Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cliff or Homer?

This week, as I have thought about what to say today about fathers, I've considered the future and wondered how those in centuries from now would evaluate the idea of fatherhood held by people of our generation.

Anthropology is the study of peoples and societies, particularly of the past, and is a discipline that often looks to art, music and literature from the time period in question to get a bearing on the practices and values of the time. In the future, as anthropologists look back to our time, it is quite likely that they will consider the various entertainment mediums prevalent today to gain an understanding of our time . . . analyzing venues such as television, movies, and popular music. If their subjects are fathers and fatherhood, what sort of images will come out of the media of today?

The television shows of our day portray fathers of different sorts. I grew up with the likes of Ben Cartwright, Andy Taylor, Mike Brady and Cliff Huxtable . . . mostly, positive portrayals of fathers . . . but what is the most iconic image of a father in today’s television? Is it Homer Simpson? The dad from That 70's Show? George Lopez? Dan Conner? Hannah Montana’s father? Short of news and sports, I don’t watch too much TV these days, but I could not think of many, if any, positive father-figures in TV shows on today. Can you?

There’s an interesting, but troubling, parallel from 20 years ago. In 1989, the year after I graduated from high school, The Cosby Show was the top rated show on television, but it was nearing its end run. At the same time, another show was introduced to TV, The Simpsons. A startling contrast was offered . . . Cliff Huxtable verses Homer Simpson. The former: hard-working, disciplined, conscientious, an involved and loving father, the epitome of a good and wise dad . . . the later: clueless, foul-mouthed, undisciplined, a lout, and though present in the home, an altogether poor father. I’ve wondered: which TV father has had the greater impact on society’s understanding of fatherhood? Which one will have the longer-lasting legacy?

1 comment:

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