JJ And Rafe From ‘Outer Banks’ Are Proof That Boys Need Strong Fathers

By Meghan Dillon··  7 min read
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jj and rafe outbanks need good dads

Our culture often talks about how important fathers are in a daughter’s development, but they’re just as important (if not more so) in a son’s development.

The Father Effect

A strong, present, and loving father is key to a child’s healthy development. Joshua Krisch of Fatherly writes, “So far, we know that kids who grow up with a present, engaged dad are less likely to drop out of school or wind up in jail, compared to children with absent fathers and no other male caretakers or role models. When children have close relationships with father figures, they tend to avoid high-risk behaviors and they’re less likely to have sex at a young age. They’re more likely to have high-paying jobs and healthy, stable relationships when they grow up. They also tend to have higher IQ test scores by the age of 3 and endure fewer psychological problems throughout their lives when dads take the role of a father seriously. Altogether, these benefits of having an engaged dad are called the ‘father effect’.”

According to Parent Co., “Boys, especially, need a present father. He is going to set their concept of what a man is. Dad will be the first standard of masculinity in a child’s life, and he’ll be the one with the longest-lasting impact...If dad isn’t present, boys will still come up with a concept of manliness. They just won’t get it from their parents. They’ll get it from TV.”

Children endure fewer psychological problems in their lives when dads take their role seriously.

Parent Co. continues, “One of the most important things boys learn from their dads is how to treat a woman. When kids grow up, they tend to emulate their parents’ marriage. If mom and dad fought a lot, had affairs, and got divorced young, there’s a high chance their kids’ marriages will go the same way. When mom and dad treat each other with respect, kids learn how to do the same with their own partners. In fact, boys are more likely to emulate their fathers if their parents have a good relationship.”

This means that boys who grow up without a father or with bad fathers have the odds stacked against them. We all know a man like this in our lives, but it’s also important to see how bad fathers impact boys in the media. Two great examples are seen in the second season of Outer Banks with two characters: JJ and Rafe.

Major spoilers from the first season and minor spoilers from the second season are ahead.

JJ’s Dad and the Cycle of Crime

In both seasons of Outer Banks, JJ is the loveable criminal and class clown. His father, Luke, is a deadbeat dad who’s addicted to drugs and alcohol, can’t hold a job, and is regularly in and out of jail. He’s physically and emotionally abusive towards JJ and blames him for the absence of his mother. JJ copes with the trauma of an abusive father through humor and reckless behavior. Despite his dad being abusive, JJ is as loyal as friends get. 

JJ is known for his impulsive and reckless behavior, a trait he inherited from his father. Boys tend to unconsciously model themselves after their fathers. Since all JJ knows is chaos, it shouldn’t be a surprise that he’s unstable and engages in reckless behavior. However, his father’s criminal history has had a stronger impact on JJ’s upbringing.

JJ often jokes that he’s destined to end up in jail like his dad. Though he appears to be joking around, he does seem to really believe that he’s destined to become a career criminal and doesn’t see the need to better himself. Unfortunately, children who grow up with incarcerated parents are "six times more likely" than their peers to be incarcerated in the future. The abuse JJ experiences under his father doesn't help either. Children of abusive parents are more likely to face psychological problems as adults as well as become abusive themselves.

JJ seems to believe that he’s destined to become a criminal and end up in jail like his dad. 

JJ is very lucky to have good friends like John B, Kie, and Pope, as well as a strong father figure in Pope’s father. These positive figures push him to be a better person and help him realize that he doesn’t have to follow in his father’s footsteps. When JJ helps Luke escape town, Kie berates him for not appreciating his son and realizing that he’s a wonderful person. She can see the pain that JJ often masks with humor and causing trouble, and tells him that he’s worth so much more than what Luke has put him through. 

Though JJ’s dad is terrible, JJ has great people around him to remind him of his potential and that he’s a good person. This makes fans hopeful that he will break the cycle of crime and abuse in his family – however, the same can’t be said for Rafe.

Rafe, Ward, and the Constant Need for Approval

Rafe Cameron is the son of Ward Cameron, one of the most successful and influential men in town. Though Ward is present in Rafe’s life, he outwardly favors his daughter, Sarah, and views Rafe as nothing but trouble. This makes Rafe want to win over his father’s approval at any cost. He tries to win his father’s approval by saving him from getting arrested at the end of the first season. Though this seems like a noble deed on paper, it involved Rafe killing a police officer and the Cameron family framing Sarah’s boyfriend, John B.

Like JJ, Rafe is troubled and impulsive, but he turns to more destructive drugs (Rafe is addicted to cocaine, whereas JJ sticks to marijuana and alcohol) to cope, making his behavior even more erratic and violent. This is sad to watch because Rafe is clearly crying out for help and approval, but his father couldn't care less. I can’t help but wonder if Rafe would have had a shot at a normal life if Ward weren’t such a horrible father, but Ward’s neglect makes Rafe’s story look like the backstory in a serial killer documentary.

Ward sees Rafe as a shame to the family due to his drug addiction and flunking out of college, making Rafe in need of his approval more than ever. It’s normal for boys to want approval from their fathers. Roland Warren of writes, “A son wants to know that the way he is living his life – his interests, schoolwork, hobbies, and passions – is pleasing to his father.”

A son wants to know that the way he is living his life is pleasing to his father.

Warren continues, “This boils down to a son’s innate need to be affirmed by his father. Your affirmation prepares your son to enter the world with the confidence and ‘emotional armor’ that he needs in order not just to survive, but to thrive. A son needs to know that you are pleased with him, not just for what he does or does not do, but because of who he is.  Your love for him is about ‘being,’ not just his ‘doing’.”

Warren argues that the same goes for fathers nurturing their sons. “Nurturing means a lot of things. It certainly includes hugging and kissing our boys – yes, even boys need hugs and kisses – on a daily basis and telling them that we love them.”

Rafe doesn’t get the approval he wants from his father; neither does he get the basic love a child needs from his father. This explains (but doesn’t excuse) his violent behavior and why he takes after his father’s more violent side. Unlike JJ, Rafe doesn’t have healthy friendships with other men (his drug dealer doesn’t count), giving him no example of healthy masculinity. His only model for masculinity is his father, and it doesn't help that Ward is a violent psychopath, making it very likely Rafe will follow in his father’s footsteps.

Closing Thoughts

Boys need strong fathers or strong father figures to become good men. It’s time that we talk about how much boys need good fathers as much as girls do.

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