I've had a longstanding pet peeve for some time now. By "some time" I mean it began about ten seconds after I became a parent. There seems to be a complete inability in Hollywood to write a realistic father character. Nearly every "Dad" character on television is a complete idiot. They are all completely out of touch with their families. They are only motivated by sex, food, beer, sports, gadgets, or the chance to be lazy. They all manage to ignore their wife and embarrass their children. Fathers with daughters are all awkward and overprotective. But at least the daughters fare better than the sons, who either have a big idiot trying to be their pal instead of a real parent or are ignored completely. Homer Simpson was supposed to be a caricature of all the male foibles, but he has instead become the basis for nearly every male character on television or movies today.
I understand that the life of an average father would not make for an entertaining movie or television show. I'm not so naive as to believe I should be able to turn on the television and find a reflection of myself. But I do believe that I should be able to find at least one male parent character with which I can identify on at least a few minor points. Am I so unique that my actions and beliefs are completely alien to society at large?
It did not used to be so. Despite their current status as a modern-era joke, I find that the fathers made famous by Bill Cosby, Alan Thicke, and even Bob Saget to be a more realistic representation of the average father's daily life, if only slightly so.
Here are a few pointers for any budding screenwriters out there:
- A real dad can change a diaper, however foul, without having to choke back vomit.
- A real dad may be a sports fan, but he wouldn't hurt his wife's or children's feelings in order to somehow "catch the big game" (see anniversaries, school plays, dance recitals, etc.)
- A real dad can talk to his daughter about any issue (even "girl stuff") and while Mom will likely be included, she will not have to handle it alone.
- A real dad doesn't turn into a drooling idiot when presented with either an attractive woman or the possibility of actual sex.
- A real dad may make corny jokes, or embarrass their family, but it is not a fundamental building block of their entire way of thinking.
- A real dad would not completely lose it if he found his son playing with a doll, or showing off a dance move, or some other "feminine" action.
- A real dad can sit through an opera, or a ballet, or some other event he attends purely for his wife's enjoyment, without making an ass of himself.
- A real dad, when asked by his wife how she looks in an outfit, can look at his wife, assess what is right and wrong with the outfit, and give her a helpful answer without throwing a temper tantrum or clutching his collar in a nervous sweat.
Even if I were a gay man trying to raise a child, I'd still be pissed at how screenwriters portray fathers. As far as Hollywood is concerned, gay fathers turn into screeching pools of ineptitude at the slightest issue with their children. While the writers are attempting to be "forward-thinking" and "open-minded" they still manage to pander to the archaic stereotype "queer".
Commercials, though, are the worst. If I were to boycott every product that portrayed "Dad" as a lummox and source of all the family tribulation I would have to learn to live without painkillers, cleaning products, and a whole slew of household goods.
I know I'm not alone. I know there are other great dads out there that love to spend time with their families and can communicate with their wives as well as their children. I'm just saying that it would be nice to see one on TV once in awhile.