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Kathleen Parker weighs in on Opus two moms cartoon

Earlier this week, I told you about a conservative blogger who was upset at the depiction of men and the celebration of a two-mom family. The topic is no longer being discussed in the right-wing blogosphere – Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, has written a column calling the cartoon “threadbare” and “stereotypical.”

Reaction has been swift and predictable: outrage on the right; smug contempt for the right on the left.

Yup, that pretty much sums up the comments on this blog.

She continues:

But here’s the biggest truth of all: Men and fathers have been on the receiving end of a male-bashing trend for the past 20 years or so, and they’ve had enough. Breathed’s comic strip might have faded into the ether if it didn’t cut so close to the bone, if it weren’t one more insult added to a history that long ago ceased to amuse.

On television, men are depicted as boors or buffoons, while in the broader culture, they’re deadbeats or wife beaters. In a 1999 study of how fathers were presented in 102 prime-time shows, the National Fatherhood Initiative found only four in which a father was portrayed as present and involved in his children’s lives.

At the same time little boys and girls are seeing bad, dumb daddies on TV, more than a third don’t live with their own father, owing either to divorce or single motherhood. Despite inevitable exceptions to the rule, it is merely ignorant to say that a father’s absence has no effect on children. Study after study shows an association between fatherlessness and a wide range of social pathologies, including drug abuse, promiscuity and delinquency.

Two mommies may work out fine for some children. And some men, just like some women, are contemptible slobs or worse. But neither observation diminishes the larger truth that children need fathers, most of whom are not, in fact, the cartoonish characters we love to loathe.

Breathed’s comic strip, intended or not, revealed where we have arrived as a society in our attitudes toward male role models, otherwise known as fathers: Two lesbian mommies are cool, while dad is a violent, profane, impulsive, substance-abusing slob. In such a world, we can be grateful for an existential penguin whose voice offers a counterweight to the know-nothingness of children. Opus asked the appropriate question: “No dad?”

Community Comments

#1 Jeff Stanson
June/15/2007
@ 6:49 am

When I first saw this episode, I read it more as an indictment of Steve Dallas, underscoring my recent comments that this strip requires knowledge of the character’s past and episodes do not stand on their own. Those who do not know about the characters’ pasts saw this as mere social commentary, which it does seem that the strip works on that level as well. But I must say that, intended or not, Parker is not wrong in the way she sizes up dads in popular media. Dads have been increasingly portrayed in popular media as idiots, buffons, the fall guy, and the butt of the joke. It’s the new stereotype. A few dads deserve the depiction, but the vast majority do not.

#2 John
June/18/2007
@ 8:53 am

Kathleen Parker is absolutely right: Dad bashing is now an overworked stereotype. If she only would have stopped there instead of trying to tie it together with a “where we have arrived as a society” summation. I am bone weary of word smiths and pundits telling me they have a finger on the pulse of what defines society. It’s a lazy, lazy way of fortifying a weak argument by generating fear where no fear need exist.

Instead, she would have been much better served to issue a challenge to cartoonists and TV writers to develop more-positive, less sterotypical dad characters. Don’t just tell me there’s a problem; show me what you can do about it. (And for God’s sake, don’t try to create some tortured law to “fix” the problem.)

Or, hey, Ms. Parker is a syndicated writer — she could have a go. I would suggest TV sitcoms because she’s already proven her ability to write really lame endings.

#3 Rich
June/18/2007
@ 12:54 pm

Jeff, well said. I think you have made the difinitive comment on the issue.

I have no problem with buffon cartoon characters and while I haven’t followed Steve Dallas in years, he was always messed up, and often funny because of it. More endearing dads, though sometimes buffons, are in Foxtrot, Zits and Baby Blues. All characters in these strips sometimes play the buffon, so it’s equal opportunity joking around.

Thinking about TV commercials … In the 50s and 60s women played the stupid roles worrying about things like ring around the collar, etc., now men mostly play the idiots. I find it interesting when a company decides to advertized by making it’s customers look like fools. Perhaps there is a hidden message there ;)

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