Recently the most famous razor company Gillette made an advertisement that, at length, participates in the drama of our culture’s tensions on important issues. I have seen the commercial. There is a lot of good content there. There is also a lot of crap there too. Depending on your focus, you will see what you want (or don’t want) to see.
The “crap” opinion regarding aspects of the commercial can immediately (possibly) make a couple of you reading this to shudder, re-question your opinion of me, and think you have me pegged religiously and politically.
The positive elements of the commercial involve the apparent call to men to be more than stereotypes, not evil, and stand up for the truth and the underdog. “Have some freaking morality!” it screams at the viewer while rattling the conservative and liberal buttons positively and negatively simultaneously. It calls men everywhere to have some deep convictions and ethics in society. Who can be against that? It is a very brilliant ad.
The crap part of it all, however, is that it is solely about money (I know you thought I was going to jump on it against the “#metoo” issue, (that too, in this commercial is about the end-goal of money)… I have seen how many of my Christian friends (who I respect the snot out of) have jumped in to praise the ethical message interwoven around the other messages within the commercial. Church culture has long used commercials within their worship services/sermons to make an illustrative point. The reason commercials grab us is due to their attractive nature. The people who create commercials are not stupid. They have to grab our hearts in a short amount of time in order for us to cough up the treasure that’s connected.
Ford sells Trucks, Pharmaceutical companies sell drugs, and Gillette sells razors. That’s what they sell. Gillette has felt recent pressures from other companies such as Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club. One of these have an advertisement where they talk about how they are “disrupting the billion-dollar industry” (men’s razors and grooming products). Gillette has been criticized over overpriced products their “best ever” slogan is put forth so they can give the consumer the perception that their product is worth it. These other company’s creative destruction was simple… Be better and be cheaper. With the threat of competition, maybe Gillette became desperate and took a cue from the Nike playbook. The reality is that the issues they attempt to address are the flavor of the week. This is an observation, not a declaration that I am happy or excited about. Ethics, morality, love for neighbor, care for the marginalized, mercy, justice, love of enemy, embrace of the outsider, dignity, humility, etc… etc… is a duh if you are a follower of Christ (not to say that you have to be a follower of Jesus to practice these things).
Now before you damn me (if you are still reading). I will give my main point to offer a couple of thoughts from a Christian participant in this conversation. In his book “On Earth as it is in Advertising”, Sam Van Eman convincingly makes the point that most advertising (including mediums beyond commercials) pulls at our soul strings in order to get our money. Sam’s starting presupposition (Christian perspective) is that all of humanity (men and women) are broken due to sin. I am owning my presuppositions as much as possible to let the reader know that I obviously know that for some “sin” is not only not true, but a dangerous belief due to damage to a person’s self-worth. This, however, is not a post about that. It seems that every blog post that could cause offense, however, needs to die the death of a thousand qualifications so that a person realizes we are talking about ideas in an attempt to consider many angles and not just trying to tick people of the opposite opinion off. Our time is a time of reactionary absurdity of being offended by things that should not be given the air time that they do (when no loving and philosophical conversation is possible to ensue).
Sam’s book offers the illustration of the SimGospel. Because humanity longs for God, meaning, worth, value, life-to-the-full we will try to find remedies. We in our sinful experience are drawn to things that simulate the Gospel (Good news about our hopeless evil situation). We long to be saved. We long to be redeemed and live in a world where love and peace flow exhaustively (especially toward ourselves). The world/creation, however, does suffer due to wicked choices done by humans.
SO… my thoughts (which that is all they are) is that Gillette’s gospel is not sustainable since its purpose is derived from it’s end-goal of money. I believe that ethics are derivative of something or someone. For me, that is that ethics and morality are derived from a response of a human to a/the Holy God (To unpack “Holy” here is too big of a task for this post, but acknowledging this since it is a word that one might think I am using loosely in order to further Christian-Godspeak which isn’t necessarily helpful… or my point!).
The mediums, stories, and emotions that companies use to sell their products achieve their purposes. Profit. Profit is not, in my opinion, the problem. It is how we are moved in such a manner by the content that reaches for our souls to get to our wallets. Gillette cannot provide what human suffering/evil needs in order to address the problem. It is commend worthy to note the positive humanitarian call in the commercial. Those who bear the name of Jesus might remember to discern the reality that all truth is God’s truth and can be found throughout the creation. Jesus followers must remember that we often should not fit into a ditch of cultural or political assumptions. We must prophetically stand in a third stream to try and be a voice that points to the person full of Grace and Truth. Jesus. The Gospel is the Gospel. We must think through what the New Testament writers tell us about our identity before we quickly and completely baptize a SimGospel.
Instead of Gillette 3:16, I believe the Apostle Paul reminds what the Holy Spirit produces in those who are in a surrendered relationship with Jesus Christ: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). This is the real Gospel and ironically is too quickly characterized, misunderstood, or rejected. And then out of nowhere… occasionally it can be popular for a season when it is presented through a slick medium.