It’s a rewarding thing after three years of being a daddy blogger, to see examples in the media of those who get it:
Dads don’t appreciate being represented as idiots who need to learn to behave and be better role models for their children.
Sadly, though, there are still media outlets trying to capitalize on the “Al Bundy” version of dad, in what I assume is a desperate (and subliminal) attempt to relate to the females viewers, who traditionally have more buying power than men.
Last night after Mommy and I put you to bed, we vegged out to ABC’s 20/20. At the end of the episode, there was a segment called “D Is For Dad And Dumb.”
In a generic disclaimer, the segment ended with the narrator proclaiming this: “Now we should say not all of the caught-on-tape moments involving dads are negative. Let’s wrap up with this thing up with clip from a father letting it all go. He’s become known as the “dancing dad” on the internet…”.
That’s right. Not all dads do bad things. Because the rest of us are just plain goofy, evidently. Dads either can’t be trusted or we’re simply clowns.
Let me remind you again of the name of the segment: ”D Is For Dad And Dumb.”
Nothing subtle about that. Unsurprisingly, here’s the closing line of the segment:
“So [the] bottom-line message to dads on this father’s day seems to be, don’t be an idiot. Don’t be an idiot, think about what you’re doing…”.
Okay, the question is this: Am I personally offended by 20/20′s “D Is For Dad And Dumb” segment?
I’m not angry, but I am disappointed. (Classic dad line.)
If I were to mention on Facebook that I oppose gay marriage, which I don’t, I would most likely be called a bigot within 20 seconds. However, it’s acceptable in media for good dads to be lumped in with the worst examples of fathers and no one raises a fuss.
I doubt anyone from ABC is reading this, but here is what I propose: Do a segment on 20/20 about how dads are tired of being portrayed as classic idiots. Show that the modern dad is very involved, caring, and is a proper role model.
Interview me. Let me explain it on national TV how a normal dad feels about the way I am stereotyped. It could be a segment called “D is For Dad and Dignified.”
If not, I’ll stick with the satisfaction of knowing my son and my wife think I’m a good dad; no disclaimers required.
For the past couple of years now, I have consistently published my own recaps of The Bachelor, drawing in tens of thousands of views on my personal blog site, NickShell.com.
It made me laugh that I could make 300 people a day stumble upon my site when they Googled “Is Ali Fedotowsky Jewish?” Not only blogging about the show, but watching it every Monday night with my wife, had become a fun tradition.
This week, the new Bachelor season premiered featuring Ben Flajnik, the Slovak-Italian-German-English (but not Jewish) winemaker from California.
But the magic just wasn’t there for me anymore. Unlike previous seasons, it felt like the main focus was just on how ridiculous (and pathetic) the contestants could appear to be. It was like the show had merged with its sleazy cousin, Bachelor Pad, and all those trashy reality dating shows on VH1.
I guess I’m becoming more morally convicted about contributing to the exploitation of other people; even if they don’t realize or don’t care that the world is laughing at them, not with them.
A switch has flipped in my head. Is it because The Bachelor has (just now?) finally jumped the shark?
Not actually. My sudden disgust in The Bachelor got me thinking deeper. I realized that the underlying issue here is that I’m starved for redeeming value, not only in entertainment, but in real life.
I started thinking about the TV shows my wife and I have plowed through this past year on Netlflix. (We don’t have cable. We watched this week’s Bachelor episode online.)
They included Big Love, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. In my opinion, all three are very well-written, well-directed, fresh, original, and premium quality entertainment. But just yesterday I realized something they all three have in common:
The protagonist cheats on his wife, she cheats on him, or they cheat on each other.
It made me start thinking about all the good songs we love to sing along to which are about someone getting cheated on. Yeah, good songs like “White Liar” by Miranda Lambert or “You Lie” by The Band Perry. In every genre of music, it’s common for enjoyable songs to be about infidelity.
I may sound like a Republican grandma from the Eighties, but I’m really tired of all this negativity in pop culture; especially when it comes to the way marriage is portrayed.
The truth is, I’m struggling right now to think of a good modern TV series that features a happily married couple who aren’t constantly (even though comically) cutting each other down. I miss Jason and Maggie Seaver from Growing Pains.
Here on The Dadabase, I have written several times about how dads are negatively portrayed on TV. But I failed to focus also on how negatively marriage is portrayed, as well. That’s just as big of a deal.
I miss the cheesy “musical moral moments” at the end of Miller-Boyett sitcoms like Full House, Family Matters, Step By Step, and Perfect Strangers where I was always fed a bite-size life lesson, teaching me to care more about others than myself.
Starting now, I am going to be deliberately seeking out entertainment (and real-life ventures) that have a high redeeming quality.
As part of her Christmas present to me, my wife agreed to watch the first season of Lost with me. She’s never seen it, but I’ve seen every episode.
Lost is the kind of thing I mean when I say “redeeming quality.” I love to see the moral struggles of the characters as they try to forgive others and themselves for the wrongs they have committed in their lives. I love that they ultimately become accountable for their actions.
I love to see a story actually go somewhere. I love to see people redeemed, not exploited.
As a husband and dad, it’s important to me that I am inspiring and engaging to my wife and son. So I have adopted an assumed business model to do just that: to be not only hardworking and consistent, but also creative.
A lot of people in this world are hard working and consistent, but many of them lack that third element of the trifecta: creativity. A man can work hard and consistent his whole life but never really break a certain point in his career because of a lack of it.
Hard work and consistency are what keep the conveyer belts going. But being creative is what puts new products on that conveyor belt, maybe even replacing the conveyor belt itself with something better.
New ideas are what advance the world; new ideas are born out of creativity.
So how does this business model of the “creativity, hard work, consistency” trifecta have anything to do with marriage and parenting? For me, a whole lot.
As a husband, it’s important that I take the initiative to think of fresh ideas to make my wife feel special and loved. And as a dad, I’ve learned the necessity of inventing all kinds of weird voices and games to entertain my son in an effort to keep him engaged, or at least distracted when he’s being really clingy with my wife while she’s trying to get dinner cooked.
This week I happen to be reading the book Parenting with Fire, by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who explains the importance of creativity in his family:
“The answer is for us to start thinking of ourselves as camp counselors, and our homes as bunks, and for us to fill family free time with activities that captivate and entertain all its members.”
Ultimately, I think as a parent it can be easy to find myself in a mindset where I am so focused on figuring out how to be a “normal” parent, that I forget part of being normal is being weird; in other words, being creative.
Speaking of inspiring, engaging, and entertaining, it’s time for the 2011…
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While it is a bummer that the classic American father has become a bit of myth these days in popular culture, I can serve as a representative in “dad from day one” as one myself.
I would like to begin with the discernment of a female comedian named Sarah Haskins; I highly recommend watching this humorous 3 minute video clip regarding the following quote of hers:
“Single men in commercials look good, drive fast, and drink beer. Then they meet women, get married, and become good-for-nothing doofy husbands. And what happens if the husband tried to plant his feet and not get bullied in real life? Divorced, money split, wife takes the kids, forever in debt.”
It’s strange how I never gave it too much thought before: How so many commercials and sitcoms really do revolve around a funny yet overweight and slightly incompetent man who happened to score a thin and hot wife who overlooks his bumbling and pathetic behavior. From Kevin James to to Homer Simpson. (Of course, I fully realize the annoying irony of the fact that it is mainly men who are writing those commercials and sitcoms.)
Yes, they makes us laugh. But in some subconscious ways, these stereotypes of men also take power (and more obviously, respect) away from men, in general. Does anyone really care whether or not men are portrayed positively in sitcoms and commercials? Or are we just content to just ignore the occasional facebook status hype that “all men are jerks”, or best, the subliminal message that men are jokes?
As a man with solid moral principles and a backbone, I know the truth: Good men still exist. We’re embarrassed by the worst examples of men; the ones who make the most noise and the most messes. The truth is, being a good man is everything to me. I live for being a good husband and a good father. It’s crucial that I earn respect from those who know me.
Fortunately, my obsession of being respected as a father and husband isn’t simply my own personal quirk. I was so relieved and encouraged when I read the book For Women Only. Here’s an insightful quote from female author Shaunti Feldhahn, explaining a major difference in the wiring of men and women:
“Notice that one of the main biblical passages on marriage- in Ephesians 5- never tells the wife to love her husband, and it never tells the husband to respect his wife (presumably because we each already tend to give what we want to receive). Instead, over and over, it urges the husband to love his wife and urges the wife to respect her husband and his leadership. Women often tend to want to control things, which, unfortunately, men tend to interpret as disrespect and distrust (which, if we’re honest with ourselves, it sometimes is).”
Shortly after getting married, I read both that book and its counterpart, For Men Only. Thank God for those books! Marriage makes so much more sense after learning the unspoken things that men and women assume the other already knows on a daily basis. But if I had to pin it down to one major thing I learned from reading them, it was that men want to be respected by their wives and that women want to feel loved by their husbands. And more importantly, these books clearly explain to a man how to successfully express his love to his wife and they explain to a woman how to successfully express respect to her husband.
By going against so many of the negative stereotypes about men, I can truly show my wife and son that I love them. I can’t express the value of the reward of feeling like a respected husband and father. So I think if a man proves himself to be respected by people, then people should respect him enough to tell him they noticed his “goodness”, in some way. There’s not a whole lot of that happening these days.
So I do. I take the time to tell good men that they are good. Even coming from me, another guy, I know it means something. Because subconsciously, though we men would never admit it, we appreciate being noticed for being the good men of this world.
I embark on a mission each new day to be the best good man I can be. And I know that the little things are the big things: Helping take care of my 3 month old son in every way I can, not leaving all or most of it on my wife, is a daily staple for me in my effort to be a good man. I don’t want my wife to be able to joke with her friends about my shortcomings or shortcuts as a dad and husband. Instead, I live to give her every reason not to ever be tempted to do that, even for an innocent laugh. And despite my constant strive and desire to be funny, when it comes to being a good father and husband, I want to be taken seriously. It’s not a joking matter.
Admittedly, my skills regarding home repairs and car maintenance are lacking- big time. But I know that being able to fix a car or a garbage disposal doesn’t ultimately prove my manhood. Being an active, supportive, responsible father and husband does. Man was created in God’s image. Not Charlie Sheen’s. Not Archie Bunker’s. Not Peter Griffin’s.
Recruiting the help of my facebook friends, I tried to come up with an example of a popular American father on TV, who is recent (in new episodes since 2004) and not a widow, a martyr, a robot, or an alien. Turns out, there was no real, obvious winner. So instead of naming who the modern day Ward Cleaver is in the title of this entry, all I could do was just generically say “the modern day Ward Cleaver”. And while it is sad that the classic American father has become a bit of myth in popular culture, I can do my part outside of my home life:
By writing “dad from day one”. I can continue making a positive presence in the gorilla marketed world of “baby blogging”. So it may not be as big as TV, but I still count this blog as contributing to the entertainment industry. Not that I am THE classic American father, but that I am simply a clearly communicating representative of us all. It may be nearly impossible to think of a respectable TV dad these days, but I know so many in real life- and that’s what actually matters.
If the respectable American father won’t show up on TV, he can more importantly show up in the real world.
Just to show you an example of the way it has become normal to stop taking men seriously, check out my challenge below.
Give me an example of a popular and current father/husband on TV who is respected and loved by his family and is NOT known for constantly making comical messes- especially when it comes to goofing up home repairs or misbehaving in social outings. *Bonus points if the guy is not shlubby and overweight yet married to a thin wife who is smart-witted, as to humorously contrast the father/husband’s character.
Examples of who I AM NOT looking for:
Fred Flintstone, Homer Simpson, Peter Griffin of “Family Guy”, Kevin James of “King of Queens”, and Jim Belushi of “According to Jim”.
Remember, I’m looking for a current example, so Ward Cleaver from “Leave It to Beaver” or Mike Brady of “The Brady Bunch” would be disqualified. I will define “current” as “since 2004″, which is the year Friends went off the air and Lost began.
Also, he has to be a popular character on a decently cool and relevant show. No ABC Family or Hallmark stuff.
He must be intelligent as well as faithful to his family, but he can’t be nerdy either. So Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” won’t work. Also, he can’t be a widow who is overcoming his wife’s death. He has to be currently married to his wife on the show, giving an ongoing example of what a good husband and father is.
And… he can’t be killed off the show or marginalized in any way. He has to be a solid, consistent character.
He is not perfect; he does make mistakes. Therefore he is a real man and human being; he is not an alien or a robot.
The winning example will be published in the upcoming “dad from day one” post (possibly as part of the title itself) for thousands to see.
Answer the question: “Who is the modern Ward Cleaver?”
Impress me, friends. Because in all my creativity the only example I can come up with is Adam Braverman on the series Parenthood.
Don’t ask me how, but all week my wife and I have had the theme song to the ‘80’s sitcom Mr. Belvedere stuck in our heads. In the mindset of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em”, we downloaded the song as our ringtones for when we call each other. That has caused me to revisit some of my most favorite theme songs from these sitcoms that served as the backdrop of my childhood. A very interesting trait that many of these TV shows had in common with each other (and accordingly, the lyrics to their theme songs) is that premise was that an outsider moved into the household, therefore throwing normalcy out of whack. Which totally relates to what’s going through my head right now about our upcoming new addition, a baby boy. (In order to qualify, the sitcom had to actually start in the 1980′s; Diff’rent Strokes, Mork and Mindy, and The Facts of Life don’t qualify since since they premiered in the ’70′s.)
For example, here’s a sitcom that had it all, yet could have only existed in the 1980’s: An all-American family, laugh tracks, and an Alien puppet. Of course, I’m referring to Alf. While the song had no words (instead it sounded like what would happen if you pressed the “demo” button on a $200 Casio keyboard in 1988), the thought of a little creature running around the floor chasing cats loosely translates having a baby boy. For Family Matters, the intended outsider was Estelle Winslow who moved in with her son Carl’s family, though unexpectedly the true outsider instead became Steve Urkle (intended only as a guest star) instead a few episodes into the first season.
In Mr. Belvedere, a British butler moves in with an American family living in Philadelphia: “Sometimes things get turned around and no one’s spared… There’s a change in the status quo. Preparing for our new arrival. We might just live the good life yet…”
Another prime example is from one of my favorite sitcoms ever, which happens to have my favorite TV show theme song ever. In Perfect Strangers, city slicker Larry Appleton is thrown for a curve when his distant cousin Balki moves from his mysterious Mediterranean village to live with Larry in Chicago: “Sometimes the world looks perfect- nothing to rearrange. Sometimes you just get a feeling that you need some kind of change…”
In Full House, it was Joey and Uncle Jesse who mixed things up by moving in with the Tanner family: “What ever happened to predictability?”
There was CBS’s version of Diff’rent Strokes: Webster. As a kid, I actually liked Webster more than Arnold: “Til there was you…”
The next two sitcoms both premiered in 1984 and featured an Italian-American who moved into the household as a “manny”. Who’s the Boss? contains my 2nd favorite theme song ever and often caused me to believe that Tony Danza was my uncle: “You might awaken to a brand new life around the bend…”
Even though I never watched it, I know it was a big deal to a lot of people- Charles in Charge: “New boy in the neighborhood…”
You’re welcome… for being led into a world of nostalgia. It’s pretty much a fact that you’ll be struggling to get one of those songs out of your head for the rest of the day. So being such a sentimental guy as I am, I’ve been thinking about the current events that are going on right now. That way I can tell Jack what was going on around the time he was born:
Interestingly, on November 5th, the movie Due Date hit theatres. Daylight Savings was two days later; meaning that when it’s that time again to set back the clocks every year, it will almost be time for Jack’s birthday. Conan O’Brien’s new show premiered this week (November 8th) and sure enough on last night’s episode during the monologue Conan pointed out that it was exactly nine months ago that his gig at The Tonight Show ended; so if because two people felt sad for Conan losing his job they decided to “get frisky” to be happy again, their child would be born this week. Good call.
It will also be pretty neat that I will be able to show Jack the November 2010 issue of American Baby, in which in his birth was anticipated. He is not making his debut unannounced; that’s for sure. Today, November 11th, is not only Jack’s due date but it’s also my dad’s birthday, whose name is also Jack. So even though he won’t have the same exact birthday as my dad, their birthdays will always be close.
Of all the pregnancy advice I’ve been given, the one thing no one warned me about is this: For first time moms, it’s normal and expected to not delivery until a full week after the due date. So if you or your wife are approaching your due date, don’t do like I did and get all psyched, thinking the water is going to break at any moment. Because then everyone is constantly asking for and expecting baby news, but sure enough, the baby is unaware of his due date. He’s coming out when he’s good and ready.
I have to remind myself that my baby is not a Hot Pocket, with an exact predetermined time of two minutes in the microwave. In fact, that would be pretty weird if he truly was born right near the due date. We went to the doctor today. Thank God, Baby Jack has still got a strong heartbeat and is in a good position. He’s turned the correct way and everything. But as far as when he gets here, I’m sure it will be the moment that I (and everyone else) least expects it. He’s a sneaky little guy.
All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography: