Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Pro-Fathering Commercials During Up All Night

I'm watching Up All Night, the new sitcom about a stay-at-home dad and a working mom. So far, I'm not too impressed because the plot is revolving around the post-parent identity as a negation of everything positive in life, which--in my experience--isn't true, and is depressing regardless. I'm going to give it a chance; maybe it'll get better.

But what's already better? The pro-fathering commercials airing during the show.

Like this one:

Two fathers stand around talking about mini-vans. Meanwhile, the older son of one of the men tries to get his attention, but he's too into his conversation. Both men wrinkle their noses and do a quick sniff test on the diapers of their babies. "Not mine," they each say. Then they turn to the older child who has turned away, obviously signaling it's too late for the attention. The screen cuts to a bottle of Clorox "for all life's bleachable moments."

Now, I don't condone ignoring your child while he soils himself, but I do like that a) the fathers are shown wearing their children comfortably (no indication that this is a rare, awkward occurrence--while one child is crying, they are both bouncing to try to keep the babies calm and handling what could be frustrating with patience and calmness) and that b) they need to be concerned about laundry (both the hand plopping down the bottle of Clorox and the voice-over seem to be male).

There was also a Target commercial showing an entire family participating in the cooking throughout the day. I loved that it featured a black family and that the man wasn't portrayed as a "mother's helper." For half of the meals shown during the commercial, he's clearly the one in charge of the meal. In the other half, he's clearly following the woman's lead. It's a nice balance of equally sharing this household responsibility.

Finally, there was an ad for a car (sorry, they all run together in my head, indicating I'm not the target audience) that I'd seen before. A man leans through the passenger window giving his little girl (6 or 7 years old) advice on how to drive safely. It cuts away from the girl and when it cuts back, she's a teenager. Though this isn't pushing the gender norms as much as the other two commercials, it is portraying an active and caring father.

While I'm not completely sold on Up All Night yet, I am excited that there is a trend toward normalizing participatory fatherhood. Marketing is such a pervasive part of our lives, and it is a place where a lot of our societal norms are quietly crafted and maintained. I hope to see more involved fathers in commercials in the future.

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