Alarming News: I like Morgan Freeberg. A lot.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: We were following a trackback and thinking "hmmm... this is a bloody excellent post!", and then we realized that it was just part III of, well, three...Damn. I wish I'd written those.
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler: ...I just remembered that I found a new blog a short while ago, House of Eratosthenes, that I really like. I like his common sense approach and his curiosity when it comes to why people believe what they believe rather than just what they believe.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is an intriguing guy...[he] asks great questions and answers others with style, flair, reason and wit. On the blogroll he goes. Make him a part of your regular blogospheric reading. I certainly will.
Brutally Honest: Morgan Freeberg is brilliant.
Common Sense Junction: Misha @ Anti-Idiotarian never ceases to amaze me. He keeps finding other good blogs. I went over to A.I. this morning for my daily Misha fix and he had found this guy named Morgan Freeberg in Fair Oaks, California, that has a blog, House of Eratosthenes. Freeberg says its "The Blog That Nobody Reads" but it may now become the blog that everybody reads.
Jaded Haven: Good God, Morgan, you cover a topic from front to back with a screwy thoroughness I find mind boggling. I'm in awe of your thought proccesses, my friend, you're an exceptional talent. You start by throwing in the kitchen sink, tie in someone's syphilitic uncle, bend around a rip tide of brilliance and bring it all home in a neat, diamond dripping package of an exceptionally readable moment of damn fine wordsmithing. I love reading you.
Mein Blogovault: Make "the Blog that No One Reads" one of your daily reads.
Philmon: When Morgan meanders, stick with him - he's got a point and it'll be worth it in the end. He's not a hit-and-run snarky quip kind of guy. The pieces all fall into place like tumblers in a lock and bang! He's opened a cognative door for you.
Rightlinx: Morgan at House of Eratosthenes is one of the best writers out there. I read him nearly every day because he manages to provide an interesting perspective, even though I don't always agree.
Poetic Justice: Cletus! Ah gots a laiv one fer yew...
Not sure where that celebrated piece of Americana, the Doofus Dad, is going from here. Sitcoms are always going to need dads, and their audiences are for the foreseeable future going to remain about 80% female. The audience for “fun family comedy movies,” almost by definition, will always be a hodge-podge…but our ladies have more to say about what fun flick to catch at the box office, than the gentlemen, so those efforts sink or swim based on their appeal to feminine sensibilities.
But I think the pandering to feminine whim, being synonymous with making Dad look like a putz, may be temporary. Juvenile resentment and hostility, even when simmering away beneath a thin disguise of humor, just isn’t funny. And ever since Archie Bunker the Doofus Dad has been subject to far more demand from those who offer him, than by those who consume him. He always needed some kind of a boost, because the audiences never found him inherently funny. It started with a laugh track, then other devices were used to lend the Doofus Dad device some support.
That’s good for the short term. But the Doofus Dad has lasted a generation or two by now. His staying power seems to be derived not from comedic value, but from the avoidance of taboo. As if the wrong people would be highly offended if a masculine character were portrayed in any way other than unreliable and/or incompetent. And yet, by itself how long would this sustain this tiresome, threadbare cliche? The Doofus Dad is thirty-six years old, give or take. Cartoons, summer comedies, family drama — these are environments that give rise to creativity and fresh ideas, perspectives and angles never attempted before. And the environment rewards ingenuity whenever & wherever it pops up. It’s certainly not friendly to stale ideas. Why such never-ending hospitality to this one?
John Tierney’s column in the New York Times from two summers ago offered a veritable bouquet of ideas:
Ward Cleaver has been replaced by a stock character known in the trade as Doofus Dad. Explaining this change isn’t easy, but if Ward were still around, he could puff his pipe and offer several theories.
The most obvious is that the television audience has splintered along gender lines, and sitcoms are now a female domain. Four out of five viewers of network sitcoms are women, and they apparently like to see Mom smarter than Dad.
Another explanation is the rising number of mothers with paying jobs. Now that they have their own paychecks, the old bread-earning patriarch is less essential and therefore more mockable. And TV writers no longer have an easy stereotype of Mom to work with. Jokes about daffy middle-class housewives like Lucy Ricardo and Edith Bunker seem dated now that so many women work outside the home.
Fathers are still the same old targets, and they’re even more tempting now that they’ve gotten a new image as shirkers thanks to widely reported findings about who does what at home. Even though more mothers have outside jobs, women still do about four more hours of child care and four more hours of housework per week, according to studies by the social scientists John Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey.
Ezra Klein offered yet another theory having to do with selective tolerance:
It is, after all, a pretty interesting TV phenomenon. If the majority of shows presented other demographics the way they present fathers, they wouldn’t survive a day. Ignorant blacks? Bitchy, materialistic moms? Moronic, accident-prone dads? The whole set fits, but only the last is widely allowable.
Odd. Maybe white males, as the dominant majority, are secure enough in their power and public image not to mind? Maybe they’re the last demographic group safe to infantilize because, as of yet, they haven’t protested their portrayals? And is it white males, or do the black-acted sitcoms work off the same format?
This last one is not only persuasive, it is provable: Men can withstand humor at their expense, and even laugh at it sincerely themselves. Since the days of Vaudeville, no pratfall is funnier than a swift kick in the balls. That timeless joke about the three guys on the deserted island finding the genie in the lamp — you can tell that to a room full of fellas, and draw a good-natured chuckle or two. Anyone want to go to the “Sex in the City” viewing party, stand in front of the television during a commercial break, and tell the assembled foursome that howler about the bitch with two black eyes? It won’t be quite so funny. Yeah, you’ll bring down the house, just not in a way that you’ll like.
Well, this straight white male can bend and flex like any other, and perhaps he’s even more deserving of humor at his own expense than most other straight white males. I just wish, in the twenty-first century, family comedies were a bit more creative. They are supposed to be, after all; and as the guy who ends up paying for them, I’d like to see a few things I’ve not yet seen before. The Doofus Dad schtick lately has taken on a proclivity for covering everything wall-to-wall. The tedious trope starts while the opening credits are still onscreen, and at the final shot it’s just hit it’s stride, with everything in between just oozing out more of the same. And this is where I start to want my money back. It’s not about outrage or personal offense, it’s about paying good money for creativity and not getting it.
Even the bang-for-buck issue ceases to be worthy of concern once one steps outside my household. It’s just my own wallet, and the wallets and purses of other parents who are paying for witty fresh humor, and receiving paint-by-numbers products in return. Society is impacted only the theme of anti-competition, which because of this is disturbing on a wholely different level. Dad stops whacking himself in the forehead with a rubber chicken long enough to announce his desire that junior do his best. Dad thinks his boy has what it takes to win the ball game, ipso facto, he wants him to win.
As if we were in some religious ceremony, it is compulsory that this simple patriarchal desire stand revealed in the Act Two as something odious, destructive…cancerous. Dad doesn’t even have to insist on superlatives for the ritual to be thrown into high gear — comparatives will get things going just fine. Junior brought home a B- in the same class where he got a C last year. Mom is thrilled, Dad thinks Junior could get a B+ if he tried harder. That’s all it takes; off we go. Angst. Tears. Yelling. Suitcases packed, locks changed, a final monologue chock-full of righteous indignation by a wise “Neighbor Earl” sage character, or perhaps from the Mom. And the all-but-guaranteed “deer in the headlights” look from the errant Dad, straight into the camera lens with the whites all the way ’round the eyes, as he realizes what a raging dumbshit he is. This is all part of the package. None of it brings out genuine surprise in anyone, nor has any of it for the last twenty years or more.
But we treat it as something creative and fresh, because we’re told we should.
That’s a direct assault on the timeless human desire to do things well — a desire required for everything good that anybody enjoys in the world today. It is also, as I see it, an effort to replace fathers as role models. Since the first father ever became one, an instrinsic part of the fathering process has been to propagate ones’ values and prejudices in addition to his genetic fabric. This process is certainly subject to flaw, and much evil has been done through it. From where I sit, Hollywood’s solution is to banish it from human existence, by replacing the life-experiences and prejudices of fathers, with Hollywood’s own sensibilities. If that’s the case, the very best you could say about this is that it’s an attack on something demonstrated here & there to be somewhat harmful — but concentrated on the leafy part of the weed.
But I don’t accept it as something good. Hollywood is Hollywood; I’m a Dad. While my son remains impressionable, and thus required to take on someone else’s set of values and prejudices…he might as well take on mine. So we laugh at Doofus Dad movies. At them…not with them.
Well, he’s nine. Teenagerhood awaits, and then Hollywood can take another crack at ‘im. Some form of father-son conflict, with other parties jumping into the chasm where the wedge was driven…that’s a matter of when, not if. So I wish Hollywood the best of luck in their future conflicts with me. In this initial engagement, they’ve failed.
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