Long gone are the days of Jim Anderson from “Father Knows Best,” Ward Cleaver from “Leave it to Beaver,” and even Bill Huxtable from “The Cosby Show.”
For the past twenty years or so the big father figures we’ve been given on television include Hal from “Malcomb in the Middle,” Alan Harper from “Two and a Half Men,” and Phil Dumphy from “Modern Family.”
Cartoons have been portraying dad as an idiot for a long time. Just think of Homer Simpson, Jimmy Neutron’s father, Timmy Turner’s father, heck, even Cosmo, Timmy’s fairy godfather is an idiot. In these shows it repeatedly falls to mom to come in and save the day or to stop dad from destroying the entire house or whatever situation he has created.
In cartoons where the children are well behaved or cartoons that are semi-educational, you don’t see any parents at all: Dora the Explorer, Diego, Max and Ruby, and Charlie and Lola to name a few.
In this constant media driven world that we live in it is sad to me that the modern image of today’s dad is that of a lovable bumbling idiot, a complete tool who tries too hard and usually fails, or of a complete boob who is utterly clueless. Even worse is that I see this attitude playing out in society. More and more young women are shying away from marriage, more and more moms go it alone (maybe not by choice but some do). Husband bashing is alive and well on social media, just check out someecards or rottenecards.
Still, what is the harm if a show, cartoon, or commercial shows dad as a total buffoon? Many moms were once portrayed as being silly, incompetent and disaster prone back in the day. We’ve shaken off that image but raising up the image of the modern woman did not require knocking down the image of the modern man.
I know the statistics. Many moms work outside of the home bringing in their share of finances. Women still do a greater portion of the housework and child care. Still, that doesn’t mean men today are getting off at 5:00 and heading to the bar before driving home. This isn’t Mad Men. Today men spend twice as much time with their kids than their own fathers, do more chores than ever before and chauffer kids back and forth almost as often as the stereotypical soccer mom.
My own husband coaches our boys’ baseball teams. When he comes home from work he is the one who gets in the floor with the boys to play Uno or Legos while I fix dinner. My brother-in-law is up long before the crack of dawn to take his daughter to her skating practice and then cooks an amazing dinner while my sister-in-law works late as a nurse. I see the other dads on my boys little league teams and at their Boy Scout meetings. They are there, they are hands on, and they are far from being incompetent.
Not that long ago there were shows that had great “sets” of parents: The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Little House on the Prairie, Growing Pains, and even Beverly Hills 90210. These parents weren’t perfect, they had their flaws, they butted heads with their kids, but neither the mom nor the dad was made to look like an idiot episode after episode.
Today’s TV mom is smart, strong, and got it together. I would love to see some new programs that give our kids, especially my two young and impressionable boys, positive male role models, both husbands and fathers, to look up to and to emulate one day because being a husband and a father is not a joke.