Occam's razor is instructive in shaving ad saga

When I wake up – which is most days – if the first thing that I do is shave, it means I’ve woken up in good time to have an organised day.

If I’ve woken up too late to shave, my odds of success that day are significantly lowered.

Thus in my world, the morning shave can be incredibly predictive, even prophetic, of my day’s level of productivity. Not that sleeping in isn’t good too.

It’s hard to believe, but the knitting needle, periodic table and the film Twilight were all conceived during sleep. Actually … it’s not that hard to believe this of Twilight – YAWN!

Still, perhaps my current preoccupation with being woke in time to shave explains one of Albert Einstein’s less famous scientific questions: “Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?”

There’s an expression that’s been doing the rounds within youth culture for a few years now that is slowly finding the way into mainstream vernacular.

The expression is “stay woke” or simply “woke” and refers to the importance of thinking for yourself and not just accepting whatever appears in the media, especially regarding social issues.

“Stay awake” was recurring advice in the teachings of Jesus, so it’s not an entirely new concept.

I’ve been musing on the importance of the “woke” concept while reading about the recent Gillette advertisement controversy.

The ad addresses toxic masculinity in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Gillette is clearly trying to move away from its old image in this new advertisement.

The very first scenes are of men looking questioningly at themselves in the mirror, followed by a boy running away from a group of bullies (all boys) as he smashes through a screen projecting an older classic Gillette advertisement.

Reminds me of George Michael’s hit Freedom 90 where he destroyed his leather jacket as a sign he disliked his old image.

The advertisement goes on to display seemingly all men laughing at the sexualisation of women and an endless line of men behind barbecues mindlessly repeating “boys will be boys” while watching two boys wrestling.

One of my favourite philosophical principles – and appropriately one of the easiest to explain – is Occam’s razor by William of Occam (1285-1347). Occam’s razor basically teaches that the simplest solution to a problem is usually the correct one.

If there are many explanations for a situation or a problem, the simplest is usually the best. The more assumptions we make, the more unlikely an explanation or solution is.

They say “things are not always as they seem”. Not always, but they usually are.

If you are “woke”, then I hope you can see this advertisement for what it is. It is ultimately an attempt by Gillette to sell its shavers.

Now I would never accuse a company that sold razors of barefaced lies, but the #MeToo movement is very influential unless you haven’t noticed and Gillette clearly has and as the saying goes, “if you can’t beat them, join them”.

Gillette is opposed to bullying. Me too. Gillette is opposed to sexualising women. Me too. And you too if you’re in the majority.

Yet the new advertisement’s formula clearly presents the view that these behaviours represent most, if not all men.

They say “things are not always as they seem”. Not always, but they usually are. If you are “woke”, then I hope you can see this advertisement for what it is. It is ultimately an attempt by Gillette to sell its shavers.

And to those who claim the ad is only against “toxic masculinity” – toxic masculinity is a contradiction in terms. If behaviour is toxic, then it is not masculine. If behaviour is masculine, then it is not toxic.

I think I’m annoyed, too, because I’ve been using Gillette’s Mach 3 razor for years and I believe it is the best razor in the world. But it’s not the only razor in the world.

American entrepreneur Victor Kiam bought Remington after he used one of their shavers one morning and in his own words “I was so impressed, I bought the company.” I’m showing my age here.

I also agree with Sydney journalist Charles Purcell, who this week claimed the ad is a symptom of an advertising industry in crisis – the fragmentation of the audience along economic, racial, social and sexual lines.

I think this advertisement has the potential to make those lines a little deeper.

​Twitter: @ fatherbrendanelee