Study shows American dads portrayed as ‘bumbling’ morons not ‘patriotic’ or ‘heroic’

With Father’s Day around the corner, don’t look to television for an accurate portrayal of the typical American father. TV thinks dads are dumb.

An in-depth study of recent programming concludes that working-class fathers featured in American sitcoms are routinely portrayed as aimless morons.

“This follows the kind of pattern seen, wherein TV working-class fathers are typified as ‘kind of bumbling’ and ‘incapable,’ compared to middle-class fathers,” Jessica Troilo, author of the study, and assistant professor of child development and family studies at West Virginia University told the Washington Times.

roseanne
Cast of “Roseanne.” Photo source: Washington Times.

The study, titled “Stay Tuned: Portrayals of Fatherhood to Come,” found significant differences between what it calls, middle- and working-class dads. It studied 13 fathers in 12 sitcoms and their 699 interactions with minor children.

The study’s abstract concludes that father-child interactions do not differ based on race or ethnicity, but they do depend on a family’s economic class, marital status, and the TV network airing the show.

For instance, Troilo found heterosexual dads were much more likely to say hurtful things to their children than the one gay father in the study, whose parenting skills were depicted as nearly perfect.

Portraying fathers as bumbling idiots is not a new trend, but does seem to be growing.

The Times reported:

Previous research has shown that the “patriotic” and “heroic” images of working-class fathers — i.e., the men who rebuilt America after the Great Depression and World War II — have been replaced by images of immature buffoons and schemers who need constant rescuing from their competent wives.

Fathers got a brief respite from the harsh stereotyping in the 1980s with the mega hit show “Roseanne.” John Goodman brilliantly played Dan Conner, who came across as a loving father and voice of reason – and the character was loved by viewers as well.

Apparently, Dan Conner didn’t have enough of an impact on TV execs who continue to relegate poor ole’ working-dad to the dunce corner.

Trulio insists the study is significant because TV programming consistently transmits “messages about families and fathers.”

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