February 6, 2015

Reflection / Sean Gallagher

Super Bowl commercial highlights basic human desire for good fathers

Super Bowl XLIX, played on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz., probably didn’t have viewers in central and southern Indiana sitting on the edges of their seats as it might have if the Indianapolis Colts had played for the Lombardi Trophy instead of the New England Patriots.

While the game between the Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks was well-played and certainly a Super Bowl to remember with New England coming out on top 28-24, people in Indiana might have come away from it with more memories of the commercials than the actual play on the field.

One advertisement that caught my eye was for Dove Men+Care deodorants and antiperspirants. Over the course of the 60-second commercial, viewers are quickly shown 24 scenes in which children call out to their dads.

The children range in age from a baby sitting in a high chair to an adult son holding an ultrasound picture of the child that he and his wife are expecting.

They portray many typical scenes of the relationship of a father and child—children diving into their father’s arms in a swimming pool, a child stuck on monkey bars calling to dad for help, a teenage boy being embarrassed by his dad giving him a kiss, and a bride looking glowingly at her father’s face.

What links them all together is the child, in one way or another, saying, “dad” or “daddy.”

About three quarters of the way through the commercial, a question is seen on the screen, “What makes a man stronger?” After seeing a few more scenes of fatherhood, the answer is portrayed, “Showing that he cares.”

The advertisement then ends with a short reference to the sponsor. The implied message that Dove wants to put in the backs of our minds, of course, is that their products will somehow make men stronger and more caring.

I have my doubts about that.

But the message of the bulk of the commercial was a positive one, especially in our popular culture where fathers are so often portrayed in many TV shows and movies as clueless and the butt of so many jokes.

It would appear that this positive portrayal of fatherhood connected with viewers. According to an online Advertising Age article, the research company Spot Trender noted that Dove’s dad commercial had, among all Super Bowl ads, the “most consistent positive reaction” second by second as the various commercials were shown to a panel of consumers.

Spot Trend’s graph of positive reaction to the commercial only started to trail off during the section of the commercial where Dove’s products were mentioned toward the end.

Such a reaction is suggestive to me of the desire in every human heart for a loving father.

Some of us have been blessed with a father who shows strength through his caring touch. Others have had more troubled relationships with their fathers. Many of us find ourselves in between, with mixed memories of our dads.

But we all see and somehow desire the goodness of a loving relationship with a father.

For us who place our faith in Christ and seek to be his disciples, we see this innate human desire rooted in our yearning to be ever closer to our heavenly Father.

No matter what trials we might face or what tremendous blessings seem to come to us out of the blue, we can always turn to our Father God with a cry for help or of thanksgiving. He’ll always be there for us.

As a father for the past 12 years, I know that I haven’t always lived up to my calling and shown my five sons the caring that they need and deserve.

Thankfully, our heavenly Father is there, especially for all of us fathers here on Earth who want to be strong in showing our children that we care, but sometimes find it hard to do or say so.

Don’t be discouraged by your past failures. Move forward instead with hope, knowing that God the Father is there to help us be more and more like him.

(Sean Gallagher is a reporter for The Criterion, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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