June 17, 2007, - 2:00 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
Happy Father’s Day, Dad!
While most American fathers love their children and want to be involved in their lives, the Mainstream Media has spent the last week attacking them in anticipation of today, Father’s Day. The annual drumbeat against Dads is getting louder and louder in a manner you’d never hear regarding Mom.
Instead of hearing about the many dedicated, loving, concerned fathers, we hear about sperm donor fathers who sleep around and aren’t their for the kids they fathered. Or “deadbeat dads” (which I prefer to call “deadbeat parents”–there are, indeed, mothers in this group). And, for those who are in the picture, we hear about absentee fathers who spend all day at work, slaves to their job. Because, after all, their role is . . . not to be a breadwinner and put food on the table? A hard-working father is now a national villain.
I frequently site studies done by the National Fatherhood Initiative that fathers and dads portrayed on TV are largely idiots, screw-ups, losers, jerks who womanize and sleep around, and other assorted malefactors. That’s in the cases where there even is a father figure around on TV. Usually, there is not, though even in those cases, he is referred to negatively.
But now, on Thursday, USA Today informed America that America’s dads are not even good enough to measure up to Homer Simpson, and that–again–they work too hard and should be home more. Ludicrous. McNewspaper tells us that slacker dads who stay home as Mr. Moms are preferable. Puh-leeze.
Sorry, but I just can’t believe most people would rate Homer Simpson as better than their own Dad. TV really is having a negative “Defining Dad Down” effect:
Fathers in the USA are a lot less supportive and accepting than TV sitcom dads, even falling short of the low bar set by Homer Simpson, a study of college students’ views suggests.
Many young people blame constant work demands–seldom portrayed on TV–for draining their fathers’ energy and time from parenting, says Janice Kelly, a communications researcher at Marymount Manhattan College in New York.
She showed episodes from eight comedies to 108 college students. The programs were as diverse as The George Lopez Show, The Simpsons, My Wife and Kids and Everyone Loves Raymond. She asked the students to rate TV fathers and their own on such qualities as support, guidance, acceptance of other family members and oppositional behavior (for example, ridiculing children). On every measure, TV fathers were rated significantly better than the students’ own dads.
Comments invited during the study were revealing, Kelly says. One young person wrote: “My father works two jobs to support the family. I don’t get to see him when he comes home, he’s tired.” Children from white-collar families portrayed their fathers as tethered to BlackBerrys and e-mail, fearful of losing their jobs. “One girl said: ‘So that’s why he makes pancakes on the weekend. He feels guilty,’ ” Kelly says.
These are bad Dads?! Sounds like they gave birth to a bunch of very spoiled, unappreciative brats. Me, me, me. If kids complained about their mothers being tethered to Blackberrys or working too much, the media would call them sexist and misogynist.
Everyone knows TV isn’t life, “but still, the real dad is being judged poorly compared to these television daddies,” says Glenn Good, an expert in the psychology of men at the University of Missouri. “There’s a lot of research showing these programs can create norms of what’s right.”
Many fathers see holding on to jobs as key to good parenting of their kids, he adds, but it’s a challenging economic time. Men’s real income from all sources fell from 2000 to 2005, according to U.S. government figures.
Several studies confirm that fathers are spending more time than ever on child care, says Vincent DiCaro of the non-profit National Fatherhood Initiative. It’s unknown whether Gen X and Y fathers–born between 1965 and 1994–will be seen as more nurturing than baby-boom fathers, DiCaro says. There’s very little research on the parenting of earlier generations of men, he says.
Sounds like Dads are being rated on whether they are good mothers, not good fathers. It used to be a father was a good father if he provided for his family. Now, that doesn’t count. Instead, he’s rated on nurturing?! Al-Qaeda is laughing at our girlie-man nation’s mentality.
Kelly says TV writers should show more of this true-life work/family conflict.
But that won’t happen, says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “Working families are having a hard enough time balancing child care and jobs. Do you want to sit down and watch this at night? Most people would run away screaming.”
To the contrary, Thompson says, family sitcoms already “are on life support,” fast disappearing, because stressed-out viewers crave “anesthesia” in over-the-top “reality” and other escapist shows.
“It’s disturbing to think that kids might judge their dad as worse than Homer Simpson,” he says. “Ward Cleaver was one thing–nobody could measure up–but sitcom dads today are flawed at best.”
(Agreed on Homer. But speak for yourself on Mr. Cleaver. My Dad does measure of to Cleaver and surpasses him in every way.)
In a TV.com poll, Mr. Bennett of “Heroes,” Homer Simpson, Tony Soprano, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy,” and Commander Adama of “Battlestar Galactica” were the TV dads 6,800 voters chose as those they wish were their dads.
This is just as disturbing. Do you really want Homer Simpson, Tony Soprano, or Peter Griffin as your dad? Are you really that dissatisfied with your own father? Oy. Is this really where we are at in America, today?
Fathers are under attack, not only from the Mainstream Media, but our legal system and laws. According to divorce attorney Dennis Vatsis, in over 70% of divorce cases in Michigan, for example, a father does not get physical custody of his children. When you add in cases where the father does not get any form of custody (such as joint custody), the cases exceed 90%, where the mother has custody, not the father.
The laws are skewed against fathers. We should not wonder why psycho-liberal Alec Baldwin attained a new level of crazy in a voice-mail to his young daughter. There are so many cases like it, in which mothers who have custody of their children turn them against their fathers forever. We should not condemn the frustration of fathers who are fed up with being shut out.
On a happier note, this Father’s Day, I salute my Dad, a devoted, mainstream American Dad who served his country and loves his family. My dad taught me so many things in my life and has always been there for me. My father gave me love, education, sage wisdom and advice, and moral support. I am so fortunate and appreciative. Most important, my father taught me to have the courage of my convictions and to passionately fight for them above financial gain.
The Greek Philosopher, Epicurus, said, “Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest by far is friendship.” Thanks for being my greatest friend, Dad, and Happy Father’s Day! I’m lucky to have you, and I hope there are many more Father’s Days with you.
I love you very much.
Let’s also not forget that there are hundreds of thousands of American Dads who are not in their children’s lives at the moment, not by choice, but because they are busy sacrificing and fighting for our country overseas. Many of them try to stay in their kids lives–many of whom were born while they’ve been away and have yet to see them–over the phone, e-mail, etc. Let’s recognize them and their important contributions on this Father’s day.
Tags: Adama, al-Qaeda, Alec Baldwin, America, Battlestar Galactica, Bennett, Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, Commander, communications researcher, Debbie Schlussel Happy, Defining Dad, Defining Dad Down, Dennis Vatsis, director, divorce attorney, energy, Family Guy, Father's Day, food, Glenn Good, Heroes, Homer Simpson, Janice Kelly, Manhattan College in New York, Michigan, Missouri, New York, Peter Griffin, Robert Thompson, Syracuse University, Tony Soprano, Touching Letter, Trevor Romain, U.S. government, United States, University of Missouri, USA Today, Vincent DiCaro, Ward Cleaver