotgun wedding.
There’s a hideous absence of logic that fuels the phenomenon: When they sell mid-grade quality merchandise, it only makes sense for Target to give us guidance on who pees where. Nike sells shoes and sports apparel, so they naturally should wade into volatile racial politics. And as a manufacturer of shaving cream and razors, why wouldn’t Gillette signal to the world their superior enlightenment on bad gender behavior?
Who thinks this way? Is this an analytical strategic marketing decision designed internally to expand their customer base? Or, do they believe that taking up a controversial social cause is just the price companies must pay now to please the gods and avert a firestorm of vicious hostility? Or, even worse, is this just the reality of things today, that nothing whatsoever — from professional football, to church pulpits, to shaving cream TV ads — is off-limits from or immune to a political agenda that seeks to regulate and measure every single aspect of our lives and subject our very thoughts to the scales of their moral virtue?
And why do we fall so easily and quickly for high video production values, dramatic music, and a pensive, intoxicating voiceover… from a shaving cream company? The malleability of the masses is frightening. Sure, sometimes I need shaving cream and shoes and some slightly-better-than-Walmart crap from Target. I need them to sell me that.
I don’t mind if they make me feel good with Clydesdale horses or old Paul Harvey radio segments which virtually nobody could possibly be genuinely offended by. The problem isn’t so much marketing that has little to do with the product they’re selling, it’s their tone of moral superiority on a complex issue. It’s the need to preach to some in an effort to prove to others, their virtue, with a tone of certainty that indicates the issue at hand is somehow settled.
We have abandoned in many ways the previous sources of moral virtue. Once we looked to God, to Scriptures, to our faith and to reliable tradition. Today, we’re looking to marketing agencies selling razor blades and shaving cream. Something is incredibly wrong.
Associated Press award-winning columnist Neal Larson of Idaho Falls is also the author of “Living in Spin.” He is a conservative talk show host on KID Newsradio 590 AM, 106.3 and 92.1 FM, and also at www.kidnewsradio.com. “The Neal Larson Show” can be heard weekday mornings from 8 to 10.