the Real Fathers On Father's Day
Would you place your child with a
bumbling fool more preoccupied with
booze, golf, than his own children?
Whether it is Homer Simpson of "The
Simpson's," Raymond Barone on
"Everybody Loves Raymond,"
Ed Bundy on "Married with Children,"
or almost any other sit-com, fathers
are portrayed as incompetent, indifferent,
ill-groomed, uncaring, stupid, and
just generally abysmal parents. In
the cartoon "The Family Guy,"
the plot outline is described as,
"A misfit Rhode Island family
experiences ridiculous events caused
by their idiotic father, Peter Griffin."
Stewie, a talking prodigy toddler
with a British accent, is openly contemptuous
of his loutish dad. In the Simpson's,
4th grader Bart Simpson refers to
his beer-guzzling father as "Homer."
In one episode Homer guffaws at a
museum cashier pointing to sign suggesting
a $4 donation at the entrance, laughing
that nobody would voluntarily make
such a donation, his mortified daughter
Lisa standing by in horrified disbelief.
In the cartoon "King of the Hill,"
the father, a red-neck Texan propane-
salesman Hank Hill, cannot bear his
son playing soccer instead of football,
or participating in a rodeo as a rodeo
clown, or being a model, because they
are not manly enough activities. Dads
after all, must have testosterone
In "Everybody Loves Raymond,"
the show's chief protagonist, Raymond
Barone, slips out of the house to
play golf to escape watching over
his kids, with his wife Debra begging
for help. When asked about the meaning
of life from his children, Raymond
is reduced to blurting seemingly apoplectic
induced nothings. During the first
season, during the title sequence,
Ray gives a speech while putting together
a playhouse for his children. Eventually,
he locks himself into the playhouse.
The message is recurring: Debra, the
competent parent, has to extricate
Ray from predicament after predicament,
and provide moral instruction when
Ray's value system (especially about
parenting) goes awry.
In "Yes Dear," two couples
with children, the Warner's and Hughes,
live nearly in same household, with
the Hughes living in the guesthouse.
Jimmy Hughes, a security guard and
Greg participate in an orgy of bad
parenting. In one episode, they talk
the wives into going to a spa, tell
the wives they will take the kids
to a park, ultimately taking the kids
to a casino. Covering the fraud, Jimmy
plots to digitally alter a videotape
of the casino visit by sending the
video to a friend. He gets caught
when his wife views him walking on
Television advertising is not much
better. In a Verizon campaign, there
is a father doing research on the
web with his daughter. When he can't
seem to understand the web, the father
is humiliated both by his daughter
and the mother. The mother tells the
father to go wash the dog, commands
him to "leave her alone,"
and then yells at him when he is slow
So much for the Jim Anderson day's
portrayed in "Father Knows Best,"
Ward Cleaver of "Leave it to
Beaver," or Cliff Huxtable in
the 1980's "Crosby Show."
Research by the University of Massachusetts
Erica Scharrer reveals what any casual
observer of television
recognizes: during the 50's and 60's
father's were portrayed as wise, caring,
and moral. Today, fathers are portrayed
by Hollywood as stupid, incompetent,
and unengaged. The trend is disturbing.
True, the writers throw in a positive
trait or two so that they are not
totally irredeemable—but the message
is clear—the mother does the real
parenting. Dad is the dolt. While
all the data shows that children benefit
from the presence of a father in their
life, these images on television foster
the stereotype of dads as incompetent
and ultimately dispensable. In one
Fannie Mae ad, a "family"
stands in front of a house of a newly
purchased house—the father conspicuously
absent. A barrage of phone calls and
e-mails by father's rights activist
put dad back in the picture. This
attitude carries itself into family
courts across the nation, if not the
world. This Fathers Day, lets remember
fathers as they really are—loving,
caring, participating, wise, and central
to our lives.
Rinaldo Del Gallo, III, Esq.
Mr. Del Gallo is an attorney who practices
in Family Law, and is spokesperson
of the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition.