Subaru Ad: Isn’t It Great Kids Spend Their Entire Childhood In the Car?


This iazhhzfzth
, just brought to my attention though it’s a year old, is completely shocking. I don’t think an ad could be more dystopian. Parents: You will spend your children’s entire childhood chauffeuring them from the day they’re born through their teen years. Enjoy! Kids: You will spend your entire childhood with your feet never touching pavement or grass. You will be confined to a space smaller than a bathroom and delivered like cargo. Your youth will be spent sitting. Your conversations will be eavesdropped. And you will know no sight as intimately as the back of your parent’s head.

Thanks, for the memories, Subaru! – L.

The bedroom/playroom/friend's house/park/neighborhood on wheels!

Your child never has to get out until college! 

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75 Responses to Subaru Ad: Isn’t It Great Kids Spend Their Entire Childhood In the Car?

  1. Emily Morris May 28, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    She’s happy her daughter grew up in the backseat?

  2. Powers May 28, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    I think that’s the most pessimistic possible interpretation of this spot. Think about all of the outdoor activities the Subaru is shuttling her to.

  3. Dan May 28, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    You saw this ad and THAT was your interpretation of it? Good lord you are a cynical person.

  4. Lance W May 28, 2015 at 9:23 am #

    While I don’t think the ad is a sign of the end times it does literally say “the backseat is where she grew up” not really a cool idea.

  5. pentamom May 28, 2015 at 9:51 am #

    Yeah, I think that’s over-interpreting. It’s a car commercial — they’re trying to sell the idea that being in the car is a cool experience, not a necessary evil.

    I do think it’s a weird message but advertising messages are all kind of weird that way, we just don’t notice the ones that don’t strike a discord with us as much. Normal people never actually did think their marriages depended on perfectly clean shirt collars or believed that whether your toilet paper package was fun to squeeze in the store was an important aspect of your lifestyle; normal people will not think that experiencing life in the backseat of a car is all that because of this commercial.

  6. E May 28, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    It’s a car ad that features a car that has been ‘in the family’ so long that they’ve seen the kids grow from birth to teens.

    I’m looking at the Ad that’s on the sidebar of this site right now (for me anyway). It’s an ad asking me to sign a petition to the President urging him to act to prevent skin cancer by ensuring Americans have access to the latest sunscreens.

    Is that kind of fear tactic ad superior to an ad that shows a car can be reliable to a family for 10+ years?

    It’s advertising.

  7. lollipoplover May 28, 2015 at 10:18 am #

    I also immediately hated this ad.
    I guess I’m also a cynical person but the “It’s where she grew up” tagline bothered me most. I interpreted as the car culture of driving everywhere means our kids spend ridiculous amounts of time being chauffered to and from school and scheduled activities. I especially hate the part of where the kindergartner gets driven because I despise the car lines that clog up our schools every day and wish more people would take advantage of walking and biking short distances locally vs. always driving. And I want my kids to grow up in active communities not clogged by heavy car traffic.

  8. E May 28, 2015 at 10:28 am #

    If one chooses to live in the suburbs in America, it’s almost impossible to not use your car to get them to places (aside from school).

    Sure, the tag line, if taken literally, seems strange. I would venture to guess you could not watch a single evening of television and not find scads of examples of silly commercials.

    And since Mad Men just featured the 70s Coke ad “I’d like to buy the work a Coke” recently…why don’t we try to pick apart that ad in a very literal sense.

    We look back fondly on a van we had when my kids were growing up. It got us thru a LOT of soccer carpools and trips to Disney World and Soccer tournaments. We laugh about how one of the kids hit the “child lock” unknowingly and we thought the door was broken for about a year. We used the removed back bench seats as a spectator bench in our garage when the kids played hockey.

    My kids rode the bus, went camping, rode their bikes to the pool, and were passengers for a lot of the nearly 200k of miles we put on that van. My college aged kid drove it for awhile too. It went thru a LOT with us as “my kids grew up” with it. It was sort of bittersweet to watch the volunteers for a local charity (that rehabs or sells for scrap) drove off with that van when we donated it.

  9. Katie May 28, 2015 at 10:34 am #

    And then we wonder why there are so many obese children (and parents).
    And then we wonder why our kids will likely see part of the United States underwater due to global warming.
    And then we wonder why there are so many young adults who are unable to function on their own.

    And I’m so sick of Subaru pretending to be some sort of eco-friendly company when they largely sell SUVs to selfish yuppies.

    And if you live somewhere where the roads aren’t pedestrian friendly do something about it. And don’t stop until something is done about it.

  10. E May 28, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Ugh….buy the *World a Coke

  11. lollipoplover May 28, 2015 at 10:41 am #

    @E- I live in the ‘burbs and we prefer biking and walking most places vs. driving so you can’t make assumptions on driving habits. I work from home, kids bike to school, after school girls have swim practice (they bike there) and I will only have to fire up the car to get the boy to baseball tonight or he might carpool. And that’s what this commercial is about: driving habits. “Love” is not what car you choose to drive or how you sacrifice career and life to chauffer your precious cargo everywhere for 18 years (and apparently she turn into snooty teenager “What? What?!”). Driving your child everywhere doesn’t mean you love them more. I guess that’s why this is so irritating.

    I guess I’m not that sentimental about a big piece of metal.

    Also, just say this and couldn’t agree more:

  12. Jen (P.) May 28, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    I was thinking along the same lines, E . . . Out in suburbia, it’s hard to avoid spending a good deal of time shuttling kids from place to place, so the ad does resonate in a way. It’s easy to mark time by the progression of car seats, boosters, etc. I don’t care for the tag line either, but I thought it was kind of cute the way the daughter appeared in the front seat. My girls are petite, so they were banished to the back for longer than most of their friends and would often go out and climb in the front passenger seat when we were leaving the house only to be sent back again until the days when we finally relented.

  13. Donna May 28, 2015 at 10:50 am #

    Really? If this ad is all we can find to complain about, it is truly an absolutely perfect, free-range world. This ad is simply meant to show that Suburu cars last for an entire childhood, not that kids actually spend their entire childhoods confined to cars.

  14. BL May 28, 2015 at 10:52 am #

    ” Out in suburbia, it’s hard to avoid spending a good deal of time shuttling kids from place to place,”

    Once upon a time, even suburbs had sidewalks.

  15. E May 28, 2015 at 10:57 am #

    @lollipop — I’m not making any assumptions. If my kids were in ANY afterschool activities they would need to get picked up. When they were not in school, they attended a variety of camps, none within walking or bike riding distance. I work from home now as well, but when my kids were little, I commuted, and picked them up from afterschool programs or day care.

    In every suburban neighborhood my kids have lived in, there was no school w/in walking or biking distance, no organized team sports within walking or biking distance. They could ride or walk to our neighborhood pool (and they did), but that’s about it. And this would apply to the 800+ homes in my subdivision.

    Of course walking/biker friendly neighborhoods exist…Can you opt to eliminate activities that require a car?..sure. I don’t live like that. I walk when it makes sense (or I have time) and I drive when it makes sense (or I don’t have time).

    This is a car company that makes money, selling cars. It’s SHOCKING that they would compose an ad that featured…USING a car. LOL

    It must be a pretty bad ad, because while it seems obvious to me that they are talking about that the reliability and functionality of a car that lasts from birth to teens, that doesn’t seem to be the takeaway for some.

  16. Jen (P.) May 28, 2015 at 11:00 am #

    @lollipoplover – You seem a bit judgmental about suburbanites who fire up the car to get their kids to different activities. It’s great that you’re able to avoid it, but I don’t work from home; I work downtown. And my kids happen to have some diverse interests that involve being in places that are not exactly close to home, so I at this temporary point in my life I spend a fair amount of time in the car. I’d never suggest that being willing to facilitate the things my children want to do means I love them more (and I did not interpret the ad as implying that), but I am glad to be able to provide the experiences they’re having. And I’m not that sentimental about a big hunk of metal either (actually I kind of hate my minivan), but when you’ve been driving the same car for many years, it’s bound to be associated with some milestones and memories. The ad is just trying to hit those emotions. That what ads do.

  17. E May 28, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    @BL. I live in a neighborhood that was built in the late 70s/early 80s. NO sidewalks (we don’t live in city limits). Most of the roads outside our neighborhood would be very risky to walk along (2 lane roads with ditches on either side). The nearest, most developed street adjacent to our neighborhood has FINALLY gotten crosswalks and sidewalks. I use them as an adult, but I’d be a little leery if my kids were younger – merely because the crosswalks are so new after decades of none, that I don’t trust the drivers, many of who drive WAY above the 45 MPH limit. Just last week I had to stop, though I was in the crosswalk and had the right of way, because a driver on the phone did not stop for me, even though I was mid cross.

  18. Jen (P.) May 28, 2015 at 11:04 am #

    @BL – my suburban town has a lot of sidewalks and is putting in bike trails in many places. But the closest elementary school is 3.5 miles from my house. The junior high my youngest will attend next year is 5.5 miles away. Traveling by foot and bike just isn’t practical in some places.

  19. lollipoplover May 28, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    @E- I’m not seeing reliability and functionality (and yes I get that it lasted this family through her childhood) when I hear “Designed for your most precious cargo”. I guess I don’t consider my kids *precious*. They are strong and smart and not passively growing up in the back seat or front. (And if we’re going to be realistic here- where’s the shot of teenager steaming up the windows in the backseat with her boyfriend??)

    And yes I do drive them to and from places in whatever car/truck we happen to own at the time (my husband works in the car industry!). It’s just a stupid car ad. Most of them are awful, anyway.

  20. MichaelF May 28, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Amazing how the Mom was in the car to watch it all, otherwise she’d have been arrested for leaving her kids in there unsupervised.

    Overall its an ad, I read little into them. Considering I have never had a car last me half that long as the Subaru would have to in the ad if that was my kid.

  21. JP Merzetti May 28, 2015 at 11:14 am #

    I’m sharpening my big bad bigboy teeth right now. Diamond-encrusted, y’all.

    Why am I not surprised at the response, so far? We are so pickled in car culture we don’t even know it.
    Roll over Jane Jacobs, and give Henry Ford the news.
    A car by design privatises a public domain. This is why sweet little old grannies blithely give fellow drivers the finger.
    This is why kids are chauffeured around throughout their community like visiting foreign royalty. Wave at the proles, kids. Smile. Through tinted glass. Glide your Ride, Clyde.
    Kids need to get out of the bleepity-bleep cars, and we don’t know how to perform this function.
    When I was 10 years from driving age, it would have made me fractious.
    When I was 5 years from driving age, it would have made me insane.

    Y’all have no idea the life I lived as a kid…….outside of cars. Couldn’t have missed it to save a savior. Not a bloody chance.

    The necessity of a car has become the new logic. It’s rationale has become blessed like a holy communion. Flaws forgiven. I love my car, don’tcha know. It never stole no-one’s childhood. Mine, or anyone else’s. Neither did my father’s. But that was then, this is now.

    Unless junior drives off with the family wheels at the ripe old age of 10……..that is by definition NOT free-range mobility. (Or, as I prefer to name it – independent mobility.) Emphasis on independent.
    Because usually either mom or dad are always driving the damned things.
    While junior fattens up for the slaughter, trussed in the back.

    So you’re just preaching to my converted self, Lenore. (That’s James Howard Kunstler stamping and whistling just over that long horizon.) The joke’s on us…….but we don’t get the joke, as sick and perverted as it is.
    We live in places that are car-worshipful and human-deadly. Sold our sorry souls to the design.
    While madmen admen sell us the cheap dogma straight from their bleak bibles.

    “But it’s quality time with the kids.” No it is not. It is eyes on the drive supervision. Is that how my crazy kid would have become a crazy parent? No doubt.
    I’m well aware every mile I drive out there…..the world is full of parents……hammered……the long commute, the incessant pickup and dropoff. There are 2 million insane taxi and courier drivers in my little town – and 90% of them are parents. They all love their cars, too. They just hate all the other drivers. For getting in their way. For making them late. Our private little visions of hell. Hell owns a clock that keeps shaving seconds off the minute.
    Until time runs out. Time. The one precious commodity that we can’t buy.

    The problem was woven straight into the fabric of our socio-economic design. And we don’t see the pattern for all the bland body color. The bloodstream of a community riddled in bubonic automotion.
    And this is good for kids?
    This was never good for kids.

    And it’s my own childhood memories that tell me so. Blessed be that freedom.

    So I’ll just go on smilin’ at the enraged grannies’ private little savagery……and give the adman the finger.

  22. E May 28, 2015 at 11:30 am #

    @lollipop, the humans in any car ARE it’s most precious cargo. It’s a phrase. You want a safe and reliable car — who does NOT want that in a car.

    The ad quite literally says that they bought the subaru when they had their first kid…and then lists the milestones that the occurred between then and now…when the kid shows up in the front seat as a teen. I don’t know how one doesn’t draw that conclusions…I’ve owned this car for so long that we’ve been thru babyhood, first day of school, carpooling friends, and now I have a teen and I’ve STILL got my subaru.

    @JP — you can live in the middle of a huge city and be a FR parent…you can live in the burbs and be a FR parent…you can live in the middle of farm country and be a FR parent…you can live in the mountains and be a FR parent. Every place is going to have it’s own risks to evaluate against the kids level of maturity and responsibility.

    If you don’t like the suburban sprawl and car use, fine. But that’s got 0 to do with FR thinking.

  23. lollipoplover May 28, 2015 at 11:58 am #

    @Jen(P)- I try not to judge others on their transportation choices. I’ve worked in sales and have been a road warrior for most of my career and have done the daily shuttle as well. I honestly don’t care how other families get their kids places as long as they don’t endanger my kids who are pedestrians. What I see (and what my kids report) is many cars illegally parked to avoid the car line madness around schools that limit lanes for bikers and thus endanger other children. My children. That I have a problem with. If parents want to wait in long car lines at drop off and pick up around elementary schools (which I personally think is the 7th circle of hell), that’s their choice.

    @E- Yes! Humans are the *precious* cargo in cars, not just children. How can we equate the backseat as the *safest* place for children when car accidents are the leading cause of death among children? Of course I want a safe and reliable car. I also realize the best way to minimize the top risk to my children, car accidents, is to get the OUT of the car. Because I know they are capable of commuting short distances without constant adult supervision and chauffering.

  24. Donna May 28, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    There is a whole lot of judgment about people who choose to live different lives than you going on in this blog post.

    I live downtown in a small city and I still drive my child someplace most days. Like it or not, America is currently a car-based society. Even if I wanted to walk everywhere, most places outside of major cities are simply not developed to make that possible. They are developed with the idea that people have cars and don’t actually need all amenities within walking distance of every single neighborhood. If you choose to limit your child’s interests to only those things found close by, that is certainly your choice, but I see no reason to so limit my child. I like encouraging her to investigate her interests, even if that means that I have to drive across town to do it.

  25. E May 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm #

    @lollipop — this is a car company. They make money selling cars. They would like to continue to do that. Why would they buy ad time to talk about how people are safer NOT using their product? A product that *most* Americans are going to own anyway. They want to sell their product to the people who are going to buy that product from *someone*.

    I can understand this debate about child safety if we were talking about child safety in cars vs whatever else you want to debate. But this is a car ad. They aren’t saying your kid is safer in their car that in their home or on the street.

  26. Donna May 28, 2015 at 12:19 pm #

    loliipoplover – I don’t see where this ad said that children are the safest in the world when they are in the backseat of a car. And children are EXTREMELY SAFE in cars. Even if it is the leading cause of death of children (and actually that is only true over age 4), it is still EXTREMELY unlikely ANY particular child will die at all during childhood. Something is always going to be the leading cause of death. If we get rid of cars, it will simply be something else. That doesn’t mean that any of those things are something we need to stop doing or even limit doing (although I can think of several other reasons that we should limit car use).

    Sorry but I have begun to find the view that car use should be limited because it is dangerous that is so often in the comments to be tedious. Yes, there is a slightly higher risk of my child dying in a car accident than her being murdered. There is still a very minimal chance that either one of these things will happen. Focusing on one very remote risk over another very remote risk is ridiculous, whether it is cars or kidnappers. I get comparing cars to kidnappers for people who say that walking to school is just too dangerous. But that seems to have warped into a sense that cars are risky and better to be avoided.

  27. JulieC May 28, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

    Personally I am way more disgusted by the ad where the British lady asks people to wipe their butts and then “go commando”.

  28. Dee May 28, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

    I actually think this is a sweet ad. And it’s a car company. They are not going to show her playing outside, walking to school, doing all manner of independent things w/o a car in sight. They want you to buy a reliable Subaru. And while my son walks to/from school, there are plenty of places he/we have to go in a car. I’m literally terrified of biking on our streets (we’ve had several fatalities in just the past few weeks, not to mention the past few years) and our public transportation system is probably slower than walking the 5,6,7, 10 miles we’d want to go. I can remember my son in the backseat where it is safER. At 13, he sits in the front seat, and one day in the future (ugh) he will sit in the driver’s seat. It’s not a Subaru, but I can relate the message the ad was giving.

  29. WCB May 28, 2015 at 12:53 pm #

    It’s not a great reality, but it is a reality. This ad touches on a lot of issues–poor city planning, cash-strapped school districts cutting bus routes, (sorry, even Free-Range me draws the line at having my kindergartner walk 5 miles along a busy 4-lane road), cash-strapped cities cutting public transport, and increased pressure from schools for “parental involvement” and extracurricular enrollment. Add all of this to the high cost of living in a a high Walk Score area, particularly in an urban area like my own, and you have a recipe for a car-based society.

    I’m all for changing this status quo. But while it facilitates over-protective parenting, I don’t think that over-protective parenting is at the root of it.

  30. Dee May 28, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    @JulieC, I agree! That Commando ad is awful!

  31. anonymous mom May 28, 2015 at 1:07 pm #

    @Julie, that horrible “go commando” commercial came on the other night when my husband and I were trying to enjoy a dinner and TV show after we got the kids to bed. It ruined my appetite. Every single thing about it was disgusting, not the least of which was that the man in question was leaving a port-a-potty. Somebody pull those commericals, stat!

    I don’t see the Subaru ad as that bad. I think it’s emphasizing that the car will be reliable and last your kid’s entire childhood. We don’t drive much, but if my kids were involved with more things–as I’m sure they will be as they get older–we’d drive a lot more than we do. It’s pretty inevitable in most of the country. Yes, it would be lovely if there were fantastic public transportation available, but in most of the U.S., there just isn’t.

    As Donna noted, I do think it’s rhetorically useful to point out the danger that cars pose when parents are worried about extremely unlikely scenarios like stranger kidnappings or school shootings. However, it doesn’t mean that cars are dangerous; it’s still highly unlikely that a child will be injured or killed in a car. I mean, it’s useful to note that you are more likely to get struck by lightening multiple times than be in a plane crash if somebody is terrified of flying, but that doesn’t mean we are all at great risk from lightening and should stay inside.

  32. Ada May 28, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

    That’s so funny! I thought the same thing when I saw this commercial. Also the “grew up in the backseat” line? Subaru marketing understands the double entendre there, right?!?

  33. lollipoplover May 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm #

    @Donna- But what about all of the other adverse effects that come with increased car transportation- emissions and air quality concerns and resulting asthmatic children? aAd don’t forget reduced activity levels by being immobilized for large chunks of their childhood resulting in increases in obesity and diabetes in youth.
    Ozone layer erosion and climate change?

    I also get fatigued at the driving-as-the-most- dangerous-thing-we-can-do with our kids argument, especially when most of us drive every day and are perfectly safe. Yet there are implications to car culture for future generations of children and I don’t mean to get all granola-tree-hugger here, but teaching kids to walk and bike or how to take public transportation as alternatives to be driven everywhere and reducing our carbon footprint is important to me. I don’t mean to be preachy. It’s like the person who drives to the gym and circles around to get the closest spot. I guess I don’t get it.

  34. JJ May 28, 2015 at 1:22 pm #

    Regarding cars in the suburbs v city we settled in a big city thinking we’d rely less on cars. To a certain extent it turned out to be true (I don’t need a car to get to work for instance). However with our public education system in shambles, there are few families in any given block whose kids go to a local school or to the same school, public or private. In fact in most families the various kids are going to various schools. Sports and other programs are rarely local. Sometimes the bus works but not usually. And unlike the suburbs we can rarely carpool (kids on team x are each coming from different corners of the city or because the organizations in the city have paltry funding we are driving them to the suburbs). My point is, we city dwellers with big plans to downgrade our use of a car drive as much as anyone else. It sucks.

  35. That '70s Mom May 28, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

    hmmm…i actually like this commercial. I don’t think the advertisers are saying that the child spends her life in the car, but that the mom has nice memories of her daughter in the backseat. I think all of us can relate to looking in the rear view mirror at our little one’s faces…watching them grow from the bucket, to forward facing carseat, to a booster. I imagine the day I look over to the passenger’s seat and see my son, I’ll have the same flood of memories. Kind of sweet actually….

  36. SKL May 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm #

    I’ve heard of people being conceived in the backseat, and born in the backseat, and making various teen-aged discoveries in the backseat. But their whole childhood?

    I think they need to add a disclaimer that although your kid may spend her entire childhood in the backseat, there had better always be an adult in the car with her OR ELSE.

  37. SKL May 28, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    Though I must admit, my kids spent a lot of time in my car when they were 6 and 7. They could probably pick out the back of my head in any crowd.

  38. bmommyx2 May 28, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

    You are fortunate that you live somewhere with lots of alternate transportation, but this is pretty true to form for us in So. Cal. It’s worse for my youngest who spend his time in the car not only while I drive his big bro to school, but while I run errands all day. Some days I feel like I live in my car, even when both kiddos are in school. With the high cost of gas (yesterday it was $4.19 a gallon) & trying to do my part for the environment, I try to consolidate my errands so I’m not running back & forth all over town. This usually means that a day is often spent running errands one after the other no time to stop.

  39. Elizabeth S May 28, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I liked the ad. For my entire life, I’ve been lucky enough to live close enough to the places where I need to be that I could either walk or it was just a short car ride (no hauling a cello on a bicycle). Where I’ve spent 90% of my car time is on road trips to amazing places across the United States with my family and by myself. My husband was the same and actually grew up with Subaru cars as they allowed their family to drive to the spot in the Colorado mountains, from which they started their backpacking and snow camping trips (all-wheel drive required). We now have little ones of our own, and our own Subaru, as it’s the most fuel efficient 4 wheel drive we could find that fit all of us, the dog and the camping gear. Despite our youngest only being a few months old, we’ve already begun our trips across country to visit the mountains and other national parks. Next weekend we’ll be introducing her to camping. I always have fond memories of “growing up” in our cars as they remind me of all the beautiful places I have been adventuring, and all of the adventures I have yet to share with my kids.

    For my family, a car that could take us to amazing places that we could hike and explore was a needed tool for my free-range upbringing. I look forward to making as many special memories “in the car” with my own kids, as I had growing up, as we drive towards our next big exploring adventure (we do lots of local exploring too). My kids are not tied to the car, and do not live in the car. For us, the car is a tool we use to expand our world beyond the small town we live in, so that our children will appreciate the freedom of adventure we grew up with as well.

  40. Barbara May 28, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    Interesting point of view on the commercial. I find the end where the kid looks at the mom and says “what?” is actually heartwarming. I might also add, when we watch the commercial, we feel they should have included at the beginning “my kid was conceived in the backseat of my Subaru..” It just seems to be screaming for it as they talk about all the things that happened in the backseat of the car… What can I say…strange sense of humor here.

  41. anonymous mom May 28, 2015 at 4:43 pm #

    I actually have very fond memories of being in the car as a child. We would take a drive every weekend to visit one set of my grandparents or the other, and the rides were about an hour each way. Some of my earliest and fondest memories are lying down in the backseat and watching the stars through the window while my parents talked as we drove home at night.

  42. E May 28, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    My Mom would hand out song sheets to us (lots of kids) when we traveled to camping trips.

    It could be worse — they could have featured how many movies the kids can watch on their way to school, lol.

    I think it helps to apply the FR thinking — that something bad doesn’t lurk around every corner (or TV ad).

  43. JP Merzetti May 28, 2015 at 6:16 pm #


    Point taken. FR can be alive outside the drive, granted.

    But I’m well aware that 4 million of the 6 million souls in my city don’t have much of a FR choice.
    And that is entirely because of the infrastructural design of where they live.
    Historically, for the past 4-5 decades we have designed with auto-centricity in mind, and nothing else.
    By definition: kids don’t drive. Which means we left them out of the equation. Which is why they spend so much of their lives inside of cars.

    We’ve built it, applauded it, are stuck with it, and now collectively shrug our apologetic eyebrows and rationalize the choice. And refuse to consider the idea that maybe, we made a mistake? While rattling car keys.
    Politically, an urban or exurban municipality votes with its majority…….including all its suburban population. Who always support what not only feeds their needs (as it stands) but also the needs of big auto, big oil, big rubber, and big insurance. A fine economy (so they say) but the needs of kids get harder to meet.
    So we keep feeding the machine until the wheels fall off. This was smart?

    I know parents are hammered by drive-time. I hear it constantly.
    The solution to their headache cannot possibly be more hammer. One would think reasonably, the medicine might be of a softer, kinder, gentler sort.
    As to car ads? It’s not what you drive. It’s the driving itself.

    And geeze. My sorry city now surpasses LA in gridlock. How the hell did that happen?

  44. Resident Iconoclast May 28, 2015 at 8:40 pm #

    Well kids, some commenters think we’re cynical. You grew up in the back seat of that car, watching your parents get kvetched at for the childhood obesity epidemic. But they were afraid to let you out, because on your way to one of those “play dates” the U.S. surpassed the incarceration rate of North Korea. Due, no doubt, to the impusive arrest of parents for leaving children in their cars, without themselves being trapped there.

    But soon kids, your parents are going to get theirs. The next car they buy will have “software” owned by the manufacturer (like Ford’s). That’s right, your parents next car will need periodic “Windows Updates.” The good news is that you’ll be able to text your friends, through the rolling “wifi hotspot” provided by your mom’s car.

    But there’s more. The same software that monitors the engine and location of the car will make sure mom doesn’t speed. If she runs a red light, the computer will rat her out to the government, which will send her a $250 citation. The two major political parties will buy the history of the car’s stops, to figure out how best to extort mom’s vote in the next election. Her vote will gradually become less important as elections start to be run by computers, too. Perhaps Putin will choose the president someday.

    If you’re mom doesn’t tow the line, the authorities will come for her. Just like they may come for you. Of course, as a younger person, you’ve gone along more amiably with the corporate demand to provide “content” for Mark Zuckerberg’s putrid social circus. All for free of course. It’s only Kardashian who gets paid for mentioning brand names, not you. You don’t own what you write. You don’t even own your most innermost thoughts. Those thoughts, if detected, may actually be a crime.

    So have sympathy for mom, kids. The nutjob social workers at the nutjob CPS office warned her not to cross them, or else it’d be jail for her. She protected you the best she could, even though she realized she was living in an increasingly Soviet society, where your upbringing was the business of everyone but your parents.

    But don’t mention anything to the government kids. They might haul all us adults off, and if you’re connected with us they’ll label you “terrorists.” The government knows a lot about terrorism, in the same way Jimmy Swaggart knew a lot about hookers.

  45. Paul May 28, 2015 at 10:17 pm #

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Sometimes a car ad is just a car ad.

  46. Celeste May 28, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    On this one, I’m in the camp of: it’s not bad, for a car commercial. I live in the SF Valley in LA. Yeah we’re in the car alot…it’s how we get around most of the time. But the kids play and have laughs in the backseat, they often torture me with annoying noises and silly arguments and weird games; other times we have conversations, talk over the day’s events, listen to music, offer encouraging words… They also ride bikes and walk around the neighborhood. I work outside the home 50 hours a week in an office building, so I’m not my kids’ chauffeur. I don’t have time to be even if I wanted to. It’s just our reality that the car is our basic mode of transport. And kids don’t have drivers licenses, so when they’re young, they’re the passengers and see plenty of the backs of our heads. But when they’re teenagers, I buy them a bus pass and give them a transit map!

  47. Abigail May 28, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    No one is saying this isn’t basic advertising – we get it, they just want to sell cars. And I was bothered by this, it seemed like the extension from infants never leaving their infant carseats. I’m not an attachment parent AT ALL – but it bothers me to see our kids constantly buckled up.

    I live in the suburbs and still manage to restrict the amount of time my family spends in the car – yes, restrict car time.

    Marketing is extraordinarily effective at more than moving units of merchandise – there is a life imitates art element.

  48. Puzzled May 29, 2015 at 12:51 am #

    Around here, most car ads are full of the owner’s family members singing badly, so this ad is an improvement. I also don’t see much wrong with it. The car company didn’t write the zoning laws that I believe made us into a car culture; they also didn’t build the interstates. They’re doing what you’d expect them to do – taking the world as they found it and trying to make a profit. Another day.

    Maybe the obesity epidemic came about because Mad Men decided to buy the world a Coke? (Although my thoughts on that ad were always ‘just one for the whole world?’)

    For some reason, though, I find the tone of voice at the start of the ad ominous – I half expected some horrible accident.

    But, really, I think it’s a fine ad, and I don’t think it’s un free range.

  49. Katie May 29, 2015 at 6:29 am #

    The very least anyone can do, to combat the constantly-in-the-car way of life, is to bundle errands by planning ahead so you’re not running out to do one or two things all the time. You can plan to do them at one stretch and even design your route with mostly right turns!

  50. Papilio May 29, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    Yes, what was the statistic again? Half of all trips in the US are 3 miles or less, yet 90% of those are done by car.
    That tells you something went horribly wrong with the infrastructure, and those zoning laws and school districts (sending kids to another school than simply the nearest/the one on this side of the busy road) don’t help either.

    Re suburbs and walking: sometimes I think the sidewalk-less suburbs should just skip those and focus on providing safe & fast (as in, good surface and width, direct route, traffic lights quickly changing in cyclists’ favor, etc) cycling infrastructure, because of the distances.

    @JP Merzetti: Indeed, kids don’t drive, and neither do many old/disabled/poor people (not to mention people who are scared to drive or just don’t like it). A car-based infrastructure is very discriminating to all those vulnerable groups, yet most people seem to think that’s fine. Insane.

    Oh, and for the record, it IS possible to haul a cello on a bike…

  51. Papilio May 29, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    “the high cost of gas (yesterday it was $4.19 a gallon)”

    Wow – so that’s like, no taxes on gasoline at all? Maybe even subsidized?

  52. Pete Comas May 29, 2015 at 9:16 am #

    Yes. Subaru is trying to sell cars. But years ago, car companies would try to sell cars by talking about the cars — how they handle, fuel economy, safety features. Here, Subaru gives you none of that, but instead sells you memories of your child growing up — in the backseat of a car!

    How can anyone accept this message? Said her first word — in the backseat of a car? How many of the people reading this blog said their first word in the backseat of a car? How about making a best friend forever — how many beset friends did any of you make by carpooling? Yes, Subaru is selling cars — by reflecting a warped set of values back onto us. I’m not sure what saddens me more — the fact that this car ad exists, or the fact that so many FR parents see nothing wrong with it.

  53. pentamom May 29, 2015 at 10:30 am #

    Papillo — no, that’s taxed, and unsubsidized. But we drill and refine a lot of it on this continent.

  54. pentamom May 29, 2015 at 10:31 am #

    Sorry, Papilio, I have a mental block on spelling your name right. I’ll get it right one of these days.

  55. Tracie May 29, 2015 at 12:55 pm #

    I laugh every time I see this commercial and hear them say “the backseat of my Suburu is where she grew up.” I know what they’re going for, but I just can’t believe all the people involved in making the ad were okay with the fact that the juvenile among us were going to immediately think “the backseat of my Suburu is where she became a woman.” I know the growing up *I* did in the backseat of a car is not something my mom would get all nostalgic about…

  56. E May 29, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

    @Pete, perhaps people aren’t fixating on every possible negative interpretation in advertising as some subliminal message about how we choose to parents our kids? Perhaps people are mature enough to understand that this is a TV ad and advertising is just marketing.

    Should we all be concerned about that VW Ad a few Super Bowls ago? The parents allowed and misled the kid to think when he was dressed up as Darth Vader that he could make the car start by gesturing at it (and the parents clicked the key fob to start it from inside the house).

    I’ve seen this ad before, and like someone else said, I remembered it because of the look on the Mom and kid’s face when she’s in the front seat. That thought of “wow you are grown up, when did that happen”.

    If you’d have asked me ANYTHING else about the commercial, I wouldn’t have been able to recall it. Nor could I have recalled what car it was for.

    Not ever thing is an anti-FR nefarious plot. Just like every person that stops to talk to someone’s kid is a potential child abductor. Over reaction works both ways.

    If there’s a lesson (for someone who doesn’t already know it), it’s about advertising…not parenting. Good grief.

  57. Pete Comas May 29, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    @E — My complaint (and I suspect Lenore’s complaint — though I hesitate to speak for her) is that a car ad like this would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. Car companies were just as eager to sell cars back then, but they focused on the car. The fact that this message of “watch your kid grow up in the rearview mirror” speaks to so many people is what is so lamentable — that this mentality has become so normal that ad companies honor these values to sell products. I don’t blame Subaru for trying to sell cars. I do blame Subaru for playing into the “car as family time” mentality. My family took long road trips when I as a child — because there were 5 of us and airfare was expensive. But no one looked forward to it, and we all were eager to get the hell out of the car. That’s the way it should be!

  58. pentamom May 29, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Pete, I’m not sure your memory is doing its job for you on this one. Not twenty, but fifty or more years ago we were being exhorted to “see the USA in a Chevrolet.” If I applied the hermeneutic people are using for this Subaru ad to that one, I could justify throwing a fit over the idea that we’re just supposed to sit in our cars and look at the USA without ever getting out and experiencing it. But of course that wasn’t the intended takeaway, nor was that slogan an artifact of a culture that believed people should just sit in their cars and stare at things as they passed, any more than this intends to tell people they should consider their kids’ experiences in the backseat the core of their childhood, nor prove that anyone thinks that way.

    It’s an advertising tagline intended to create a perception of desirability in the experience of riding in a particular car. And it has its roots in the desire of car companies to sell cars. Any inferences about cultural messaging or cultural receptivity are confirmation bias, IMO.

  59. Pete Comas May 29, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    @Pentamom — I think there’s a difference between promoting your car as a comfortable way to travel long distances (see the USA from your Chevrolet) and promoting your car as a comfortable way to chauffeur your kid through her childhood (the backseat of my Subaru is where she grew up). One plays to our sense of adventure, the other plays to our fears. It may be obvious only to me, but reinforcing the idea that our children must necessarily be transported in an SUV to be safe is exactly the wrong message. How does the 2014 Subaru Forester handle curves? The ad doesn’t tell us. How many miles does it get per gallon? The ad doesn’t tell us that either. But Subaru *does* tell us that the Forester is “designed for our most precious cargo,” so what more do responsible parents need to consider?

  60. E May 29, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I’m just so blown away at the pearl clutching on this one. People are fixating on the tag line that the kid grew up in the back seat (and I do love the idea that it was a wink wink joke about other things done in back seats). Would you feel better if it said “she grew up and we still have that car”, because that’s the message. They STILL have the same car as when she was a baby and we loved our car.

    This ad is probably more on the nose than most ads these days. Certainly more direct than the VW ad I mentioned. Or what about the car maker that used CGI rodents driving their cars. The cadillac ad where they drive thru all sorts of crazy winding roads. The car ad where the dad drives the car in response to the kid’s remote control (because his toy wheel fell off). The ones that disguise the Mazda (I think) to make it appear as a race car?

    Aren’t we supposed to believe that people with families are smart enough to know how to raise their kids? Aren’t we supposed to be empowering parents to, in turn, empower their kids. Yet we’re so worried about being brainwashed by a commercial about a car that last’s 10+ years of a kid’s life.

    I really just do.not.get.this hyper reaction.

  61. E May 29, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    @Pete — most car commercials are marketing and not straight up fact-giving. What this has to do with FR parenting I have not a clue.

    For kicks I just asked Siri what the MPG for a Subaru was and she came up with links. I could literally find that with 1 click.

    I think Advertising has changed no matter what you are shilling and they know the public has tons of ways to find out more about their product w/o leaving their home (or maybe even the couch). Something that simply didn’t exist 30 years ago.

  62. Warren May 29, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

    This ad was great at first. Yes a lot of couples buy a new vehicle for their first child, as their single lifestyle cars may not work for people with a baby or kids. Understandable.

    The first day of school, again well within reason. Because the girl was getting out on her own, as she said goodbye to mom.

    Then they went too far. Making a BFF on a tablet in the backseat shows how insane this world has become.

    They could have possibly saved it, had their last milestone been the teenage daughter had been the driver, and not the passenger.

    It is not pearl clutching, just not liking how stupidity has become normal

  63. Warren May 29, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    Let’s face it. Vehicle Ads are some of the most on point with current trends as any other product out there.
    Subaru just decided to pick up on the helicopter mom demographic. Just as Caddilac figured out that using AC/DC to push their cars worked, because the people that grew up on AC/DC were now at the age to buy Caddy’s. So using the music we grew up on, took the old folks luxury line, and made them cool.

    Target demographics. And their is a helluvalot of helicopter moms out there.

  64. J- May 29, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    After all listing all of the other firsts, My dirty mind interprets “the back seat of my Subaru is where she grew up” very, very differently.

  65. pentamom May 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

    “They could have possibly saved it, had their last milestone been the teenage daughter had been the driver, and not the passenger.”

    But when you combine that with your point about advertising demographics, I’m not sure how wide the appeal is of keeping a car for 16 years. (I know there are many people who do, I am just saying that is probably not a big target market.) Nor do they sell as many cars as they might like, by promoting that.

  66. E May 29, 2015 at 4:46 pm #

    @Warren, there are probably 1000s of selfies taken in back seats of cars taken every few minutes. It’s a completely accurate depiction of that stage of the kid growing up.

  67. Warren May 29, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    It showed a selfie, but the mom stated it was the creating of a BFF. Big difference. A selfie is not a milestone, but getting a BFF is.

    Other manufacturers have shown handing down of the keys to the old car to the kid, and mom or dad having a the newer one.

  68. Meg May 29, 2015 at 7:54 pm #

    I love your site, Lenore, and usually agree with the way you take down our fear-based society for the way it overreacts to the normal risks of living. But on this one, I think you’re overreacting. First, it’s great that the parents kept a car that long instead of trading in their cars every year and dumping the old ones. Second, like it or not most of us live in suburbs with little public transportation, rather than walkable small towns, and if we want to go anywhere at all, we have to get out the family car and drive there. Third, there is no implication—none— that the girl spent her life in the car just because it was used to take her to various events and destinations and she happened to say her first word in it. Finally, it’s an ad and a good one. It doesn’t say buy this car to enhance your sex life or to tear up the woods or to speed down the highways. It says that a car is simply a useful item that with a modicum of care can last for many years and take our families where they need to go.

  69. Karrie May 29, 2015 at 11:33 pm #

    This is one of my favorite commercials. The car lasted through the years together. If you can’t relate to looking over one day & realizing that your child is suddenly old enough to sit in the front seat, then I guess it’s just over your head.

  70. Papilio May 30, 2015 at 6:34 pm #

    @Pentamom: Yeah, more people have trouble with the ‘L’ and the two ‘i’s (and this type of font doesn’t help) – I didn’t think of that when I chose this screen name :-/

    “we drill and refine a lot of it on this continent”
    That’s true. We do have some oil, but not as much I guess, I don’t know about the rest of Europe. Okay, that would explain why gasoline is so unbelievably cheap in the USA, from our perspective anyway. Thanks 🙂

  71. Amanda Matthews May 31, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    “Think about all of the outdoor activities the Subaru is shuttling her to.”

    Yeah, like the few seconds walking from the car to the school building.
    Outdoor activities don’t need to be “shuttled to” – a kid just has to WALK OUTSIDE.

    “And I was bothered by this, it seemed like the extension from infants never leaving their infant carseats.”

    That was my first thought actually, because in the beginning it shows the infant is clearly being carried to the car in a car seat. Even outside of the car, the baby is strapped to a car seat, rarely getting to see her parents’ faces, rarely getting skin-to-skin contact. And then we wonder why the amount of children with social disabilities and trouble looking others in the eye is on the rise.

    “I’m not sure how wide the appeal is of keeping a car for 16 years.”
    But they kept it for ~13 years in the commercial, how is 16 so different? Keep it for 16 years, give it to the kid, buy another. (Maybe buy another one within those 16 years so that mom & kid can have one while dad takes the other to work.) That’s what I expected to happen in the commercial. And honestly, that’s what I thought happened most of the time – is keeping a family car for 13 – 16 years really so outstanding?

  72. E June 1, 2015 at 9:47 am #

    @Amanda — it looks to me like the kid is toddling toward the car in a walker-type thing in the first clip. But even if it was a in a car seat…you are going to make THAT kind of leap, that the kid was in a car seat when it was 10 feet from the car? And if someone chose to strap their infant in the car seat BEFORE putting them into the car, that’s a bad thing? Isn’t it easier to fasten the baby in a car seat w/o crawling into the car too? Good grief.

    I imagine there are wide ranging opinions about how long to keep a car. Right now we own 4 and they range from 7-15 years old. 3 are 10+ years old. We know many people who do the same thing and many that do not.

  73. Amanda Matthews June 1, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    “you are going to make THAT kind of leap, that the kid was in a car seat when it was 10 feet from the car? And if someone chose to strap their infant in the car seat BEFORE putting them into the car, that’s a bad thing? Isn’t it easier to fasten the baby in a car seat w/o crawling into the car too?”

    Is it easier to fasten the baby in – yes. (To strap just 1 baby in, you don’t have to climb in a car unless your arms are abnormally short.) But it isn’t easier to carry the baby to/from the car, or around a store. The difficulty in carrying the baby around in the car seat, negates the benefit in strapping the baby in ahead of time. And yet, I see it all the time. People do it so that they can just leave the baby strapped to the seat, rather than having to actually hold them.

  74. E June 2, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    @Amanda — hahahaha. I love how you are now projecting your own preference and motivations onto complete strangers. You know that they are doing it because they DON’T want to hold/touch their baby, rather than just strap them in, you know, out of convenience. Perhaps their car seat is used in the middle seat, or perhaps they have a small car, or perhaps they have a bad back, or perhaps they don’t look at 3 minutes away from their kid as some horrific thing!

    We did this with our kids (when they were in the smaller infant car seats) because it was easier! We strapped them in and then walked outside and put them in the car. We brought the same car seat into stores or restaurants so that we’d be able to you know….use are arms and hands to grocery shop or to eat.

    FR parenting is about the ability to raise/parent/manager your kids in a way that makes sense to you. The ability to make decisions w/o other people making assumptions about those decisions.

    It’s just as obnoxious for people to call police/CPS because they assume unattended kids are not well cared for as it is for you to judge strangers who chose to use a carseat differently than you.

  75. wendy June 3, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Honestly this one did not even give me a second thought—so what.

    The ones that really make me angry are the ones about the cars with the built in Wi-Fi, encouraging people to have their kids plugged in whilst driving. How is that a good thing? God forbid anyone actually talk to their children anymore. Let’s explore, go on a family drive while the kids watch Frozen on Blue Ray—sounds like fun? NO.

    some of my best childhood memories are road trips where we played car bingo or sang songs, watched for cows and horses. etc…