Dads in Ads

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Two years ago, Tide aired a commercial about a stay-at-home dad that was supposed to reverse the stereotype of the clueless dope who couldn’t figure out how to do laundry. The problem? For some reason they felt it necessary to use the term “dad mom.” And also, the guy’s kind of a schmuck.

The ad you see above (which first aired January of this year) strikes a different tone—for one thing, it’s not explicit whether this dad stays home or has a job, because that’s not the point. He’s just a guy with a high-maintenance daughter and he’s figured out a way to handle her demands in a fun way. (Oh, and he can do laundry without acting like a jerk.) I’m not saying all is forgiven, Tide, but this is a step in the right direction.

It has now been thirty years since Mr. Mom was in theaters, yet for some reason the image of incompetent dads is still the only thing that comes to mind for many people when they encounter a stay-at-home dad, or even just a dad in charge of his kids for the day. Why? I’d guess that, for the most part, there hasn’t been a lot to combat it. Think of the dads you see in movies and TV shows: how many of them seem like real dads you know, and how many are just buffoons? And if the real dads you know act like their TV counterparts, is it partly because that’s how they’ve been taught to behave? At the very least, thirty years of pop culture have given them permission to be lazy and childish.

So it’s always nice to see portrayals of other types of dads on TV—even if it’s just a commercial.

And speaking of other types of dads, I’m sure by now you’ve seen the latest Cheerios commercial:

What should have been a cute joke about Cheerios being “good for your heart” sparked so many racist comments on YouTube that the comments were turned off. (Though I should note that the thumbs-downs are a tiny fraction of the thumbs-ups on the video.) Most of the controversy stemmed from the fact that the ad depicts an interracial couple—one with a black father and white mother.

But the fact is, multiracial families are becoming more and more common. The 2010 Census found that interracial or interethnic families made up 10% of households with opposite-sex married couples. Unmarried couples and same-sex couples add to that number. I’m part of that 10%: my kids are mixed-race, and my wife and I were delighted to see a mixed-race couple in a commercial, because it helps the world see that families come in all different types.

I look forward to the day when this sort of thing doesn’t cause a stir: when it’s no longer a big deal to see a dad being competent or a multiracial family. And wouldn’t it be nice if it weren’t just during the commercial break?

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