Stereotype of Fathers in Advertising
In a recent study of sitcoms, the National Fatherhood Initiative found that fathers were eight times more likely than mothers to be portrayed negatively. In fact, if you just think of the most prominent television dads, you'll find what In fact, if you just think of the most prominent television dads, you'll find what the NFI's study—and a lot of other research—has found: that most of them are outwitted or shown up by their wives, ridiculed by their children, and portrayed as complete incompetents in every way. Of course these dads love their kids, but good intentions aside, they can't handle even the simplest child related tasks and need a Hazmat suit to change a diaper.
Portrayals of fathers (and men in general) in commercials may be even worse. In the thirty-second world of the commercial, family dads—if they're part of the family at all—are not only dumber than everyone else, they're also almost completely oblivious to the needs of their children. Mothers, it seems. are the only ones who care. Here are a few examples:
♦ Kix breakfast cereal is billed as being "Kid-tested, mother-approved."
♦ Flo-Nase would hke us to believe that when Mom is sick. Dad won't be able to iron his own shirts without burning them.
♦ Robitussin cold medicines are "recommended by Dr. Mom," who sometimes has to drag herself out of her sickbed to keep an eye on her incompetent husband, who's burning dinner.
♦ A series of milk commercials (the ones featuring people with milk mustaches) is aimed at mothers. Vivian Godfrey, the CEO of MilkPEP (the group that produces those ads), says: "We are using the message of Building Strong Families to talk to mothers."
♦ Disney has pretty much the same attitude. In a New York Times article on advertising, Disney executive VP Tricia Wilber said, "What our clients are trying to achieve are two objectives: reaching children directly or reaching children and their moms."
♦ Hundreds of ads running during the 2010 Winter Olympics told us that Procter & Gamble is the "Proud Sponsor of Moms."
While it's possible to argue that mothers still do most of the shopping and feeding, the subtle yet critical message contained in these ads is that fathers are stupid and useless and simply don't care. Kids—and anyone else who's watching—get the clear message that dads don't feed their kids, don't clothe them, won't be there to take care of them when they're sick, and shouldn't be ailed in case of emergency. The "Proud Sponsor of Moms" one, though, is probably the worst. Nothing against mothers, but dads are usually the ones 0 encourage their kids to get involved in sports, who coach their teams, and who play catch, shoot hoops, or ski moguls with them. Ignoring their contribution is just plain insulting.
Fathers are portrayed as incompetent, bumbling idiots in advertising, which focuses on the importance of mothers, raising the question of cause and effect.