Ed Driscoll

Network TV Wishes Dad a Happy Father's Day, in their Own Special Way

James Lileks follows up on his review of Two Story 3 Sunday night with an anecdote about the surprisingly positive male role models Woody and Buzz are, even though they’re digital animations designed to hearken back to imaginary through iconic toys made of polystyrene:

If you want to read much more into it – and why not? – then Buzz and Woody aren’t just toys, but objects into which the kid can project ideas of masculinity. One is about Law and Order and Justice, the things kids need to believe exists to make the world safe and rational and fair, and the other is the Soldier, unattached from domesticity, fighting existential perils. (Precisely the words kids would choose, you know.) These concepts are part of the cultural atmosphere; kids inhale them, and exhale them through play and imagination. You could even say it was subversive to suggest that a boy growing up in a house without a man would naturally want to play the shoot-’em-up games he played. (I’m still waiting for someone to complain that the little girls made their toys have tea parties.)To argue that Woody and Buzz are actually surrogate fathers is trickier, and also probably wrong. (Hence less tricky.) I can’t even phrase the argument in a way that isn’t auto-refuting in its own ridiculousless, so I leave that to someone’s doctoral thesis.

Anyway. Just wanted to finish up. I gnash my teeth when I see weak silly dads on TV and in the movies, and think it’s slow poison to portray men as chinless tech-dorks or chestless domestic dullards, and it makes me wish there was a movie where a dad was a true hero, loved his wife, was big and strong and cheerful, doted on his kids, but still had his private doubts and angst. Hey, make him a superhero, too – with a family of superheroes! That would be awesome. That would be Incredible.

Heh. meanwhile, on the smaller tube, while Roger and Lionel on PJTV’s Poliwood are correct that “TV Is Now Better Than Movies” in terms of quality of writing, that doesn’t mean that the same PC mindset that hollowed out the non-Pixar sector of the movie industry isn’t hard at work eviscerating television. Andrew Klavan explaines “Who Stole The TV Family:”

When Home Improvement was about to go off the air in 1999, I happened to be in LA to pitch a movie.  Sitting in a coffee shop reading the trade paper Variety, I came upon an article declaring that, even though Home Improvement was still popular and had won many awards, television executives had decided they would no longer do shows about intact families.  It had nothing to do with the market for such shows which, obviously, was still large.  They just weren’t doing them anymore, that’s all.

Now, of course, Seventh Heaven—a show not only about an intact father-led family but about a family led by a Christian minister, for goodness’ sake!—continued successful until 2007.  But when you look at the TV landscape today—with a few borderline exceptions—the happy, traditional family has been largely erased from the scene.  Indeed, one show—How I Met Your Motherdeceptively uses a traditional sounding title to mask the fact that it’s about the hook-up culture.

Now this may be the result of an evil plot by the left to erase the one institution that stands between them and their dream of the state-dominated individual.  I certainly wouldn’t put it past them.  But even if that’s so, there may be something else at work as well.

Not very long ago, I sold a mystery script that centered around a very traditional family.  It featured a woman who had won the adoring love of her husband and children by dedicating her life to caring for them and their home.  When I handed in the first draft, the producers and executives—four Hollywood men—praised it very highly.  But then they said—and I’m not making this up—“It’s not realistic.  There are no modern women like that.  We wish there were.  But there aren’t.”

I know from happy experience that this is wildly untrue.  But I also strongly suspect that these four men were speaking honestly from their own experience.  They can’t imagine any sort of world but theirs.

Well, that’s not very multicultural and tolerant of diversity.

Related: While the traditional family is increasingly airbrushed off the small screen, a big element of growing up is also coming under attack from academia. As Jonah Goldberg writes in the L.A. Times, “To make life easier for themselves, some educators and other professionals work to get children away from the idea that they need a best friend. This is a path to the Nanny State.”

But then, what isn’t these days in the government-educational-media complex?