Accuracy in Media

AIM Editor Cliff Kincaid’s article on the Sunday night Fox television show “Family Guy” received a lot of response with people agreeing that the show is not suitable for children and even adults. “Family Guy” usually airs Sunday nights. It is supposed to be bumped this Sunday night, which is Christmas Eve, for the latest Spider-Man movie. But the timing made me think about the meaning of the Christmas season and how television mocks our traditional institutions at a time when we need to be thinking about what in our society and culture needs to be preserved.

Today’s television dads don’t teach morals because they don’t have any.

The title character of the show “Family Guy” is a cartoon dad named Peter Griffin, a fat, obnoxious, drunken oaf who spends little time with his children, ignores his wife, and generally has few redeeming qualities. “Family Guy” shares Sunday night on Fox with the now longest- running half-hour comedy on television, “The Simpsons.” The main character on that show is of course Homer Simpson, a fat, obnoxious, drunken oaf who spends little time with his children, ignores his wife, and generally has few redeeming qualities.

There seems to be a pattern here.

After looking at these two television dads, I started to think about other father-figure characters on television, and I realized that traditional fathers are now all but extinct on television. Consider CBS’s Emmy-Award nominated “Two and a Half Men.” Alan, played by former 80’s star Jon Cryer, gets divorced and he and his son move in with Alan’s boozing, womanizing oaf of a brother played by Charlie Sheen. Alan’s character has since become involved with a dim-witted 20-something girl. This relationship ended in a divorce, sending Alan and his son Jake back into Charlie Sheen’s toxic home. Alan rarely offers any meaningful advice to Jake, and it is often Charlie Sheen who provides the boy his warped views on such subjects as how to get women and gamble.

Where are all the TV Dads who lived at home, and were also loving fathers, husbands, and role models? Where is Ward Cleaver, Dr. Cliff Huxtable, Steven Keaton, Andy Griffith, or Howard Cunningham? TV Dads that nurtured kids and acted as role models for their sons are gone. They have been replaced by Homer Simpson and “Family Guy.”

With the destruction of the father figure comes the disintegration of the family.

It is no surprise that based on the most recent U.S. Census Bureau report from March of 2002, as reported by the Washington Post, 48% of all black children, 25% of all Hispanic children, 16% of all white children, and 13% of all Asian children were living only with their mother.

In a day and age when millions of children don’t have a father living in the home with them, the entertainment industry has virtually stopped providing TV Dads who teach life lessons or act as role models of what it means to be a good man. I think back to the episode of “The Cosby Show” where Bill Cosby teaches his TV-son Theo about the value of education in order to become successful. Later in the episode, to make sure his advice got through to Theo, Cosby shows the tough love that only a father can give a son. The tough love Cosby offered is heard by so few children at home either from a real father or from a TV Dad that it is worth repeating here: “You are going to do it because I said so. I am your father, I brought you in this world, and I’ll take you out.” That sound harsh, but it is the tough love that a child sometimes needs to hear from his father. It is called discipline, as opposed to “anything goes” morality.

Many children these days don’t get advice from their fathers, either because they don’t know who their father is or their fathers aren’t around anymore. Now more than ever, kids need the TV Dad examples that once were a staple of prime-time television. (Fortunately, old episodes of shows like Andy Griffith are still available on channels like TV Land on cable.)

Growing up, I was exposed to the advice and role models provided by TV Dads, and I was fortunate enough to have a real TV Dad at home. He provided the tough love Dr. Huxtable exhibited on television.

During this Christmas season, as I was shopping for gifts for my own father, and noting that “Family Guy” was originally supposed to be airing on Christmas Eve, I couldn’t help but wonder what the effect on children will be with the lack of dads, on TV or in real life, who provide the message of personal responsibility that is so desperately needed.

It may sound strange to say, but America’s children need the advice of a television character like Dr. Huxtable. America’s children still need to learn right from wrong from a character like Sheriff Andy Taylor. Indeed, as the number of fatherless households increases, America’s children will now, more than ever, need TV Dads to offer advice and show the way. Instead, they get “Family Guy,” whose own executive producer, David Goodman, won’t even let his own kids watch the show. He knows something we all need to realize?these programs are poison for the cultural fabric of our nation.

I am grateful that I grew up in a time when TV Dads were still role models and when producers of prime-time shows wanted to demonstrate the importance of real family values. And I am grateful that I grew-up with my own dad at home to be my role model, to teach me morals and values, and to offer advice.

So Merry Christmas to Dr. Huxtable and Sheriff Taylor. Merry Christmas to all the dads on TV and elsewhere who take their roles as fathers seriously.

And Merry Christmas to you Dad.

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