In anticipation of my wife venturing a few time zones away on a work trip last week, I did what any cautious parent might: stock up on candy corn, double-down on flood insurance and put a taxidermist on short-term retainer. Surely the four solo days would push me to the limit physically (two kids + one car seat > my max dead lift even before I was old and broken), emotionally (I have infinities of love to give, son! Accept it! Delight in it!) and mentally (oh boy - which one should never ever ever be given amoxicillin? Think, dammit!). The question wasn’t whether anything would go wrong; it was whether the combined sum of soiled throw pillows and frantic calls to poison control would reach double-digits. Smart money came in heavily on the over.
And somehow, when my wife walked in the door a few mornings ago, everything was okay. The house was clean and not on fire. The three beings residing therein were clothed and alive. The kids greeted her brightly, the way they would any other morning - “hiiiiiiiii, Mama!” - and the day proceeded apace. Later, she confessed that she expected that we’d be standing on the sink, attempting to fend off an alligator with a plunger and kid no. 1’s Avengers 3-in-1 Orange Blast Body Wash.
So yeah, heading into Father’s Day 2015, I am bulletproof. I am battle-hardened. I am capable (wife-certified). I am the platonic ideal of modern daddyhood, from the tackle-hugs I absorb to the juice-box straw holes I perforate. And even if I weren’t, I’d still have a whole lot to say about Dove’s latest desperate, cloying piece of “like” bait.
It’s probably our own fault for encouraging them. Remember how we reacted to the first few salvos in Dove’s “Real Beauty”/“Real Women” campaign? We were all, “Huh, a beauty marketer that celebrates relatively normal-looking and -shaped beings. Good on them.” Alas, when Dove saw the YouTube counter start shooting off sparks, it decided to beat the concept to death with a tire iron. It also started describing its three-minute brand videos as “films.”
So now that the backlash has kicked in, to the extent where Deadspin has started to call attention to the not-quite-soap-ishness of the product itself, you’d think that Dove’s marketers would realize they had a good run and find a new hook, right? Of course not. There are still tears to be wrung out of people’s fleshy faces (and fleshy is fine! fleshy is great! If Vogue has a problem with fleshy, that’s Vogue’s problem, not yours, because you are beautiful and unique and charming and people love you for who you are, not because of how you look, which is beautiful and awesome and natural and not at all dowdy, even in that shirt). Ergo: “Dove Men+Care Shares Your First Fatherhood Moments This Father’s Day.”
The title is basically a weather forecast, one that calls for cascades of deeply felt emotion with a 95 percent chance of warm embrace. Oh, but the clip is far, far worse. It collects user-filmed footage of men being told that they’re about to become fathers for the first time. Guess what? They’re all deeply touched and totally thrilled, except for the guy who excuses himself to go buy a pack of cigarettes. Ha! No. Not funny. No sorta-soap for you, pal.
We’re treated to blank stares of amazement, agape mouths, “no!” and any number of other trite, scriptable responses. Heaven forbid this moment should be one of understated intimacy; in Dove’s imagination, it needs to be large, joyous and sharable via social media.
Dove even gets a little judgmental on our modern-dad asses, splaying, “Real strength means showing you care, even from the very first moment” across the screen in the clip’s final moments. No, actually, real strength means you can tow a 757 down the runway with a rope. Don’t confuse the meatheads. If there’s a more obliviously cynical and obnoxious brand marketer on the planet right now than Dove, I haven’t encountered it.