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White House Misses the Mark with New Site Devoted to Dad

In this media-saturated age, a few misused phrases and a bad PR campaign can make a mockery of someone’s otherwise good intentions.  Such is the case with President Obama’s National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse, found online at Fatherhood.gov

I consider myself pretty liberal, but even I think a National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse sounds like something out of a commie dictatorship, which doesn’t do much to counter Obama’s reputation among conservatives as a socialist.  (Ira Stoll authored an interesting rant to that effect, here.) 

In an email he sent to supporters on Father’s Day, the President wrote, “While no government program can fill the role that fathers play for our children, what we can do is try to support fathers who are willing to step up and fulfill their responsibilities as parents, partners and providers.”

That sounds reasonable, and like a really good idea.  So does that mean you’re going to join the rest of the world’s industrialized nations in mandating parental leave so that Dads can bond with their kids?  No?  Oh.  You’re just gonna make some weird YouTube videos that don’t really make any sense?  Oh, okay.  No, that’s cool, too… I guess.

In this first video, via Eater, a Dad makes a “pizza smoothie” for his teenage son.  Eater’s Paula Forbes commented, “The kid’s braces prevent him from eating pizza in its normal slice form, so it’s kind of sweet? But also hard to tell whether he’s actually supposed to drink the thing or if it’s just intended to make him chuckle.”  Take a look:

Don’t get me wrong, Ad Council PSAs are kind of a secret obsession of mine – cuz I’m a Euro-style socialist deep down – but this one just doesn’t hit the mark.  I took a trip over to Fatherhood.gov to see what else was available, and unfortunately the rest of the 30 second spots aren’t much better.

My ex-husband plays with dolls and would probably wear a tutu if push came to shove, but there’s no way he’d let anyone paint his fingernails.  (I know, I asked him if I could do it several times.  He wouldn’t even get a manicure without polish for our wedding.)  I’m not saying there aren’t any tattooed up biker Dads out there with a devil-may-care attitude and a sense of humor absurd enough to allow their daughter to make them pretty in pink, but I think there are more effective ways of trying to reach the men who need to hear this type of message.  These ads seem to have been created by and for women.  Especially this next one:

I get that the Ad Council is trying to keep what is a potentially serious subject light, but men that are willing to stand outside their homes and cheer with their tots don’t need coaxing.  This campaign should appeal to the Everyman who goes to work each day, either in an office or at a garage.  I think this last one, called “Double Dutch,” is getting there.

PBS Kids shows a great interstitial pretty frequently in the afternoons that captures exactly the essence these ads are going for.  A young girl is drawing with chalk on the sidewalk in front of her house.  Her laborer Dad comes home from work and pats her on the head, asking her to tell him about her drawings.  She does, he tickles her, and then scoops her up, presumably taking her to the dining room where they will sit down around a table and eat a dinner consisting of lots of fresh veggies.  (But maybe not organic vegetables, because, hey, he’s not made of money, you know.)

I am a great admirer of the President, but it’s a shame he seems unable to communicate what he really wants to with this initiative.  He’s such a devoted Dad himself, maybe all he needs to do to be a good influence is start a parenting blog.  You know, in his spare time.

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