Why Subaru Thinks Puppies are the Same as Babies

Despite its perception as being the “progressive” car company alternative, Subaru’s latest television and online ads for its 2017 Impreza suggest the company has officially joined the ranks of businesses that are shamelessly willing to manipulate consumers by deploying puppies and babies in their advertisements:

 

While the ad might seem harmless at first glance, even touching, its underlying message is not. The ad equates having a child with rescuing a dog, interspersing scenes of new parents with their baby (such as the heartwarming and politically correct image of a mom returning to work in her Subaru while Dad stays home with the baby) with scenes of new pet owners having special moments with their puppy. It ends with the two couples pulling up alongside each other at a stop light; the dog and child look at each other knowingly, and the narrator intones that Subaru is the car for you “no matter what road you’re on. . .”

The ad reminded me of a provocative question that nationally-syndicated radio show host Dennis Prager often asks his audiences: If your family dog and a total (human) stranger were both drowning, and you only had time to save one or the other, which mammal would you choose?

After more than three decades of asking this question to audiences across the country, Mr. Prager claims that the respondents are almost always evenly divided. It does not matter if the room is filled with young people from a public school, religious institution, or partisan political organization—half of the room would let a human die if it meant their mutt could be saved.

Here on the westside of Los Angeles, any time my wife and I are out on a walk with our four-month-old daughter (Evelyn) and four-year-old rescue dog (Bella), the dog gets more attention and questions asked about it than the most adorable baby girl on planet earth (yes, I know I’m not objective, but still, she’s a baby!). Clearly I’m not the only person noticing that our particular cultural moment is favoring puppies over babies. The top-grossing movie in the country this week promotes a similar message: the plot of Dreamworks’ animated film Boss Baby centers around a cynical baby (voiced by Alec Baldwin) who is sent on a mission by his corporate bosses at “Baby Co.” to figure out why puppies are getting more love than human babies.

I’m a dog lover; dogs are wonderful pets who bring joy and companionship to their owners. Taking care of a dog can teach people, and especially children, about responsibility. The list of positive reasons to own a pet is long and impressive. And as we know, having a child doesn’t automatically make you a hero and/or a better human being than people who don’t (or can’t) have one.

Nevertheless, the impulse to equate pet ownership with childrearing is growing at precisely the moment when birthrates are falling.  That can’t be a coincidence.

From The Washington Post:

The U.S. fertility rate has plummeted to the lowest point on record, according to new federal data. The first quarter of 2016 brought 59.8 babies for every 1,000 women, ages 15 to 44. That’s nearly half the rate at the peak of the baby boom in the late 1950s.

The numbers show an unmistakable trend: Women in the U.S. who choose to reproduce keep delaying motherhood. Each generation has waited a little longer than the last. Four decades ago, an American woman typically delivered her first baby at age 21. By 2000, she was 24.9. Today, she is 26.3.

Meanwhile, Americans spent more than $60 billion on their pets in 2016. Yes, that’s billion.

The standard explanations for why women are having fewer kids include “greater/easier access to contraceptives” and “the rise of feminism.” But Pew Research Center recently released new findings showing that nearly half of women in the United States say that they would like to have more children.

What gives? One possible explanation: In a culture that urges women to ignore the realities of biology and delay marriage and children in order to compete in the workplace alongside men, is it any wonder that many couples end up making the calculation that having a dog is as satisfactory (and morally useful) as having children? Subaru clearly thinks so.

But here’s a hard truth unlikely to be marketed with hipster acoustic music in a car company ad anytime soon: We only have so much time on earth. We only have so much emotional capital to spend. Dogs are great, but ultimately, compared to the work of raising the next generation (either directly as a parent or indirectly as a friend or extended family member) they don’t matter.

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  • Megan Holt

    Yeah, sorry. Nope. Overpopulation of humans is a real issue effecting both the natural and material worlds, and if the birthrate falls I think that’s a GOOD thing. I would rather see a smaller pool of people raised with quality and care take over and handle the future than a mass of people reared by parents not well suited for the job, who would probably benefit from owning a puppy instead. Parenthood is NOT for everyone, and trying to force, shame or otherwise manipulative them into thinking they must is a bad idea. You end up resentful, regretful parents and innocent children (who can totally sense that attitude) who grow up into uneasy adults who can’t fit in.

    Puppies, and anything else that can stand in a substitute for children are just as important as children. Maybe even more, for the sake of our species’ future.

    • DSmith2

      Please start to solve that problem with yourself. With dispatch.

    • John Born

      Global overpopulation is a myth. Local overpopulation exists where social and political constructs incentivize overuse of locally shared resources, but globally, there’s enough potential energy, room and resources for ten times the current human population.

      But it will never get to that point. Why? Because comfort and security always lead to lower birthrates. You want a happy and moderate human global population? Promote libertarian capitalism and the rule of law everywhere. Grow the middle class just as fast as you can; the higher the percentage of total population is middle class, the stabler and more respectful the world will be.

    • Vizzini

      Unless you are a Black African, your choices are having no effect on global population. Population is either stable or shrinking throughout the West. Only Africa’s population is growing at an unsustainable rate.

  • Marie

    Is this serious or a joke?
    This ad is properly representing all those who carefully choose a path that doesn’t have to do with parenthood. In an overpopulated world, this should be applauded and celebrated.
    Nobody is saying or implying that a dog is more important than a baby. Stop mommyjacking a wonderful ad.

    • Mommyjacking? Geez, you really have got your head up your A$$.

    • Vizzini

      Welcome to Idiocracy. Educated Westerners “carefully” foregoing children while the population explodes in wretched Africa.

  • SamHamilton

    I don’t know if the ad is equating having a baby with rescuing a dog, but merely trying to tug at as many hearts as possible. Some people in the U.S. don’t have the experience of having a child so the ad-makers are probably trying to find other ways to reach those people emotionally. I don’t think it’s that big a deal.

    The fact that nearly half the people surveyed would rather save their dog than a human is disturbing.

  • John Born

    “Man, I have a blog post due and got nuthin… what nonissue can I spin into five paragraphs of high-handed moral outrage? Oh well, guess I’ll just watch some TV… hey cute commercial with the puppies and babi–wait a sec, maybe I can…

  • If you want to see a liberal head explode, ask that question.

    Then, show them a picture of the BLACK child they just condemned to death.

    They will be horrified, and twist themselves into a pretzel trying to avoid thinking of themselves as racist.

    LOTS of fun!