Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you an Angry Dad? If not, well maybe you should be!

A few nights ago, while I was doing my P90X workout (yes, that’s a shameless plug.), I decided to check out the latest “The Simpsons” episode on Hulu. Ironically, the title of the show was “Angry Dad: The Movie,” so I knew that I was in for a treat…not. You see, The Simpsons show has made millions for decades “buffoonorizing” dads in the form of Homer Simpson. Thanks to the show’s handy work, when millions of adults and kids are asked to name a TV dad, Homer is sure the top the list. Not Cliff Huxtable. Homer.

Let’s face it. When it comes to TV dads, we have gone from “Father Knows Best” to father knows nothing. The vast majority of dads on TV, in series or commercials, are portrayed as dumb, dangerous or disaffected. Generally, fathers are not just the butt of the joke, they are the butt…

In any case, in the episode, an executive visited the Simpson home because he came across an animated cartoon that Bart created titled “Angry Dad,” which chronicled Homer’s immature antics. The executive thought this cartoon was great, so much so that he convinced a Hollywood studio to make it into a movie. So, the family headed to Hollywood to get it done. Interestingly, as Bart and the executive were heading in to see the movie producers, the executive assured him that the movie had real potential. In fact, he said, “Everyone has an angry dad…even me.” And then the scene showed a flashback 'thought bubble' of the executive’s dad yelling at him as a small boy.

Well, it turned out that the executive was right. The Angry Dad movie won a Golden Globe and an Oscar, of course, with Homer playing the part of the angry and inconsiderate dad through each award show.

Now, I like a good joke as much as anyone. After all, I recently blogged about my deep affection for the much-maligned fanny pack. But, I really think that there is a problem here, especially since the show's success is built upon the notion of the “idiot” dad that is so prevalent and damaging in our culture. Indeed, media has power to shape norms, attitudes and behaviors. (Just think about how many glee clubs have formed recently due to the success of “Glee.”) Also, it’s worth noting that in our recent national survey of fathers called “Pop’s Culture,” dads cited media/pop culture as the second biggest obstacle to good fathering.

Moreover, as I have watched the show over the years, I have detected a very clear pattern. If you rank the characters based on who is responsible and competent, the list goes like this:

1. Marge
2. Lisa
3. Maggie (a non speaking infant)
4. Bart
5. Homer
6. Abe (Homer’s father)

Interestingly, in a non-fiction book called “The Psychology of The Simpsons: D'oh!,” which analyzed the psychological themes in the show, authors Alan Brown, Ph.D. and Chris Logan described Abe Simpson as follows:

“Abe has the least amount of "power" in the Simpson family, and he is treated as little more than a child and is often ignored.”

D’oh! Indeed. And, come to think of it, the one dad on the show that really cares about his kids, Ned Flanders, is often made to look like an idiot as well, even by Homer.

So, before the legions of The Simpsons fans tell me that I am overacting and “Don’t have a cow, man,” I need to hear from the fathers. Are you an angry dad? I wasn’t before watching this The Simpson episode. Now…I am not so sure.


  1. I get angry over the stereotypes, such as when I was married, and my then wife was working late. If I informed anyone of this, it was always "I guess the kids are getting pizza tonight or 'the kids are getting McDonalds tonight"...assuming I can't or won't cook. I always made my kids dinners and still do. I also hated top hear "Oh you're babysitting tonight", they are my kids, its not babysitting. While any stereotyping bugs me, I can smile because I am perfectly capable of doing anything and everything for my kids, including cooking and cleaning. I take pride in it.

  2. Couldn't agree more but would add that to better understand the root cause of these portrayals we have to look at ourselves as fathers over history. Even when "Father knew Best" he didn't know beans about nurturing small children or cleaning a house, and that was by design. He wasn't supposed to. We should'nt be surprised therefore that when our society began to portray fathers in households, not just at work, they were portrayed as inept. The Simpsons actually is more complicated than it appears (one of its appealing aspects) but we should be just as incensed about Marge's portrayal (not an avid follower of the show I can't say for sure but does Marge have a job?) as well. What's really behind our ideas about how families are portrayed are antiquated and outdated ideas about gender overall. That's what fathers should be attacking even before the inevitable and predictable images of them as buffoons and idiots who can't manage anything, let alone a marriage and a family.

  3. Good Article. Dad's and parents in general are much aligned in most every show. Most kids shows are about the kids resolving the issues and the parents/teachers are incompetent, uncaring or in some way contributing to the problem. Collectively it send a very firm message to kids that adults can't be trusted and don't know what to do. Way different to the family shows of the 50-70's where parents authority was reinforced in some way. Lesson's were learnt.

  4. We as fathers fight many uphill battles. Television shows do often depict us as disinterested or inept, society tells us that we are providing for our family in the best way when we can buy them things. We have a defined societal role that is rigid, and anything outside of that is unacceptable.

    I'm a stay at home dad of two beautiful girls. I do most of the cooking, cleaning and laundry. People have asked me, and I wish I were kidding here, what's wrong that I have assumed this role. I am blessed to be in the position I am in. My wife makes a far better wage than I did, and the cost of childcare would have eaten most of my salary. Why should I work to sign over my paycheck for someone else to raise our girls, instill their values and beliefs?

    In my opinion, the absolute best thing we can ever provide for our children is our time and attention. Not just "quality time", but quantity time. Has your child ever told you that you have played too much with them or they need a break from you?

    Invest wisely, in your family. It is not enjoyable to be cast in the light of Homer, but if you're kids know that you are there for them in every aspect, that is what really matters.

  5. I think u guys are looking way tooo far into a cartoon. take the media and tv shows for what they are entertainment! Yes men not being as nurturing as women has been a major steriotype for along time. I think homer simpson just caovers all of them. In my opinion we all probably fall into one or two of those steriotypes. If you dont then bully for you, you are in the minority. I will give you an atta boy or bake you a cookie if you like.

  6. Well said. I am the father of two boys and wouldn't want them watching The Simpsons, which portrays men in general as being shallow and dumb. Visual images are powerful and can and do impact young minds, which is why, in today's media environment, it is so important for fathers to actively participate in the lives of their children. Unless fathers serve as positive role models, boys and girls will turn to the not so great influences of pop culture to fill the void.

  7. Why are we so worried about what the media portrays fathers as? I think as long as you show your kids what fathers are suppose to be like it shouldnt matter. Are you saying tv influences your kids more than you do? Dumb dads on tv are funny! i mean could you sit through the simpsons if marge was the dumb one and lisa was the bad child? come on now, you put way too much thought into this.. Its all about Showing your kids how great Fathers are. dont let TV "OutInfluence you"

  8. The only thing that bothers me about stereotypes is the only people you can make fun of nowadays is white males. It is like the rest of the world has lost there humor and can not laugh at things that may or may not be true.

  9. I hate shows like this. My husband is an excellent dad. He can do everything I can do but make milk since I am nursing. I stay home and he works. When he comes home from work he is ready to give me a break from
    11+ hours of full time child care. He feeds our baby, carries the screaming toddler upstairs and helps the six year old with teeth brushing. He then reads to all 3 kids and puts them down for the night. Since I am nursing the baby all night long he plays musical beds making sure the two and six year old stay in bed. He makes breakfast for our son and packs them both a lunch for school MHD then drops him off while on his way to work.
    He has worn all three of his babies, knows more about how to heat breastmilk than most women, teaches them how to laugh and have fun and gets them out of my hair when I am having a bad day. He is also extremely good looking and treats me with love and respect evern when trying to cop a feel.
    I am proud and love him very much.
    I hate when shows act like dads don't need to be around. We need him. I need him. My bio-father was never around and I swore I would not have kids with a guy like him. Am very lucky and blessed to be with my husband.


We welcome many points of view and great discussion. However, please be aware that comments go through an approval process. The blog administrators reserve the right to not post or delete any comments that are not appropriate (ie: comments with obscene, explicit, sexist, racist or otherwise derogatory language), impolite (ie: comments containing personal attacks, insults or threats), dishonest (ie: potentially libelous comments), or are spam. Thanks for understanding!