For a while there, some of us thought that Hollywood and Burbank were starting to get it. We thought the bad old days of fathers uniformly portrayed negatively were over. Surely, after decades of dangerous dads, brutal dads stupid dads, doofus dads, cold uncaring dads and the like, popular culture had actually turned a corner. Or so we believed. After all, with so much social science showing that dads care deeply about their children and that children need their fathers for a healthy upbringing, it just made so much sense for pop culture to start showing the truth. Into the bargain, it might even have been hailed as finally standing for something worth standing for. With fatherless families being one of the most serious problems our society faces, maybe the movers and shakers behind movies and TV would actually try to make things better, not worse.
We were kidding ourselves. This article gives us the heads up on three fall shows premiering on Fox, ABC and NBC, and from the sound of them, they’re worse than almost anything that’s gone before (Slate, 9/14/12). Just to put a cherry on top of that, the article itself hails them as “optimistic.” Given that it’s Slate’s XX blog, I suppose that was to be expected.
In Ben and Kate, which premieres on Fox next week, Kate is a single mother. The father of her child, we learn, didn’t even stick around long enough to see his daughter born. When Kate tells him she is pregnant, a scene presented in a flashback in the pilot, his response is a shaky “I’m so excited.” Then, he bolts…
Then there’s Clay (Jayson Blair), the soon-to-be-ex husband of Goldie, a young woman who decides to act as a surrogate for a gay couple on NBC’s The New Normal. Clay is such a profligate cheat that he jumps into bed with his mistress just six minutes after Goldie leaves for work. Goldie’s decision to ditch him isn’t so much a courageous act as a confirmation of the actual status of their relationship: It doesn’t much hurt to leave, because there’s almost nothing to leave behind.
And while Goldie flees the Midwest for California, Polly (Sarah Chalke), the star of How to Live With Your Parents For The Rest Of Your Life, which will begin airing on ABC in 2013, heads back to her parents’ house, leaving her ex-husband behind. Like Clay, her husband’s a goofy nonentity who keeps showing up anyway. Goldie and Polly are less interested in finding a man than in getting rid of one, and Kate is lucky to have gotten only her boyfriend’s child, not the guy himself.And, according to Slate writer Alyssa Rosenberg, that’s a good thing. The men in these shows are abject losers, so ditch ‘em. After all, just because you yourself were stupid enough to have a child by someone you’d never say ‘hi’ to in the supermarket, doesn’t say anything pejorative about you. No, you’re fine; the Slate piece tells us he’s not “worthy” of you. Of course he’s not; he’s a creep, and that means the mere fact that he’s your child’s father is no reason to have anything to do with him. And if that means your child grows up fatherless, well, that’s OK too. Who could possibly object?
Here’s a prediction. Having punted these guys, the women in the shows will never experience any serious hardship. They’ll have plenty of money, the kids will be fine and they’ll never come up to Mom and ask “Mom, Jenny has a daddy. Do I have a daddy? Where is he?” These bright, can-do women will never lose their jobs or be threatened with homelessness; they’ll never leave the children alone for hours while they work, look for work or drink in a bar. They’ll never choose yet another wrong man who just happens to break the children’s leg, ribs and skull. Short on cash, they’ll never decide that the dad they ditched so long ago now looks like a good source of income, so it’s off to child support court. CPS will never come calling, the utilities will never be cut off. Keep a close watch on those shows, but I’m betting none of that will happen.
After all, it’s hard to promote single motherhood and tell the truth about it. And doesn’t that alone say a lot about single motherhood?
We’re seeing a backlash against fathers specifically and men generally. The New York Times, always willing to jump on that bandwagon, recently published one of the least sane op-eds in memory. Like a piece by Maureen Dowd only a couple of years back, it tried to convince us that men aren’t necessary. The reasons author Greg Hampikian gave for the proposition were not only unsupported by facts or logic, they were just so downright odd that it’s hard to describe in brief. His thesis was that we’re only necessary if we’re necessary for reproduction and since, according to him, science can now synthesize the male components of reproduction, men aren’t necessary. As I said, I can’t begin to describe just how loony Hampikian’s piece is, but suffice it to say that he didn’t explain the necessity of women over the age of, say, 45. Since one’s worth is all about reproductive necessity, and since few women produce viable ova after that age, according to Hampikian, they too must not be necessary. Needless to say, he didn’t go there.
I actually wrote Hampikian an email in which I suggested he take part in an experiment of my design. I suggested that, since he believes men to be unnecessary, he take a week out of his life and simply do without everything invented, discovered, built, constructed, designed, manufactured, etc. by men. He’d be unable to live in a house or building of any kind, eat food bought at a store, drive a car, use a computer, drink water from a tap, etc. He couldn’t listen to Mozart or Charlie Parker or indeed any recorded music; if he became ill or got injured, he couldn’t go to a doctor or hospital. You get the picture. It’s always astonished me that people who denigrate men do so all the while relying on countless things that, but for men, wouldn’t exist or be known by humans. It’s perhaps the single greatest piece of evidence for how profoundly stupid their arguments are. Oddly, Hampikian didn’t take me up on my suggestion.
The point being that the assault on men and fathers is ginning up again. I don’t mean to suggest that it ever went away; of course it didn’t. But there seems to be a fury to it now that we haven’t seen in some time. Maybe it’s because it’s an election year. Of course the anti-dad/anti-male forces still don’t have anything real or even interesting to say, but that doesn’t mean they’ll shut up. No, their yap, yap, yapping will continue like the noise of penned up dogs. Somebody call the cops.
Thanks to Glenn for the heads-up.