Family

Too Many Fathers on TV Are ‘Dumb Dads’

'We cannot overestimate the impact this constant negative bombardment has' on us and on our families, our children and our culture, notes an opinion writer about a troubling issue

Have you noticed that the world of popular entertainment seems intent on emasculating men — and fathers in particular?

Just think back to the early days of TV, when the father was the source of wisdom, of stability, of strength — when the father was honored.

Think back to shows like “Leave It to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” “My Three Sons” or “Father Knows Best.” (Yes, the fathers knew best!)

Contrast that esteemed, respected role of the husband and father with the beleaguered, mocked figure of today — a figure scorned by his children and ridiculed by his wife. This trend is real and I write about it in my new book, “Jezebel’s War with America,” in which I detail that the evil spirit of the biblical figure Jezebel — who lived 3,000 years ago — is alive and well today.

Jezebel thrived on emasculating men. If you don’t see it, read on to see what I mean.

Back in 2005, writer John Tierney published an op-ed in The New York Times titled “The Doofus Dad.” It began with this anecdote: One evening, after watching an episode of “The Simpsons” with his son, the 6-year-old asked him, “Why are dads on TV so dumb?”

Why, indeed!

Related: Husbands, Fathers, Leaders: Men Must Protect Their Families as Never Before

This prompted Tierney to ask himself where fathers have gone wrong today. He wrote: “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’). Even if Dad has a good job, like the star of ‘Home Improvement,’ at home he’s forever making messes that must be straightened out by Mom.”

Tierney also reported, “A study by the National Fatherhood Initiative found that fathers are eight times more likely than mothers to be portrayed negatively on network television.”

Does this not have a neutering effect? And note that this study is now 14 years old.

How much worse are things today?

On Feb. 27, 2013, writer Sarah Petersen observed that “if you watch TV, then you’ve most likely witnessed the portrayal of the modern-day husband and father as lazy, incompetent and stupid.” She continued, “Just these three characteristics are sure to bring to mind one commercial or sitcom that personifies this type of man.”

And what is beyond these negative caricatures of men? Courtney Kane, writing in The New York Times in 2005, said, “The portrayals began as a clever reversal of traditional gender roles in campaigns, prompted by the ire of women and feminist organizations over decades of ads using stereotyped imagery of an incompetent, bumbling housewife who needed to be told which coffee or cleanser to buy. As those images disappeared, the pendulum swung, producing campaigns portraying men in general, and husbands and fathers in particular, as objects of ridicule, pity or even scorn. Among them are ads for Bud Light, Domino’s, Hummer, T-Mobile and Verizon.”

How fascinating. This wasn’t just some random, widespread coincidence. This was quite intentional.

We cannot overestimate the impact this constant negative bombardment has on our psyches. The influence of TV is massive. Writing on July 2, 2015, for the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) website, Melissa Steward cited the research of NFI President Christopher A. Brown: “The portrayal of fathers in commercials and advertising play a huge role in how we see fathers. Studies show commercials rarely portray men as nurturers. [Christopher] Brown points out one study found ‘when fathers were included in commercials, none of them were portrayed as nurturers whereas half of mothers were portrayed as nurturers (Gentry & Harrison, 2010).”

This wasn’t just some random, widespread coincidence. This was quite intentional.

“[F]athers are still often portrayed by consumer brands as one extreme or the other,” Brown continued. “On the one side, fathers are shown as incompetent, foolish, and emotionally disconnected as parents. The double standard involves competent, wise, emotionally connected mothers who must often rescue those fathers.”

This was further confirmed on Dad Blog UK, with reference to a new BBC sitcom called “Motherland”: “The few men that appear in the show are two-dimensional. They are either camp, effeminate, stay-at-home dads or alpha-men, uninterested in family life and found on the golf course, stag weekends or team-building weekends with colleagues.”

“[The] portrayal [by ‘Motherland] of men encapsulates everything that is wrong with the media’s portrayal of modern fathers. It features none of the men who I regularly see in the playground on the school run. There are no men who work from home … no men who work four-day weeks so they can spend a day a week with the kids … [no] men who work shifts and do the school run when shift patterns permit.”

So the men in this sitcom are either feminized or hyper-masculinized — either effeminate or into stag weekends.

Jezebel must be smiling.

Michael L Brown, founder and president of AskDrBrown Ministries and president of FIRE School of Ministry, is also host of the nationally syndicated “The Line of Fire” radio broadcast. He is the author of the new book, “Jezebel’s War with America,” out on Aug. 6, 2019

The opinions expressed by contributors and/or content partners are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LifeZette.

Michael L. Brown
meet the author

Michael L. Brown, PhD, is the host of the nationally syndicated "The Line of Fire" radio broadcast. Some material in this article is excerpted and adapted from his new book, "Jezebel's War with America."

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