I have an important confession to make.
For years, I’ve had a favorite commercial.
It was the Dairy Queen “Baby Bjorn” commercial, in which a father takes a hard kick to the stones and a headbutt because he won’t share his cheesecake blizzard with his child.
In case you’ve never seen this commercial, here it is —
The first time I ever saw “Baby Bjorn,” I laughed so hard I cried, and every time I saw the commercial air after that, I about collapsed with joy.
The Super Bowl was on Sunday, February 1, nine days ago now, and while I did watch the game, I missed the first quarter and half of the second, which meant there were a bunch of commercials I missed.
Thankfully, a number of those commercials have been playing before YouTube videos this past week, which means I finally saw the Nissan commercial, “With Dad” — which is now my favorite commercial ever.
This commercial just took the top spot — and “Baby Bjorn” has been my favorite commercial for YEARS. I never thought any commercial could possibly beat “Baby Bjorn” — but the marketing geniuses have totally scored with this one for Nissan.
“With Dad” is set to Harry Chapin’s classic song, “Cat’s in the Cradle” (1974) which is a beautiful piece of music to begin with, but coupled with these gorgeous images of family life, parenthood, and a boy’s relationship with his dad, this is simply the most exquisite artwork I’ve ever seen in a commercial, and I am so full of feels each time I watch, I just notice more and more things every time.
I know this video isn’t breaking any new ground. I recognize that it’s extremely heteronormative, contains gender stereotypes everywhere, and subverts the whole point of the song. When the ten-year-old boy in the song says, “I’m gonna be like him,” the commercial plays the line as a positive anthem, a life-affirming message, rather than a statement of tragedy.
As to the tragedy in the song — in a world where many children grow up with divorced parents, or no parents at all, the message about absent fathers in “Cat’s in the Cradle” seems very quaint, since I’d take a busy, hard-working father over a dead father, or a busy, hard-working father over a drunken homeless father. The idea that having a busy dad who doesn’t have time to play catch with you at age ten, but pays for your college, tells you, “I’m proud of you,” when you graduate, and let’s you borrow his car — that anyone would cry over this amazing good fortune, and resent their father for not spending time with them as a child, seems beyond pathetic.
And yet, the song’s message is a powerful one, deeply moving, because it’s told from the point of view of the father, and the tragedy of seeing your children as “burdens” or “distractions from work” is a very real tragedy indeed.
My dad spent the last years of his life homeless, and drowned in the river he was living beside when I was 21, so I can’t personally identify with the tragedy of this song. My father couldn’t take care of himself, couldn’t hold down a job, often didn’t bathe — even before he was homeless — so “Cat’s in the Cradle” doesn’t grip me because I think, “oh, that’s me in this song” or “oh, that sounds like my dad in this song.” Um, no. My father would need a song with completely different lyrics, a song about never having faith in yourself, never loving yourself, and never being able to find that faith or that self-love before dying. That’s the kind of tragedy my father would sing about.
So while “Cat’s in the Cradle” is very much a “first world problem” kind of song, starring a functional adult male who not only has a job, but has the means to keep his job, I’ve still always loved this piece of music, and always will. Harry Chapin is singing about regret, and we all know what regret feels like, even when we work hard to purge it out of our system. We all know that pain, and that pain fills this song.
However. The commercial isn’t focusing on the father’s pain, and there is no regret. The father in the commercial is a completely heroic figure who faces hardship to not only follow his dreams but also support his family, and while his son misses him, by the end of the video, the intense love and admiration he has for his father is obvious.
The choice in camera shots, the interplay of the music and sound effects, the way images flash in sequence to not only tell a great story but build with the lyrics — this commercial is totally genius.
The actors are all gorgeous, especially the way the dad smiles at the end. God, I love men with big smile-creases around their eyes. Being a heroic racecar-driving father with dramatically beautiful smile-creases is pretty much THE HOTTEST THING EVER.
The scenes of family life in this video also make me ache with the beauty of the human condition. I’m not a mom, I have no children, and I don’t want the life portrayed in this commercial — and yet, this identity still calls to me, especially the scene of the three of them in bed together, when the father is stroking his son’s hair — I get misty every time I see that image, it’s so absolutely perfect. Every scene in this commercial is perfect, but that particular image overwhelms me with the feels.
Which means this commercial does exactly what it’s supposed to do — it makes me want to go out and BUY A NISSAN even though I’ve never owned a Nissan and I really love my Prius.
Here’s a picture of me with Queen Elizabeth this past October —
Those mountains are northwest of Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Doesn’t Queen Elizabeth look great? I love my Prius. She can’t ever rival the love I had (and still have) for my 4Runner, but I do care for her a great deal.
So now that you know why I think “With Dad” should win the prize for Best Commercial Ever, here is a link to a great interview that Song River, at CowGirlZen, did with my amazing artist friend, April Reyna. Song asked April questions about her life and how she makes art. April creates the artwork for Mark of the Pterren, and while she is no stranger to interviews, she always gives fun and interesting answers. Plus, she mentions ME in this interview — so I AM FAMOUS NOW.
Yeah, that’s right — FAMOUS.
Plus I really, really want this bedroom. The loveliness of this reading-grotto setup full of art and natural light just makes me swoon.
Some day, I’m gonna get crafty and build this for myself.
Until then, I’ll content myself with a cup of hot chocolate.
And I’ll keep editing Mark of the Pterren. I’m down to the last 300 pages of the book to revise, and I’m feeling pretty awesome. Especially since I’m famous now. *blush*
I need a big sparkly star for my office door, so my husband can see it and think, “I’m married to someone famous! She was mentioned in a blog interview! And just look at that star on her door! Wow!”
Because that is what super stardom is all about.
So, dearest Thought Candy reader — what do you think of the commercial “With Dad”? Do you have a favorite commercial? Do tell.