A series of TV commercials aimed at parents in recent months has sparked intense online debate over traditional family values and the reality of modern life.

Manufacturer Cow Soap is the latest advertiser to generate discussion on this issue, releasing a commercial for Father’s Day titled “Ataerumono” (“What You Pass On”). The video was first aired on June 15 and has since gained almost 1.6 million views on YouTube. A few months earlier, manufacturer Unicharm released a commercial for its Moony diapers that was targeted at new mothers. While both commercials appeared to be trying to offer parents support and encouragement, many online viewers found the messages contradictory.

The Cow Soap commercial follows a seemingly ordinary man as he completes an ordinary day in his life. He takes out the trash and, as he makes his way to work, receives a phone call from his wife, who asks him to pick up a cake and birthday present for their son. The protagonist ponders the importance of a “kind, family-oriented father” who is struggling to bridge the gap between the type of figure his father once was and the role of a modern father. In one scene in which the man looks back on his childhood, his father remains faceless and distant. Even when recalling a moment of familial bonding, he remembers a respectful formality to proceedings. Returning to the present day, the man decides to “wash away” his ennui with Cow Soap and join his family for a belated birthday party.

On Twitter, users such as @sociologbook expressed disbelief at the man’s dire communication skills and the “sa, arai nagaso” (“Wash it away”) tagline that condoned his behavior. Other users, including @deviltruck2010, mocked the father for seeming to accept a basic chore such as taking out the trash as the extent of his paternal obligations. Viewers rejected the commercial’s sympathetic tone toward the man and his detachment from his family.

Unicharm’s commercial presented a different message altogether. The Moony diaper commercial shows a montage of a woman caring for her newborn child as the song from Kana Uemura’s “Moms Don’t Cry” plays in the background. Each task is seen as a burden that is eventually “worth it.” The father is largely absent from the entire video, which ends with the mother nearing a breakdown.

Many viewers recalled their own experiences of loneliness in their response to the video. A Twitter user using the handle @tukino_tuki wrote: “It reminded me of the most difficult time of my life and I wanted to throw up. … The video is not encouraging in the slightest.” Indeed, the overall consensus online appears to be that mothers shouldn’t be expected or encouraged to give up everything for their children, as the commercial suggests.

Around the same time the Unicharm commercial was released, Pampers aired a diapers video of its own that placed emphasis on just how many people in the community helped raise a child. In contrast to the other two commercials, the Pampers video takes a more positive approach to parenthood and stresses that the mother and father shouldn’t take on the sole responsibility of raising their child.

In highlighting the collective responsibility of the community in parenthood, it’s a message that should resonate with each and every one of us — whether we have a child or not.

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