By Ginny Engholm
A recent Vicks Nyquil commercial has a typical scenario for an advertisement set in a workplace. A clearly sick man — coughing, runny nose, the whole works — opens what looks like an office door a crack, pops his head in, and delivers the one line of the commercial: “Dave, I’m sorry to interrupt. I gotta take a sick day tomorrow.” While this might seem like a very traditional depiction of masculinity, a guy at the office asking his male boss for a day off, the ad subverts this narrative by revealing an adorable toddler standing up in his crib. The tagline of the ad — “Dads don’t take sick days. Dads take Nyquil” — makes the ad’s argument clear. A real man is one who is so dedicated to his real job — fatherhood — that he continues to parent through his colds and flus. While the idea of moms’ total and complete dedication to their roles as mothers has of course been part of our cultural understanding of motherhood for, well, forever, the shift in the past decade or so of depicting fathers as equal-opportunity martyrs, devoted to the care of their children, strikes many modern viewers as something new.