They fit into one of three boxes: the absent and self-involved (Don Draper, Mad Men ), the completely ridiculous and mostly incompetent (Peter Griffin, Family Guy ), or the basically great (Sandy Cohen, The O.C. ).
Moms are way easier to craft because they can be pretty and cool and successful and even fallible without having to sacrifice their maternal instincts. Think Lorelai Gilmore ( Gilmore Girls )– she’s the archetype of the cool-mom-who-is-friends-with-her-child character. But, unlike many of the mother-daughter relationships shown today, she and Rory did fight. Hell, there was an entire season where they didn’t speak to each other. But, it does seem that in the early 2000s the dynamic between moms and their kids went from tenuous and parental to solid and friendly. The “problem” here is that the father-child relationship remained stagnant instead of evolving.
But, since 2004 this has been changing: not every dad on TV fits in a nice stereotypical box that serves his conventional purpose.
Par exemple, the father-daughter relationships on shows like Castle and V eronica Mars make us straight up jealous. Not only are the dads single fathers, they’re funny, attentive, and involved in their daughters’ lives. Of course, they’re far from perfect, which adds to our love for these fictional fathers.
And we would be remiss to discount Gossip Girl’s Rufus Humphrey, the one decent Papa Smurf on a show teeming with bad dads [Ed. Note: And he makes a mean waffle.]. Even though Rufus doesn’t always take charge with the decisions, he is a good father to Dan and Jenny, especially during his bachelor days before he entered back into the imperious clutches of Lily Bass/Van Der Woodsen/Rhodes. We kind of miss that dynamic, actually.
And then we have Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights, a (damn good) show that effectively captures the world’s most perfect dad without resorting to hackneyed Seventh Heaven schlock. Taylor broods and crinkles his eyes, signaling a stalwart sense of responsibility, a firm sense of right and wrong, and steadfast loyalty to his (equally hot) wife.
And new dad archetypes have cropped up on network television during the past year as well: Modern Family and Parenthood are significantly changing the way the role of fathers-on-the-small-screen dads by depicting gay couples, a stay-at-home dad, a metrosexual dad, and the quintessential breadwinner.
Have we proven our theory? Put your two cents in the comments.