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Dumbing Down Dads | Bigger on the Inside

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The 1983 movie “Mr. Mom” wasn’t the first movie to portray dad as an idiot, but it marked a tipping point. Dumb dads have dominated our entertainment ever since.


The “dumb dad” is the entertainment industry’s go-to character for cheap laughs. But what message are these men sending our boys?

by Jen Schlameuss-Perry

It’s everywhere–in kids’ show, grown-up shows—my favorite shows. Dumb dads are funny.  To a certain extent, they express a reality—people are goofy, parenthood is hard and we make myriad mistakes as we go. But, the focus on dads these days could be detrimental to the family by establishing and promoting stereotypes about men that could really undermine the credibility, authority and respect that is crucial to the family.


Dumb, Delinquent Doofuses

It’s been going on for a long time, at least since I was a kid, maybe longer. I remember when The Simpsons came out, my parents didn’t like the show because Bart was disrespectful, but also because Homer was an idiot. More and more, I see this trend in kids’ shows—fathers or father figures being portrayed as absolute morons. Even shows that I really, really love, like Clarence, do it. Clarence doesn’t live with his father, but his mother and her boyfriend, Chad. He regularly sits around at home in his underwear drinking straight from the milk carton (yuck!). He is very kind and loving—even fatherly—toward Clarence, but he looks like a caveman and seems to have approximately the same intellect.

To me, the worst offender is The Amazing World of Gumball. There’s something wrong with that show altogether—it is often really gross, amoral and even atheistic. It is also hilarious and extremely clever, which to me, makes it so much worse. The dad on that show does nothing. And if he ever does try to do anything, he fails royally because he is a complete moron. He doesn’t have a job and doesn’t contribute to the household in any meaningful way—he simply bungles things and gets in the way of everyone else living their lives.  He is controlled by his wife, who is the only rational (but seriously angry) adult in the show. There is no mutual respect—in fact, no respect at all.

This image shows the intricate structure of part of the Seagull Nebula, known more formally as IC 2177. These wisps of gas and dust are known as Sharpless 2-296 (officially Sh 2-296) and form part of the “wings” of the celestial bird. This region of the sky is a fascinating muddle of intriguing astronomical objects — a mix of dark and glowing red clouds, weaving amongst bright stars. This new view was captured by the Wide Field Imager on the MPG/ESO 2.2-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile.
Jen Schlameuss-Perry writes on the intersection of faith and science fiction, comics, and other geek media.


Why It Matters

I am a feminist. That’s right—I’m one of those. I feel that women should be treated equally (I was out there shoveling snow with the menfolk of my household today) and given every opportunity that men are afforded. I believe that women are not currently treated as equals in many areas of our culture—in pay scale, business promotions, sometimes in the Church—but, the advancement of women can never come at the price of devaluing anyone else. And today more than ever, the importance and dignity of fatherhood in particular needs to be elevated and honored.

Fathers are making the next generation of men—mothers can do a lot to help, but it’s good men that our boys need as models. I hate hearing about the “feminization of the Church” because I think it’s baloney, but I do see a feminization of men in our culture. Our boys cannot become men without great men helping them.

I am a mother of boys and I don’t want them being brought up on media that degrades them and what they will become when they grow up. I don’t want them being told that they are stupid, ineffective, and needless. I don’t want them being told that families are fine without them, or without them being useful. I don’t want them being told that the way they treat women in relationships doesn’t matter. And I pray that their future wives (if marriage is God’s plan for them) are not being formed to be threatened by or resentful of strong, present men.


For Your Consideration

Are the shows your kids are watching—whether they are boys or girls—modeling good, strong, responsible men? Are they offering examples of healthy, life-giving relationships in which they treat women with proper dignity?  Are parents, particularly fathers, portrayed as useful, healthy members of the family?


Follow Jerry Windley-Daoust:

Publisher, Gracewatch Media

Jerry Windley-Daoust is a writer, editor, and father of five. He writes essays and stories at Windhovering and is the show-runner for Gracewatch Media, a small Catholic publisher. You can follow his latest publishing projects at gracewatch.org.

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