Tide Princess Dress ad

Dads in Ads

Television Videos

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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6 thoughts on “Dads in Ads

  1. I could not agree more. As a dad who spent 5 years as a stay at home parent, I get upset every time I see one of these commercials where the dad is portrayed as completely inept. I get equally as upset when I’m reading parenting magazines that still have an awful habit of catering only to mothers and also consider anything male to be clueless when it comes to taking care of a child. Never mind the fact that some of us are better with our kids than our counterparts at times. Perhaps one day we will actually see a version of equality for us, in the mean time, my congrats also go to Tide for their commercial. I loved that one the first time that I saw it as well.

  2. I was just talking about this issue (and the Tide counter-example) in another context earlier this week. As a mostly-competent dad who spends a lot of time solo parenting in public, I just stoicly grin and ignore the innuendos and “mom will deal with this later” type of barbs.

  3. I actually got a Tweet from Hoover vacuums because I griped (in a separate tweet) about a recent TV commercial that showed a dad carrying two bags into the kitchen and totally fumbling and dropping it all. The “bumbling/doofus dad” syndrome is everywhere — TV shows, TV commercials, and movies. Maybe it’s just politically incorrect to show women as anything other than together, intelligent, and competent… and that leaves only men to be the morons. Whatever the case, I tend to vote with my wallet and not watch shows or buy products that portray men as complete idiots for cheap laughs.

  4. It is shocking how often people feel the need to comment on “how brave” I am to venture out in public with all the kids and no mom. The worst part is I am often not doing a very good job of parenting when I’m alone with my brood (at least by my standards) and it frustrates me to no end how low people (almost exclusively women) set the bar for dads who parent solo.

  5. Now if we could get a decent Dad parenting “memoir” to be written. Based on what we’ve seen on the GeekDad email list recently there is still a ton of work to be done at the publishing houses when picking the the story to tell about Dad’s and parenting.

    We had a PR email for a book that was trying to appeal to us as dad readers which ended with, I kid you not, oh and there is a “poop in the bathtub” joke in it as well. This was after a whole bunch of other subtle and not so subtle references to how the Dad who wrote the memoir felt inept as a Dad so he had to write a book about it. That email wasn’t the only one. We have seen several ads for “stay at home dad” memoirs and all of them appeared to approach the topic in a similar fashion.

    So apparently in the publishing industry Dads are just neutered frat boys who didn’t know any better than to have a child. Someday they will figure out they are missing out on a huge market for a book about being a “stay at home dad” from a competent dad.

    This is one of the reasons I show my kids Studio Ghibli films. Studio Ghibli has such a better and more balanced approach to gender. Some parents get it right, others do not.

  6. It’s not just dads. How often do we see the unmarried, professional sister who can’t is completely incompetent with how to even talk to kids. They are stereotypes and cliches used by lazy writers who want to re-use old jokes.

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