'Can Dads Do Anything Right?'

One of Dr. Helen’s readers spots the latest lame TV dad, this time in a commercial for Volkswagen:

Dear Dr.Helen,

I wonder what your reaction was to the latest salvo in the War on Men and Boys. I refer to the Volkswagen Passat commercial which shows a heartwarming scene of a father bonding with his son by playing catch with him. The problem is that he is teaching his son to throw like a girl, except that girls who play softball don’t throw that badly. It was painful to watch. I have no idea how this will sell cars, or to whom.


Here’s the ad in question:


Frankly, VW’s guy is Spencer Tracy compared to uber-wussy dad that Toyota built its “Swagger Wagon” ad campaign around in early 2010:


Here’s how the above ad campaign was defended by its fans:

One blogger described the Toyota Sienna ads as a maximum overload of meta:

And there is a lot of thinking.  You’re not boring, you’re cool. But you know you’re not really cool. You laugh at yourself. But also at everybody else.


Toyota has covered every psychological angle.  On the YouTube campaign page, they even call the couple “self-absorbed,” in case anybody is annoyed by cloyingly likable people.

We’re living in a post Arrested Development world people. (Which if you want to get meta, is a post-Office world).  Which if you want to get meta-meta, is a Toyota Sienna world…

Include me out, please. (Though I realize that by trashing these ads, I’m helping to push them out, just adding to the whole meta overload. But then, I reject Toyota’s “reality”, and substitute my — hopefully more earthbound — own.)

And the same goes with the new VW ad — while we’re busy complaining about the lameness of the VW dad, we’re also giving the car maker plenty of unintentional advertising, alas.


To get a sense of how freeze-dried the overculture has become, here’s a January 2008 Washington Times column on advertising and father figures:

Todd Wasserman knew he had touched a nerve when he saw the enormous number of responses from readers.

As editor of Brandweek, a New York-based magazine that covers the nation’s marketing industry, Mr. Wasserman penned a column in November bemoaning the treatment of fathers in advertising.

The dad-as-buffoon and the anti-father imagery seemingly permeated advertising and marketing campaigns, which continually use stereotypes about men to get cheap laughs, he observed. And they are increasingly the norm.

The letters poured in.

“I don’t think we ever got so much reaction,” said Mr. Wasserman, the father of a 5-month-old. “That fathers are often the butt of ads and accepted as idiots, that was just commonly accepted. But for me, it just seems like a stale target, a safe target for someone trying to get an easy laugh in an ad. The more people I talked to, the more it seemed a lot of people felt that way.”

He is not alone in his assessment.

No, far from it, as I noted at the time when I linked to it.

Oh, and speaking of the dearth of grown-ups, as we’ve noted more than a few times around here, each year San Francisco leads the list of major American cities with the smallest number of children. Or as even the “Progressive” Huffington Post noted last year, “Families Flee San Francisco: City Has Lowest Percentage Of Kids Of Any Major U.S. City.”


They’re wrong though — many San Francisco children can be observed at play in these photos from the San Jose Mercury-News: “No pants event takes a ride on BART in the Bay Area.” (And speaking of a freeze dried culture, didn’t the Merry Pranksters pull these sorts of stunts nearly 50 years ago?)

Don’t click directly from my post last night on the BBC’s Civilisation series from 1969 to the above Murky News link; the staff and management of Ed Driscoll.com are not responsible for the whiplash such cognitive dissonance can cause.


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