So I’m getting back into reading Throwaway Dads after a few weeks off, and I’m really starting to wrap my brain around just how bad fathers have it right now in our culture. Here’s a simple example: I looked through every children’s book that my son owns, which is quite a few.
Out of all of them, there was exactly one that featured a child who had a great relationship with his father. It was called With a Little Help from Daddy. There were a significant number of books that simply treated the father as nonexistent, like Are You my Mother? and others that had a male figure in the story that was not the father, like Henry’s Pirate Surprise (in which Henry spends the story with his grandfather, his mother is mentioned, but not his father). Then several where dad is present, but is either distant and uninvolved (Bambi), barely involved in the story (Flat Stanley), or in the best cases is present and active and a presumably good guy, but is only tangential to the actual story (The Soccer Mom from Outer Space.)
Then, i started looking at the television my son watches. Phineas and Ferb‘s dad Lawrence is alternately protrayed as a bumbling doofus or a quiet eccentric who doesn’t ever quite get it. The Rescue Bots host family’s father is authoritarian and overprotective at the beginning of every episode, usually has some sort of vague breakthrough by the end, and then starts over again the next episode — never learning despite a few seasons of getting schooled. Even The Man In The Yellow Hat is treated as a largely clueless buffoon, next to Curious George‘s monkey insightfulness.
So I have to ask: where the hell are the good dads? Even the examples that I could conjure up of ‘good dads’ when my wife and I first started this whole project turned out to be pretty bad ones. Bill Cosby spends his entire life getting one-upped by his wife and kids. All three men from Full House got owned on a regular basis. Why doesn’t America have an example of a competent male with a child?
You can find competent men. Superman, Mike Ross, Neal Caffrey, Elliot Spencer (if you don’t recognize these names, you’re watching the wrong TV shows), Sir Topham Hatt, Wreck-It Ralph, and Chuck Bartowski are all amazing guys — but the instant you add a kid to the picture, whether you have a wife or not (but it’s even worse when you add a wife), you go from this to this:
It’s so bad that after realizing just how much of our national opinion of fathers is shaped by the God-awful media they’re shown in, my wife and I both have an urge to create some sort of fatherhood advocacy group. In all likelihood, we’re just going to try to make sure that Giovanni sees more of the good-father examples. We’re looking out for books, TV shows, and movies that specifically feature fathers that are competent, mature, present, and loving.
If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments or with an email — they’re hard to find, and we’d really appreciate any ideas you have. 🙂