Milking an old stereotype for all it’s not worth

Whenever dads are used in commercials, they’re often portrayed as comic fodder: goofy, bumbling, inept, clumsy. The dad joke isn’t just something humorous your father once said – he is the joke. We’re not laughing with him – we’re laughing at him.

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The California Milk Advisory Board recently featured dad in a TV spot, and while he’s not the butt of jokes, its marketing decides to take a different approach. Here they attempt to offer dad props, but it turns out to be nothing more than backhanded praise with an open belief that mom is the real, primary parent.

You’ll be surprised at how many insults can be leveled toward dad in this 30-second ad.realcaliforniamilk

“Welcome to Saturday,” the ad’s voiceover slowly declares. “Sure, mom does all the heavy lifting during the week, but on this day dad makes flapjacks dripping with hot, melting California butter. And somehow dad’s the MVP: Most Valuable Parent. It’s just not fair.”

A gaggle of kids then scoot by with assurance: “Love you mom.”

Let’s look at the script piece-by-piece.

“…mom does all the heavy lifting during the week…” – Really? All the heavy lifting? In today’s modern dual-income families, don’t dads contribute a little more than the old-fashioned stereotypes of the ‘50s? Besides, why discount dad’s role as a breadwinner that provides for the family? Whether you’re stay-at-home or employed outside the home, both roles are equally important no matter the gender.

“…somehow dad’s the MVP…” – Did the ad just say “somehow,” as if to imply it was a fluke that he could be equally, competent and valuable to a family as a mom? Let’s stop keeping score as if parenting and/or housework is an equal 50-50 split. That’s a fallacy, and completely unfair to the spouse who works outside the home to provide. This kind of talk only creates a parenting divide.

“It’s just not fair” – This line might be the kicker of them all. Is it not fair that dad could possibly be an equal parent? It’s as if the California Milk Advisory Board is afraid they might have offended moms, so they have to offer assurance by way of the kids declaring, “Don’t worry, we still love you mom.”

Two other factors are at play in this ad. One is that you never actually see dad’s face. Granted, the food is the real star, but the child’s smile was shown. Couldn’t there have been better acknowledgment of dad, perhaps by showing the same warm grin on his face?

What’s more, the ad closes by declaring that its milk is delivered “from our family farms to your table.” Family includes everyone – even dad – and isn’t it ironic that the very people who deliver this product have been discounted by the product it represents?

If some company told women they don’t know about sports, home repair or cars, they’d be considered sexist. There’d be public uproar. And all of it would be justified.

But when another says that dad doesn’t do as much as mom, he’s not as valuable to a family as mom and he’s simply not an equal parent – we’re good?

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