Let us consider a popular concept for a television sitcom. A stay-at-home father (usually an alcoholic) consistently draws the ire of children he cannot take care of and a working wife who always has to clear up the mess he made. Sounds familiar? From Fred Flinstone to Homer Simpson, and from Al Bundy to Alan Harper, the reign of the doofus dad has been supreme, only with a few exceptions to name.
While it may seem harmless to poke fun at the incompetency of reckless dads for a few cheap laughs, the portrayal of fathers on television can be seen in the larger context of our society’s understanding of their role in our families.
Modern-day father is usually seen as lazy, incompetent and dumb. How did this come to be? John Tierny wrote in his New York Times op-ed column, “Where did we fathers go wrong? We spend twice as much time with our kids as we did two decades ago, but on television we're oblivious (Jimmy Neutron), troubled (The Sopranos), deranged (Malcolm in the Middle) and generally incompetent (Everybody Loves Raymond).”
Tierney provided several reasons for this. He wrote, “The most obvious is that the television audience has splintered along gender lines, and sitcoms are now a female domain. Four out of five viewers of network sitcoms are women, and they apparently like to see Mom smarter than Dad.”
This growing feeling of alienation among fathers is not imagined. It is quantified. In a survey conducted by Dove Men + Care Campaign, 80 percent of dads said that the media failed to portray them accurately. The company responded by making the brilliant Calls for Dad commercial and stated, “It’s time to acknowledge the caring moments of fatherhood that often go overlooked.”
Thankfully, there is movement now underway to rid the media of the bumbling father stereotype. "We're not the Peter Griffin or the Homer Simpson that we're often portrayed as," said Kevin Metzger, who operates the Dadvocate blog.
There have been repeated studies saying that fathers actually do pretty well when it comes to raising children. A Pew Research study claims, “Almost all fathers who live with their children take an active role in their day-to-day lives through activities such as sharing meals, helping with homework and playing.”
So it’s now time to abolish the doltish dad stereotype once and for all. We understand that there can be no humor if there is no exaggeration of the human faults in situational comedies. However, dragging the battered down image of the "conventional" father is much too excessive. It’s finally time to stop beating the dead horse.