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Mon Jun 30, 2014, 08:44 AM

Dads on Sitcoms


On television shows, dads have been portrayed as incompetent dolts reflecting and encouraging a damaging attitude towards men and childcare.

ASPEN — As a new dad, I've often been struck with horror at dads I see on TV. On the small screen, dads are dolts, dads are idiots.

And while it may seem harmless to get a few cheap laughs at dads' expense, these characters, and their hilarious incompetence, form the culture backdrop for our society's larger discussion about the roles fathers play in families. The path from Homer Simpson ringing Bart Simpson's neck—his main parental action—to our country's miserable paternity leave rules might be more direct than we think.

"[On TV] if there is a dad in the home, he is an idiot. It must have reflected our own discomfort with dads being competent," said Hanna Rosin on a panel about the future of fatherhood at the Aspen Ideas Festival. "You put a dad in front of his kid, and the dad gives the worst advice. You put a dad in front of a toaster and he burns the house down."

There are a few exceptions to the rule, of course. Most notably Bill Cosby in The Cosby Show. And Rosin is hopeful that things are changing. She's been tracking the role of dads in sitcoms since she wrote a story for Slate about the topic a couple of years ago.

"The network collective subconscious seems to be picking up new cultural signals about fatherhood," Rosin wrote. "The number of stay-at-home dads is still tiny, but the rules of fatherhood have changed a lot since the Honeymooners days. The father who comes home to pat his kid on the head and then sits down to read the newspaper is now an anomaly. Consequently, jokes about dads who can’t figure out the diaper fall flat."

I'm not a dad, but I would hate for society, especially wives and kids, and even men, to quietly believe a stereotype that dads are incompetent. It lowers the bar and sets up terrible expectations of failure that can easily manifest into reality.

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Reply Dads on Sitcoms (Original post)
IronLionZion Jun 2014 OP
lumberjack_jeff Jun 2014 #1

Response to IronLionZion (Original post)

Mon Jun 30, 2014, 10:54 AM

1. Worse, it's self-fulfilling.


It's a lot of cultural (and parental) programming for a young man to reject when he becomes a dad himself.

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