Pop culture isn't very nice to all us pops

June 16, 2005|By KEVIN COWHERD

OK, THIS one's for all you dads out there.

This one's for all my brothers in the fraternity of fatherhood, the quiet heroes who do a great job raising their kids and serving as role models - and still get whacked over the head by society, at least metaphorically, all the time.

Boy, even with Father's Day approaching, they sure don't make it easy for dads, do they?

I'm talking here about the stereotype of the clueless, bumbling dad that seems a permanent fixture in advertising and popular entertainment these days.

Oh, you dads know what I'm talking about.

Let's take TV commercials, OK?

Short of showing dads in prison jumpsuits doing hard time, is there any way they can be depicted in a less flattering light than they're shown in commercials?

In recent months, for instance, we've seen the dad who's clueless about why his daughters want a Verizon cellphone. (It's not to stay connected to Mom and Dad, duh.)

We've seen the dad who goes Chernobyl taking care of the baby while the mom's out shopping at JC Penney.

We've seen the big dopey dad in the Dodge truck commercials fixated on teaching his toddler to say "Hemi."

Whew.

It's a wonder these guys ever made it out of the primordial ooze, they're so un-evolved.

This is how bad it's gotten: now even dads-to-be are portrayed as dopes.

Have you seen the new Domino's Pizza spot?

The one where the guy and his pregnant wife are waiting at the curb for their cheeseburger pizza, because the dad-to-be is flipping out with sympathy hunger pangs?

So the pizza arrives and the guy scarfs down a slice while hustling inside, presumably to devour the whole thing himself with a six-pack of beer while belching loudly and watching the ballgame.

Hoo, boy. Yep, there's a candidate for Father of the Year in the near future.

Then there are the TV shows themselves, where the average dad appears to have the IQ of a salamander and is unwilling to even lift his legs so the vacuum cleaner can slide under, nevermind change a diaper.

Shows like The Simpsons - sure, it's still hysterical, but I'm trying to make a point here - as well as Everybody Loves Raymond and Family Guy continue to portray dads as inveterate idiots who shouldn't really be allowed to procreate.

In fact, in terms of brainpower, Peter Griffin, the dad on Family Guy, makes Homer Simpson look like Galileo.

And what's the deal with Raymond?

He's a dunce as a dad because his dad is a dunce, is that it?

It's some kind of horrible genetic flaw handed down through the generations, rendering the males in the Barone family capable of screwing up toast and incapable of making the right decision no matter how obvious it is?

Hollywood keeps beating up on dads, too, of course. Which is nothing new.

In fact, the out-to-lunch dad has become a big-screen staple, a sure-fire laugh-getter no matter the dad's ethnic origin or sexual inclination.

The latest example of this phenomenon is Meet the Fockers, where one dad (Robert De Niro) is dictatorial, uptight and paranoid while the other dad (Dustin Hoffman) is a vacuous, babbling throwback to the If-It-Feels-Good, Do-It '60s.

Whew.

How'd you like to ask one of those guys for help with your homework?

In fact, if you were a kid with a dad like that, you'd want to pack your bags and get to an orphanage, wouldn't you?

It's a wonder either of those two men could talk a woman into marrying them, never mind start a family.

There must have been a lot of cocktails involved, I'll tell you that.

A lot of cocktails and mood lighting.

Anyway, fellow dads, the point is not to linger on how dissed fatherhood is in pop culture today, although God knows it is.

No, the point is to celebrate the truly outstanding job most dads do, day in and day out, with little fanfare and under trying circumstances.

In fact, on this Father's Day, I plan to raise a glass and toast all of you.

After that, I will take a long nap - also in your honor.

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