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The media’s view of the American Dad, real and ideal

Posted by Chance on November 14, 2007

Who says you can’t learn anything from Hollywood?

Watching TV and movies we see a portrayal of the average dad. This may provide insight into how many dads are viewed and/or what makes the ideal father.

In most TV shows the husband/dad is portrayed as a bumbling idiot. Look at King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond, and The Simpsons. The dad is usually incompetent and inconsiderate of his wife’s feelings. He is always the one that screws everything up. That is just how it is.

It seems to be different in the movies, however, and perhaps that is because of the style of storytelling that tends to work towards a resolution, both in events and character; whereas a TV show things tend to stay the same. At the beginning, the dad is someone to tied up into his work, ignores his family, and tends to pursue money as opposed to higher ideals. Let’s look at the movies RV and the modern version of The Shaggy Dog.

In RV, the dad is having problems with his job, and he isn’t exactly commanding respect from his kids. He finally faces a dilemma near the end of the movie, in which he has a choice of commercial success or staying true to his values.

In The Shaggy Dog, the dad is similar, but more extreme. He is pursuing success in his job, but all the while somewhat neglecting his wife, and he is not involved in his son and daughter’s lives whatsoever. The son is pretending to play football to make his dad happy, while secretly practicing for a play. The dad, Tim Allen’s character, is at odds with his daughter concerning a clash of values. When the dad transforms into a dog, however, he gets a sneak peek into his children’s lives. He transforms from a workaholic dad to a great family man who shares the values of his daughter.

I think in movies and TV we may get a glimpse of the American Dad archetype (I suppose this could be any dad, but I really just watch American TV and movies). (I hope archetype is the right word, correct me if not) In the movies, he is a workaholic father and may only be involved in the children’s lives to the extent that he urges them to get good grades or, in the case of a son, be a man’s man and play football or the like. His primary concern is his career, and the family is really secondary.

Interestingly enough, the TV representation in some sense, is the opposite. Instead of being ambitious and successful, he has little motivation at all. We don’t see this so much in the Raymond character, but in King of Queens, The Simpsons. But the attitude towards the family is still not overwhelmingly positive. It is primarily one of indifference, although not the degree of neglect seen in the movies.

These are just observations I’ve made. In TV, there’s not really much redemption concerning the father character; the father character is not motivated to be an active father, and he realizes that, and he accepts that, and the family accepts that. Movies are more positive, however, we see how some fathers are, but we also get a glimpse of how fathers should be. Men need to take note of these characters. Society wants fathers that are not tied up in their job, who love their wives, who are involved in their children’s lives beyond the disciplinarian role, and who shares values that aren’t compromised by the outside world. I think God wants the same thing. I would add this though. At the same time, I believe the wife/mother has a responsibility to ensure that the dad is still respected, even if he is not perfect. But the overall message is clear; be there for your family, don’t just be the breadwinner.

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3 Responses to “The media’s view of the American Dad, real and ideal”

  1. Neil said

    Good observations, Chance. I just got back from teaching a fatherhood class at CareNet Pregnancy Center. Challenging guys to a Biblical model of manhood in the face of their experiences and the media creations is vital.

    On a lighter note, my 14 yr. old always encourages me to be more like Homer Simpson. I think she wants me to do stupid things to be more entertaining.

  2. […] In many Disney movies or any cartoons today the focus is different. The parent or parents are the ones going threw some growing and learning life lessons. It is hard to see a movie or TV show where the children are not smarter than the parents. Finding Nemo moral concerns primarily the father fish learning to not be overprotective of his son. (To be fair, my wife pointed out that it was Nemo’s disobedience that caused him to get in trouble). In the Shaggy Dog and The Haunted Mansion we are repeatedly beaten over the head with the father character who is too wrapped up in his work to pay attention to his kids. (I talk more about the father character portrayed in media here). […]

  3. […] blog post I had about the same issue – portroyal of dads in TV and […]

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