Reel influence

For as many superhero movies as have been created in Hollywood, you’d think by now the industry might take heed of their own advice, “With great power comes great responsibility.”mrmom

The movie industry wields immense power in more ways than one because we love our movies. We watch them in the theater, we rent them, we buy them, we subscribe to them, we quote them, we wear them, we sleep on them, we tattoo them on our bodies.

Movies have huge fan-base followings with week-long conventions. Movies have specific theme park rides. Movies spend millions on advertising campaigns, in fast food restaurants, on billboards.?

Some movies will be eternally watched by the next generation on different formats, living on forever in pop culture fame. Others may never be watched again.

Most are probably in between, but their influence remains.

Take “Mr. Mom,” for instance, and the lasting legacy it has left on dad stereotypes.

The film was made 31 years ago, enjoyed quite decent success, and was clearly a product of its times. In the early 1980s women were making fantastic strides in various arenas. Sandra Day O’Connor was named the first woman justice of the Supreme Court. Sally Ride became the first U.S. woman in space. Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman nominated by a major political party to run for vice president of the United States.

These historic events brought about major changes to women. It opened up doors to professions that had normally belonged to men, and demanded equality in nearly every walk of life. It wasn’t perfect and still isn’t, but the gender balance was becoming more balanced.

Given all these events, it was no wonder that famed movie writer John Hughes came up with a mom-dad role reversal movie that many found hilarious. Three decades later, stay-at-home dads are still not the norm, but it’s easy to find humor in the storyline.

The name itself is so self-explanatory, that one hardly needs to see the movie poster or even watch a clip to wonder what it might be about. Its title has been used over and over so many times that it alone demonstrates the power of the movie industry, and overall media influence.

Nearly any reference to a stay-at-home dad, whether in media or informal conversation references the movie title. A label was born, and it will never go away. “Back to the Future” is another over-referenced movie title that comes to mind, and seems to work its way into language anytime someone needs a catchy reference to the future.

If the “Mr. Mom” movie had been given a different title, say, “Switcheroo,” would the movie have slipped out of our pop culture consciousness a long time ago? If Hughes were able to bring back the original cast for a sequel, would a title and premise such as “Mrs. Dad” have the same effect?

I have no issue with the “Mr. Mom” movie concept. But we must all remember the thought, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

Truly, the next time you’re ready to tell a story – dear movie industry – and spend money on actors, sets and marketing, consider that you’re not only investing in millions of dollars, but also into the human psyche, for which there is no price tag.

And the only sequel to that is the next generation of consumers, of whom you apply great influence.

You can’t fault them for trying

We came across an interesting magazine ad the other day by American Family Insurance. At first glance, it seems as though they’re one of the few companies to get it right, but let’s take a closer look with a dadmarketing eye.?

All dads, no moms?amfam

You might be thinking, can’t dadmarketing just be happy with this all-inclusive dad ad? Yes and no. Yes, because it’s refreshing to see what might be a record number of dads (three) in a magazine ad. No, because it’s not necessary, and not what we believe in. You see, our main focus is to stop excluding dads from marketing campaigns, not make them the only focus. Moms belong in ads every bit as dads do.

If this was an ad for a male-only product – face shaving cream, suits, underwear, etc. – we’d see the need. But an ad for insurance is every bit a “mom” product as a “dad” product – it’s a “family” product, a word that’s a third of their name. Bring on the moms, we say!

The role fits the part too much

We’ve watched, heard and seen other insurance ads, and yet another stereotype is that insurance is the guy’s domain. Dads are the protectors of the family, right? So, moms supposedly let dads handle this department, just like dads supposedly let moms do all the diaper changing.

Having only dads featured in this ad reeks of formulaic cliché.

Stereotypical roles

Indeed, dads can perform all the roles as featured in the AmFam ad – buying sports equipment, going fishing, painting – and there’s certainly nothing wrong with these tasks. But aren’t they being a bit typecast here? We think dads should be featured in real, everyday roles, too. If anything, one of the photos could have shown a dad doing a task normally classified as what most think of as “belonging” to a mom: baking, making crafts, grocery shopping. After all, dads do these things too, right? Right.

All in all, much can be learned from American Family Insurance’s valiant attempt, as we have to believe it was good-intentioned.