Commercials reflect a subtle shift in traditional parenting roles
December 16, 2017 | 66° | Check Traffic

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Commercials reflect a subtle shift in traditional parenting roles

Tokyo >> A series of TV commercials aimed at parents in recent months has sparked intense online debate over traditional family values and the reality of modern life.

Manufacturer Cow Soap is the latest advertiser to generate discussion with its commercial titled “Ataerumono” (“What You Pass On”). The video has since gained almost 1.6 million views on YouTube since it first aired on June 15. A few months earlier, manufacturer Unicharm released a commercial for Moony diapers that was targeted at new mothers.

While both commercials appeared to be trying to offer parents support and encouragement, many online viewers found the messages contradictory.

The Cow Soap commercial follows an ordinary father through his day. He takes out the trash and, as he makes his way to work, receives a phone call from his wife, who asks him to pick up a cake and birthday present for their son.

He ponders his role as a “kind, family-oriented father” struggling to bridge the gap between the type of figure his father was and the role of a modern father. The man looks back on his childhood, in which his father remains faceless and distant. Even in a moment of familial bonding, he remembers a respectful formality to proceedings. Returning to the present day, the man decides to “wash away” his ennui with Cow Soap and join his family for a belated birthday party.

On Twitter, users expressed disbelief at the man’s dire communication skills and the “sa, arai nagaso” (“Wash it away”) tagline that condoned his behavior. Others mocked the father for seeming to accept a basic chore such as taking out the trash as the extent of his paternal obligations. Viewers rejected the commercial’s sympathetic tone toward the man and his detachment from his family.

Unicharm’s Moony diaper commercial shows a montage of a woman caring for her newborn as the song from Kana Uemura’s “Moms Don’t Cry” plays in the background. Each task is seen as a burden that is eventually “worth it.” The father is largely absent from the video, which ends with the mother nearing a breakdown.

Many viewers recalled their own experiences of loneliness. The consensus online is that mothers shouldn’t be expected to give up everything for their children, as the commercial suggests.

Around the same time the Uni-charm commercial was released, Pampers aired a diaper commercial that placed emphasis on just how many people in the community helped raise a child. In contrast to the other two commercials, the Pampers video took a more positive approach to parenthood and stresses that the mother and father shouldn’t be solely responsible.

Highlighting the collective responsibility of the community in parenthood is a message that should resonate with each and every one of us — whether we have a child or not.

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