We Need To Normalize Showcasing The Virtues Of Fatherhood In Pop-Culture Again

By Ramsha Afridi··  5 min read
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The conversion on fatherlessness reemerged in America after an 18-year-old man stormed into Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, committing a deadly mass shooting leaving 21 people dead.

The shooter allegedly didn’t reside with his father, nor had he had contact with him for the last two years. The true motivations of the shooter are unknown, but many people highlighted the growing increase of fatherlessness in our society and its connection to mass shootings.

Today, American birth rates are already at an all-time low, divorces at an all-time high, and single-parent homes have become the norm which could change the concept of fatherhood in the long term. In fact, Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk brought awareness to this crisis of low birth rates on Twitter, tweeting, “USA birth rate has been below min sustainable levels for ~50 years.”

Collapsing birth rates combined with increasingly high levels of absent fathers in American families can have disastrous consequences. This is why, more than ever, we need to normalize showcasing fatherhood positively in our popular culture again to revive the importance of this role. Fathers are not just the backbone of a family – they play a significant role in shaping their son’s manhood and their daughter's self-confidence. Yet our mainstream culture doesn’t often highlight the importance of men being a positive influence on their children.

Instead of depicting fathers as having a strong, masculine presence in wider society, our popular discourse often casts this role aside in favor of negative stereotypes. For example, our media has now accepted showcasing fictional fathers as being absent or lousy men. From Homer Simpson forgetting his own child Maggie’s name and referring to her as the “other one” in the popular TV show The Simpsons, to Breaking Bad’s Walter White becoming a drug kingpin under the guise of looking out for his family and children, it’s clear that our popular culture has normalized curating the stereotype of the “deadbeat dad” or the “unavailable, bad father” on our TV screens. Even the Disney Channel and Netflix’s Stranger Things feature dumb or incompetent dads.

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Negative Images of Fathers in Mainstream Culture Can Affect Society at Large

The media is powerful, it has the ability to shape and cultivate new trends and ideas in society. This is worrying, as our cultural narrative is consistently feeding into negative tropes about what it means to be a father, and, as the average American spends up to three hours watching television per day, it’s without a doubt that more and more people are being exposed to damaging ideas about fatherhood.

Advertisements and commercials most often do not portray men as supportive caregivers to their children. A study by Gentry & Harrison in 2010 stated, "When fathers were included in commercials, none of them were portrayed as nurturers, whereas half of mothers were portrayed as nurturers.” Another research article titled “Americans' Views of Fathers' Competency as Parents through a Mass Media Lens” by Christopher Brown found that the representation of fathers in American consumer brands often perpetuates an extreme view of either “bad fathers” or “incompetent fathers.” Brown even goes as far as to say, "The double standard involves competent, wise, emotionally connected mothers who must often rescue those fathers."

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This is important to note as a gloomy representation of fatherhood in the wider monoculture sphere can not only influence impressionable young men about what it means to be a father, but it can also discourage young men from starting families. If we show a defeatist portrayal of fathers in our wider culture, what message does that send to men, women and young children? Certainly not a good one!

Fatherhood Is Fun, Meaningful, and an Incredible Part of Life

Fatherhood should be something every man should aspire to; it’s fun, meaningful, and an incredibly valuable experience of life. It’s a legacy every self-confident man has aspired to for millennia, and it is undoubtedly the hallmark of stable, happy families. We must reconnect with this lost virtue and then aim to preserve it if we want to build a solid foundation for not just children, but for the future of our society.

Countless psychologists have argued that the greater the involvement of a father in a child’s life, the better the children’s life outcomes. As a matter of fact, low behavioral, academic, and social outcomes for children are directly tied to the absence of strong fatherhood. Accordingly, long-term committed fatherhood should indeed be an aspirational goal for men to strive for. 

Closing Thoughts 

The truth is that raising a child with an absent father is almost the same as stealing a young child from half of their education and childhood, so why should this view be accepted as the norm in our culture? We can and should challenge this by popularizing positive portrayals of dads in our mainstream media. This could be a powerful, new cultural narrative that goes against the grain and would also likely play a massive role in how we view fatherhood. 

Most importantly, it could inspire a whole new generation of young men in our postmodern culture. Fathers are moral teachers, primary influencers, and mentors to their children; fatherhood is a precious gift which deserves to be seen as a challenge worth rising to – so let’s bring it back into fashion.

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  Society  Fatherhood
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