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Finding Devoted TV Fathers in Unlikely Places

When you read the newspapers, it’s always the bad news that seems to jump out. Perhaps it’s just human nature to gravitate toward the shocking, the titillating, the horrific because it is so far removed from the reality of our day-to-day experience. But if you look for them, the positive stories are there, too.

The same is also often true of television. In an analysis of fathers on primetime broadcast TV, the Parents Television Council found that while the shows they appear on may be racy and many of the family units are in shambles, there is a large number of devoted TV fathers. In fact, when comparing devoted fathers to self-interested dads, 75% were given the positive, devoted label.

Why don’t we hear about them? Well, often because those positive story arcs are overshadowed by sleazy story lines on programs like ABC’s recently concluded Desperate HousewivesPrivate Practice and Grey’s Anatomy. It’s also easier to remember the bumbling, inept, over-sexed, slacker father-figures on television,and ignore the many examples of positive portrayals of fathers that exist on TV today.

It’s even rarer to hear about the overwhelmingly positive father figures on a program like CBS’s Blue Bloods, which follows three generations of a family of Irish Catholic police officers who live and work in New York. Shockingly, not only do we see three generations of loving fathers who take care of their families, they even – gasp – PRAY with and for their families! Just don’t expect to see it profiled in the entertainment news magazines.

No, instead the entertainment news focuses on the likes of Two and a Half Men and Family Guy. But as long as these are the male roles and role models we celebrate and emulate, we are doing a terrible disservice to our boys and young men.

It has been reasonably, and I think correctly, argued that manhood in America is in a state of crisis. CNN.com recently ran a story titled, “’The Demise of Guys’: How Video Games and Porn are Ruining a Generation,”  that argued that young men are sacrificing “schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.”  Meanwhile, popular culture is rife with caricatured overgrown adolescent males who are unwilling or unable to join the real world and accept adult responsibilities. You need look no further than movies like Old School and Failure to Launch to see that trend in action.

With all the bad examples out there, it’s certainly worth citing the good examples in popular entertainment and in real life. According to the National Fatherhood Initiative (NFI) the presence of a caring father in the home provides children with a better chance of success in life. Children who live with fathers are less likely to use drugs, have emotional problems and engage in criminal activity later in life. Children who have a close relationship with their father do better in school, have better self-esteem and are more likely to engage in positive social behavior. When fathers are absent, children suffer depression, heightened aggression and emotional instability.

This Father’s Day lets remember to celebrate and honor dads everywhere; and to encourage, look for, and point out positive media role models for our children.

Melissa Henson is the Director of Communications and Public Education for the Parents Television Council.


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