As a father of three, it thrilled me to see 2015 Super Bowl commercials give dads so much attention. The surge in positive representation of fatherhood in advertising and media during the past few years has been amazing with the portrayal of fathers changing from mostly “doofus dads” to a greater focus on strong, nurturing fathers who raise their children competently and equally with their partners.
While most of these 2015 Super Bowl “fatherhood” commercials did a fantastic job of highlighting what great dads can look like, car maker Nissan’s “With Dad” spot appears to have completely missed the mark:
I have nothing against car racing and certainly parents need to do what is necessary to support their families. I am ecstatic Nissan wanted to run an ad that highlights fatherhood, however, studies show that being serially absent father can be devastating to a child’s future. What so many of today’s dads want to communicate to their bosses, their co-workers, their friends and the world is that we want to — we need to — be ever-present in our children’s lives. It is not only important to us as fathers, it is vital to our kids.
In contrast, Toyota ran an ad emphasizing that being a dad is more than earning big money to bring home a shiny new vehicle. It’s a choice to be there. This, to me, represents the essence of what dads are and can be today:
It is just a commercial, though, and I am likely making more of it than necessary. That said, I still think I’d buy a Toyota.
I think you’re way off base on your analysis. Some parents, Mothers and Fathers, but usually Fathers, have to be away for long periods due to work. It’s not an ideal situation, but it has to happen. What Nissan’s commercial showed is that even if you have to be away more than you like, it’s not easy for anyone involved, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying to build a bond when you are there.
The driver in the commercial isn’t running from his problems. He has a non-traditional, non-9-5 job. It’s not something he can just ‘give up’ and still give his family a future.
Let me ask you this, would you say the same thing if the commercial was about a soldier who had to be away for long periods but took every moment he could to “be there” on the phone, and was always thinking about them while doing his duty? Or a long-haul trucker? Or a wildland firefighter? or an astronaut?
My point is there is a wide gulf between an absentee father who isn’t there because he wasn’t ready to be a father, and a father who isn’t physically there as much as he would like but puts everything into his family.
So, yeah, I think you’re way off base here and quite frankly, as someone who is friends with excellent fathers who have to be away for long periods, wildland firefighters, long haul truckers, soldiers, I think your commentary is offensive to those fathers. My little brother is a US Army reservist, currently spending several months away doing training across the country from his little girl. He spends every waking moment thinking about her, makes contact once a day, and is preparing to come home and spend a whole bunch of time with her.
He isn’t an absentee father. He’s a dad with a job that requires him to not come home every night for long periods. He doesn’t love his child any less than those who have the luxury of being home every night. In fact, he stresses more than the average father because of it, hating every moment he has to be away but he’s away because he has a job to do, a job that ultimately has responsibilities to a nation of people including his little girl.
Off base, out of line.
I see where @Weathertop is coming from and agree with most of his points. There are committed, loving dads that have to be away from their families for an extended amount of time.
My dad was one of these dads. He travelled 5-days a week for 10 years. He did what he could given the situation– called every night, flew back for the most important events, etc., but his absence had an impact (some positive, but mostly negative).
I love my dad and appreciate all of the sacrifices he made, but I’ve made different choices to make sure I am there for my two boys.
Sat Sharma says
@Weathertop I absolutely hear what you are saying. I wholeheartedly agree that as parents we make difficult sacrifices for the sake of our families and they may manifest in many different ways. Military families, as you mentioned, a certainly a wonderful example of Dads (and Moms) making tremendous sacrifices for their families – and the rest of us.
The thing is, in my opinion, this specific ad does not capture this. If their intent was to show some of the extreme sacrifices that Dads can make for tier family, they could have communicated that much better. They chose to use “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin to play in the background. This is a song about a father who made choices to not spend time with his son – until its too late. Not sacrifices. Its a song we all know and tear up about every time we hear it. To me, this paints the ad significantly suggesting that the father in this ad has made choices rather than sacrifices.
My post is really not a message or judgement on fathers that, as you say, do not have 9-5 jobs, but really a criticism of the ad. With the lens of your comments, perhaps its not as inflammatory as I originally felt, however I really do not feel that it conveys that message about fathers the you are making to me either. To me that’s simply poor advertising, but I digress.
In my opinion, a soldier that puts himself in harms way is a much different thing than risks that surround a race car driver, but perhaps that is a completely separate discussion.
I appreciate you taking the time to read this post and even more so for engaging in this discussion. Its an important conversation we need to be having as we are starting to see the tide turning in the media’s portrayal of Dads.
I think we should move away from trying to defend parents who work a lot and can’t devote as much time as they wish they could to their children. We know that we need doctors, lawyers, soldiers, etc. However, what the author of this piece seeks to accomplish is to criticize a very old school interpretation of what being a family means: a kid, mom who stays at home, and dad as the bread-winner. There are so many variations on what it means to be a family these days and what I believe the author was pointing out is Nissan’s assumption that we can all relate to the situation displayed in the ad. The author also mentions that Nissan oversimplifies what it means to reconcile being a busy parent but also being present in their kid’s lives. Nissan’s solution is to show up when the kid is 18 with a fancy car and the rest is forgotten. The biggest flaw that Nissan makes in this ad is that it’s just not very modern and misses the mark if it really wants to relate to how families are evolving.