This following Baby Blues comic strip was in the paper a few weeks ago. It's usually not as biting as this, but I have not been able to forget it because it in a humorous way manages to capture in a nutshell a very serious thread in modern American culture: March 17, 2015
This comic captures something that I have been nebulously toying with in my mind a little but brought home to me in a very poignant way. After this comic, I have been more intentional about listening in to dialogue on what my daughter watches in terms of cartoons. We don't let her watch anything unsupervised or age inappropriate, and we only have Netflix not cable TV. So, we can watch things like Thomas the Train (from way back), Arthur (from the mid-'90s) more modern PBS series like the Cat in the Hat, Peg + Cat, and Curious George. (Don't even get me started on the princess phenomenon in Disney films post-Lion King.)
I have noticed that all the more modern stuff, with perhaps the possibly exception of Curious George whose owner is the Man with the Yellow Hat, the men in the show, if they are even there at all, are generally portrayed as buffoons. It's not overt, but the silly or mixed up character is generally the father-like figure. Even in Curious George, the Man with the Yellow Hat, though some sort of millionaire scientist of some sort, is portrayed as a naive goofball in some ways, though he usually cleans up George's messes in the end.
I don't worry so much about this warping my child's worldview because her favorite is still Thomas the Train, which was written by a man, and the owner of the Railway, Sir Topham Hatt, is about as in charge and patriarchal as one can get. I can see how as a culture, however, if all kids watch is the P.C. sterile nonsense of modern television, this current generation of children are being bred to have a very warped view of manhood.
I started thinking about this in earnest a few weeks ago when I saw this comic strip. Then, a few days later, there was an article on the main page of one of the subsections of the Omaha paper. It was about a program in North Omaha (a economically depressed area some would consider "inner city," whatever "inner city" means exactly.) Basically, the program had men from the community come in to the grade school and read a book to the kids in class. I can't find that article on the Omaha World Herald website or I would link to it. It was an otherwise unremarkable article, though the program it was describing was remarkable in itself. I remember there was a picture of a middle aged African-American guy in a tie reading Dr. Suess to what appeared to be 1st graders.
What caught my attention in the article was buried on the continued story on the second page. It remarked offhandedly that the men who do this are largely treated like "rock stars" (actual description from the story) by the kids because this article was saying that for a good 50% of these kids, that guy coming in to read a story once a week is the only interaction of any kind that those kids have with a man all week. They live with single mothers or grandmothers; their teachers are women, and the principal of the school is a woman. Many don't go to church and have no interaction with any men in a venue like that on the weekends. In very flowery language, the article said at the very end that half of those kids in the schools are literally growing up in a world completely devoid of adult men.
The article did not quote any actual statistics or data on that assertion, so I am having to take those numbers at face value, which is always problematic in the age of easy-to-find junk internet statistics in meme form. But from the research I do see from credible sources, where almost 40% of children born today are to unwed mothers, I can easily see how society has socially collapsed. As long as dudes are paying child support, that is all society expects of men in terms of what is owed by fathers to sired children. I wonder if that comes from this increasing idea that men are buffoons.
Men, if you are reading this, the world needs more of this:
Tell children this.
Every Single Day.