Stupid. Lazy. Uninvolved. Ignorant. Timid. Detached. Neurotic. Weak. Powerless. Unreliable. Ineffectual. Irresponsible.
What do all these words have in common? They are all descriptions of how men and fathers are depicted in today’s Western culture.
Television is a great example of the problem. Whether it’s Archie Bunker from All in the Family, Al Bundy from Married With Children, George Castanza from Seinfeld, Peter Griffin from Family Guy, or Homer Simpson from The Simpsons men are often portrayed as fools and inferior to not only their wives, but to their own children as well. And this isn’t even considering the latest onslaught of one-parent homes (homes absent of any father), and those normalizing homosexuality. These trends have been increasing every year and it seems to show no sign of stopping.
The problem is especially pervasive in shows geared toward children as Hollywood and the current culture is hell-bent on turning the hearts of the children away from their parents–especially their fathers.
If you still need convincing, turn on Nickelodeon or The Disney Channel and watch how men are depicted. It won’t take long for you to see what I mean. Even the commercials feed into this distortion of manhood. In so many cases all authority figures are depicted as incompetent including teachers and police officers, but none are so marginalized as fathers.
Mothers are depicted as much more capable of navigating through life than their incompetent spouses, but even they take a back seat when it comes to the kids themselves. Watch these same channels and observe how the kids are depicted. They’re the ones in control, who are running the show, making all of the important decisions, saving the world, and doing it all with zero or minimal input from their parents–especially that detached lump on the couch they call dad.
William Leith recently wrote an eye-opening piece in England’s Daily Mail in which he asked Why Do All My Son’s Books Tell Him All Men Are Useless? I highly encourage you to read the article; here are some excerpts:
“A recent academic study confirmed that men – particularly fathers – are under-represented in almost all children’s books. And when they do appear, like the fathers in Gorilla and Zoo, they are often withdrawn, or obsessed with themselves, or just utterly ineffectual.”
“Why had this never bothered me? Because it’s all around us, everywhere we look. For years, men in our stories – not just for children, but adults, too – have been losing their authority. Not just years – decades. It’s crept up on us and now it’s everywhere. Remember when movie stars were strong and decisive? That was a long time ago now: John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Errol Flynn. Then came a new, softer type – Cary Grant and James Stewart were strong, yes, but against a background of self-doubt. And then came Jack Lemmon, Dustin Hoffman, Woody Allen, Bill Murray, Kevin Spacey – neurotic, bumbling, deeply flawed anti-heroes.”
Now I’ll readily admit that there are many, many men today who refuse to grow up (they’re known as Rejuveniles), but the situation begs the question: Is our culture’s entertainment merely reflecting the problem of the modern American male, or are these men actually the product of their culture’s entertainment?
For an absolutely wonderful story in which the father is refreshingly portrayed positively, I cannot recommend enough the book A Basket of Flowers; it’s one of my favorites.