Linking up to this week’s Dude Write.
As many of you may know, one of my biggest pet peeves in life is how dads are portrayed in media, particularly in advertising. There is a continual stream of information hitting television screens the world around that shouts “DADS ARE DUMB, AND BAD PARENTS, AND PROBABLY WILL MAKE SURE YOUR CHILDREN DIE OF HORRIBLE RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS, BUT NOT BEFORE THEY SIT AROUND IN DIAPERS FILLED WITH THE FECES OF NOT ONLY THEMSELVES BUT PROBABLY OF THE DOG AND OTHER CHILDREN!”
“Choosy Moms Choose Jif,” and “Recommended by Dr. Mom” are two of the most obvious and egregious examples, but it goes far deeper than that. Oscar Mayer’s Deli Meat commercials show a mom running a household, telling a dad no at all his hairbrained ideas (Can I quit my job and start a blog chief among them)-until she makes a sandwich for herself with packaged deli-meats, which the bumbling, moronic father steals. There are countless laundry commercials, car commercials and diaper commercials (Huggies’ “Dad Test” nearly blew up the internet early this year, and ultimately was pulled from the airwaves after outrage) that show dads as incapable at best, and downright dangerously stupid at worst.
And don’t even get me started on “Mr. Mom.” Not even playing Batman can save Michael Keaton from my hateful glare.
The argument for these commercials is that they are all in “good fun,” and portray moms in a positive light.
I call bullshit.
Imagine, if you will, a commercial filmed in an office, where the men are all sitting around a conference table when a woman walks in, doing her makeup, adjusting her bra, and somehow getting her sanitary napkins to spill out of her overfilled purse all over the big client, while the men shrug, knowingly roll their eyes and these female incompetencies, and get down to business and save the deal. Imagine the rightful and justified outrage you would feel at how that ad diminishes women and their ability to function in business-an area in which they have been historically minimized and are still struggling to achieve an equal status.
That’s exactly what these other commercials do to dads. They reinforce a societal stereotype not just in the eyes of the culture at large, but in the eyes of fathers – many of whom believe they are lesser parents by nature, and thus should not try work in this “foreign” domain. It perpetuates a terrible disservice to fathers, mothers, and most importantly, their kids.
So, it was with a very critical eye I recently watched three new commercials that Google has put out focusing on fathers. “Here we go again, I thought,” as I typed “bing.com” into my browser and hovered my finger over the “enter” button, ready to desert google at the first sign of a dad ignoring his kiddo for the big game.
Instead, I raptly watched three smart, well-conceived short stories that portrayed fathers as we are: engaged, caring, faced with difficult situations in our lives, and working to overcome them.
In the first spot, “Dear Sophie,” a dad writes a letter to his newborn daughter, chronicling his growth (and a few real-world foibles) as a new father.
In the second spot, “New Dad,” a dad loses his phone in the back of a cab – and the only thing he cares about is having lost all of the photos of his newborn.
Finally, in the newest spot “Jess Time,” Google hits a brilliant note. Jess is off to college, and relies on internet contact with her dad to get through the difficulties of the separation – and so does her dad Elliot. The ad tells a full, sad, and encouraging story – and it is perfectly done.
In these ads, Google portrays fathers not as perfect, transcendent beings-but as human. The dads in these ads make mistakes – just like we do in real life. And just like moms do. But we love our children, fiercely. We come to rely on them the way they rely on us, and we-given the opportunity- will always be there for them.
So, here’s to Google. The rest of the world could learn a thing or two from them.