Ford ran a commercial here in Texas at the beginning of game two of the World Series last night selling the message that their F-150 pickup trucks are both tough and safe. You can see the ad at iSpot, which describes the message of the commercial:
Mom and Dad have differing priorities when it comes to their children’s football game. Dad puts safety first and makes sure shoulder pads are secured and helmets are fastened tightly. However, Momma’s building champions. She tells them to be the hammer, not the nail, and she sends them on their way. Ford demonstrates how safety and toughness complement each other in both sports and in its F-150 model.
What iSpot doesn’t note in their summary* is that the commercial is supposed to be funny. We are supposed to be shocked that the commercial for pickup trucks (a product associated with men and manliness), about a football game in Texas, has flipped the roles for mom and dad. Our reaction is supposed to be:
Ha ha, dad is the one mothering the sons, and mom is the one teaching them to be tough and manly!
But the joke doesn’t work, because there is nothing counter cultural about presenting fathers as effeminate and mothers as butch. In emasculating the Texas fathers they hope will buy their pickup trucks, Ford is merely going with the flow. Ford is following the lead of Angel Soft, which shows that real fathers shave their legs, and JP Morgan Chase & Co., which as Ad Age explains has redefined what it means to be a father:
Dads can be heroes in many ways — and, according to JP Morgan Chase & Co., that could mean putting on makeup and a wig and donning a tutu to play the fairy princess at a birthday party
None of these commercials are truly edgy. They are merely parroting the approved narrative. What would be edgy, and truly counter-cultural, is if Ford showed fathers as masculine and mothers as feminine. The Ford truck ad isn’t funny because it could be no other way. Imagine the same ad with the roles reversed. Picture the commercial as the “traditional” narrative Ford is ostensibly poking at. Imagine if the mother were the one gently mothering her sons and focusing on their safety gear, and if the father were the parent urging his sons to be aggressive. And of course, imagine if the father smacked the mother on the ass at the end of the commercial. That would be shocking and edgy, because in our culture it simply can’t be done.
Related: It could be no other way.
*iSpot characterizes the mood of the commercial as “Funny” in the specs section of the page.