“We live in a day that is confusing. Much of entertainment and media portrays dysfunctional family life as normal. Sadly, it's become popular to be rude, to be unfaithful, to be ignorant of history and current events, and to devalue the contribution of fathers and mothers. While this noise is all around us, we don't have to opt in.
Simply turn it off and do something positive instead. Be kind to someone, tell your spouse you love her, talk about lessons learned from history at the dinner table, and through your daily example demonstrate why parents are the most important teachers each generation has.”
By Christopher Robbins, Familius. CEO and Pater Familius
Indeed, parents are the most important teacher and the only gate keeper protecting our children from the bad influences we want them to avoid. When I watch TV or go to the movies, it is usually for entertainment. I’m experienced enough to overlook some values I find objectionable. It is sadly a fact that crime, machismo, sex, and shady characters are more interesting to most viewers than functional families. Sometimes these shows/movies are pointing out truths and/or putting a light on issues that need to be addressed. However, most of the time the goal is simply ratings, which leads to profit. I’m not against profit and I understand entertainers complying with viewers’ tastes.
This where real families must act. As parents, we have to control what our children watch or explain what they are seeing and hearing in a better context. We are not going to see a significant change in programming soon. Certainly violence and sex are obvious areas to avoid. Less obvious is the depiction of fathers as bumbling idiots, or children being disrespectful to adults and/or cruel to each other, or endorsing questionable behavior.
In an earlier post of mine, I wrote about The Seven BE's of a Successful Dad. They are "Be involved, principled, consistent, loving, fun, balanced, and passionate." Here are a few examples of recent TV shows depicting families where the fathers fail to meet these seven characteristics.
- “Everybody Loves Raymond” – a bumbling father who is uninterested in his kids.
- “The Simpsons” – Homer is funny but utterly disgusting.
- “Modern Family” – Phil is an excellent dad in all characteristics, but still portrayed as immature and bumbling!
- “Malcolm in the Middle” – “Breaking Bad” star, Bryan Cranston was the less-than-stellar father of a dysfunctional family.
- “That 70’s Show” – Red, the father, is cantankerous, flippant, and sometimes' mildly violent.
Not all of today’s TV dads are bad, 'Bernie Mac' is a good example of fatherhood, but most good role models were from the old days of television. “Father’s Knows Best”, “The Bill Cosby Show”, “Leave it to Beaver”, and “Andy Griffith” had good, respectable, lesson-teaching dads, and even though they were exaggerated, so are the recent shows mentioned above. Today, it is not unusual for an incompetent dad to be married to a smart attractive wife who has to set him straight and fix his mistakes. Funny and entertaining, these depictions nevertheless tell a young person who doesn't have a father-- or has a father who is not involved in their life--that by not having a dad around as a mentor is not such a big loss. Nothing could be further from the truth!