I can’t count the number of television shows and commercials that either try to erase dads or make us look like bumbling idiots.
Whether it’s Dad asking Mom ridiculous questions to which she always says no, or it’s commercials that make Dad look like he can’t change a diaper, dads have somehow become a favorite punchline of American media.
I grew up in the ’70s and ’80s, when decent dads filled the airwaves. Whether it was Mike Brady, Phillip Drummond, Howard Cunningham, Steve Keaton, Jason Seavor or Cliff Huxtable, respectable dads were a staple of television.
But I can’t name a single television show on air today that features a father who can stack up against any of those dads, or who has entered our collective consciousness like the fathers of 30 years ago. It’s as though the creative minds who produce television shows and commercials are trying to erase dads.
Am I missing something? What happened?
Just look through the fall lineup, and see if one sticks out to you. Granted, I don’t know half the shows on air today, but I don’t see a single dad to whom I can relate on any of the shows I do know.
I had high hopes for Guys with Kids, but soured on it at the opening scene of the first episode when all three fathers were at a sports bar drinking beer with their infants strapped to their chest in baby carriers.
Who thinks bringing an infant to a bar is a good idea?
Fatherlessness in America
Perhaps television is merely reflecting the state of fatherlessness in America. Too many children in America live in homes without their biological father — 24 million to be precise.
Twenty. Four. Million.
That’s larger than the population of many countries. It’s 2 million more than the population of Australia, 7 million more than the population of the Netherlands, more than twice the population of Greece, and three times the population of Israel.
The result is devastating. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, children in fatherless homes are more likely to live in poverty, commit crime, become victims of abuse, and abuse drugs or alcohol themselves.
I know from my own experience growing up fatherless the important role dads play, and the void they leave when they are absent. It’s a crater no amount of mentorship can fill.
Escaping the pitfalls of fatherlessness
I consider myself lucky for not becoming a statistic of fatherlessness, but I know how close to the edge I walked.
That’s probably why I take such efforts to be active in the lives of my two children, and probably the reason I find great offensive when commercials, movies or television shows portray dads in such a bad light, or in no light at all.
I realize television often reflects society, but it can also help shape it by telling inspiring stories that encourage people to improve themselves.
Every now and then I see a glimmer of hope. Volkswagen had this fun commercial featuring Darth Vader a playful dad:
And Google has this great commercial with a dad helping his daughter through homesickness during her freshman year college:
Both are great examples of an active dad in their children’s lives, and we sure could use more of those.
do you know by any chance who owns the rights for the chalkboard drawing with the half-erased father? I’m asking because I am just about to publish a book on absent fathers in literature (unfortunately in German) and the image would fit perfectly for the cover. Apologies for bothering you with such a mundane question as a response to your interesting blog – I wasn’t able to track down the holder otherwise. I’d be grateful for your help.