Media’s Portrayal of Father Figures

state of americas fathers

June 15, 2017 Update for Father’s Day 2017!

Author of  “All In,” Josh Levs, offers this worthwhile related feature via titled “An Online Battle to Correct the Media About Dads.” He also created a handy mythbusting interactive “tool” shining light on facts vs fiction in the pop culture public arena of advertising and entertainment. Clearly dads are NOT “tools” and it’s way past time to get the narrative framed more accurately. Cue wild applause. 

June 19, 2016 Update for Father’s Day 2016!

While some successful outcomes of the White House State Of Women summit have achieved major mindshare, it’s important to note the first of its kind, fledgling “State of America’s Fathers” summit on equality and diversity ALSO just took place this week, with important stats to show and tell.

Without a doubt, narrowcast roles for men are in dire need of an overhaul as this great post on healthy masculinity via Harvard Biz Review indicates so well.

I also love the portrayal of father/son bonding in this new video posted by The Representation where Sunday becomes “son day,” and their ongoing hashtag contributions toward positive progress, like #BeAModelMan. Things are inching forward for families slowly but surely with incremental change…Happy Father’s Day, guys!

Original Post on portrayals and updated 2015 context:

tie-skypejournal.jpgToss out the requisite necktie, gym socks or techno gizmos.

Ditch the stereotypes of masculinity, and Dad’s day media telling KIDS what dads want for Father’s Day…and weigh in on the importance of male role models in children’s lives, as seen in this recent chat on Twitter using the #BuildConfidence hashtag.

In honor of Father’s Day, we’re interested in deconstructing roles portrayed through media and marketing and see how pop culture portrayals compare and contrast to life’s own “reality show,” so get ready to weigh in here!

Check out TV Dads’ Singles’ Hall of Fame over the decades and this lesson plan on male gender stereotyping from Media Smarts about TV Dads positioned as immature and irresponsible. Thirty years of TV fathers from Center for Media Literacy gives context to remind that while times have changed and we salute and celebrate, “Let’s Not Perpetuate the Dumbing Down of Dads.”


What’s YOUR take on media’s

representation of fatherhood?


From pop culture Marvel/DC comic book dads to real life fatherhood forums and micro-niche specialization of digital support groups for dads (tips for live-away dads, stepfamilies, military fatherhood/dads, gay dads, blended families, encouragment for dads raising kids with special needs and developmental disabilities, disabled dads empowerment… needless to say, media has expanded the global conversation far beyond the black box of TV!

As you can see by this thought-provoking BlogHer post by Mata H., Father’s Day: Not for Everyone, there’s a delicate balance between those celebrating a connection with dear ol’ dad, and those who find it a day to mourn the absence of a strong father figure in their lives.

Cast Your Vote: Shaping Youth’s

Picks-n-Pans in Media’s Depiction of Fatherhood:

1.) Name your best AND worst pick for the portrayal of a ‘dad’ in ANY media, explaining ‘why.’ (role models can be fictitious or real)

2.) Name your biggest pet peeve about the way men (and dads) are portrayed in media and marketing, and what’s your idea for the best way to go about changing it?

3.) What does it mean these days to be a “responsible and engaged” father, (partner/spouse/human being) and how do media messages and changing times impact this role? (might want to take a look at your relationship w/your own dad for comparison, so give us your age if it’s relevant in that conversation, ‘k?)

Finally, what are YOU doing for Father’s Day?

Obviously, I’d like to dig deeper and get into societal expectations, emotional availability, peer stigmas/stereotypes, shared resources for men and other poppa picks…but I don’t want to pry, overwhelm, or turn this into a couch session.

I WILL say I’ve been talking a lot to dads about using media moments (movies, commercials, pop culture messaging) as ‘conversation starters’ with kids…As well as the trailer for The Mask You Live In directed by Jennifer Seibel Newsom of The Representation Project, who also created the fabulous Miss Representation documentary.

It’s an easy and effective way to toss out some heavy stuff without those ‘we need to talk’ squirm sessions that none of us seem to handle very well, be it men, women, or children!

Speaking of uneasy talking moments and the need for icebreakers…Try using fun media itself, like “Frozen” as intimacy builders…(Related ways to get families talking about emotions? Check out the upcoming 6-26-15 @PixarInsideOut Twitter chat “#HowDoYouFeel with Girls Leadership) 

I also find open-ended questions in books like If: Questions for the Game of Life or cube card games like “Table Topics” come in handy for tickling the imagination and lightening channels of communication. Here’s my post about gaining intimacy with kids on the fly) using games like this to uncork important conversations…

These are YOUR conversations, weigh in with what you want to hear…From media misfires and TV dad portrayals to positive talking tips on building family trust by being yourself, staying true, and always getting REAL…

Time to remove all masks. The next generation of kids are counting on it.

Happy Father’s Day to all the father figures out there…


Related Father’s Day Posts on Shaping Youth


Shaping Youth: Media’s Portrayal of Father Figures on TV

Shaping Youth’s Fatherhood Resource Roundup

Reinventing Manhood: The Perfect Gift for a Man

Shaping Youth Asks: Who’s Your Favorite Fictional Male Role Model & Why?

Meaningful Media for Father’s Day: My Daddy Taught Me To…

Piggies & Paws for Papa’s Day: Keepsakes For Life

Free iPhone Apps For Dad He’ll Appreciate More Than Soap On A Rope

Father’s Day for $5, When Kids Want to Use Their Own Money!

Father’s Day Letter to President Obama

Shaping Youth Via Fatherhood, Joe Kelly (The DAD man) on New Media, New Men



  1. Oh thank goodness I found your blog!!! It is late but I’m exploring tomorrow! I am in agreement with the negative impact the media is having on children and society in general. I’ve been blogging for a short time myself but anyone who reads my blog knows I’m NOT a media fan. I feel like I’ve found a candy store!!! I’m looking forward to reading and learning more about this tomorrow! Thank goodness for people taking a stand on this issue!!!

  2. You know… I’m glad you brought attention to this, Amy. For a while I’ve been noticing the increasing trend in children’s television to make dad the “bumbling idiot”– it’s the one BIG problem I have with a lot of the more popular programming on certain big cable stations. The Replaceables, That’s So Raven, Fairly Odd Parents, Jimmy Neutron, Drake & Josh, The X’s, etc. And the kicker is– I actually like most of these shows. The view of adult men in general in Fairly Odd Parents is almost insulting (the teacher, Cosmo, the dentist neighbor, etc). And Jimmy Neutron’s father is so ridiculous it’s scary.

    I appreciate the need to shake up the family imagine and change the fatherly portrayal of the “strong family head”… but there’s a point where it just goes too far… especially when several shows are doing the same thing. It’s like a bandwagon of father-dissing. Yikes.

    Again, I really like all the shows I mentioned (obviously I watch them all regardless and regularly, lol). I’m just ready for this bandwagon to disband and try something else… shake up the family model in a way that still manages to give kids a sense of empowerment, but doesn’t paint the parents as headless-chickens suffering from some sort of MAD cow disease (apologies to all those suffering with Mad Cow, or headless chicken syndrome).

  3. Izzy, I LOVE your commentary…you are both a ray of sunshine and humor as well as a lightening bolt of candor and insight. Thanks for the ping, couldn’t agree more! –Amy

  4. Some interesting information. Keep up the good work

  5. Thanks for giving us all food for thought!

    The first media dad that came to mind was Bill Bixby’s character in the Courtship of Eddie’s Father. People let me tell you about my best friend…. (theme song). I really loved that show and the relationships portrayed in it. Ben Cartwright and Andy Taylor also came to mind.

    As I think about Father’s Day, beyond missing my own father very much (Hi Herbie), I’m most moved by the real fathers currently in my life… the ones who I see showing levels of affection for their children that, I think, parents couldn’t and didn’t show when I was a kid. I’ll celebrate that today.

  6. Great positive sentiment Craig…much HAS changed and advancements HAVE been made, though I’ve noticed on Twitter the hashtag “#MyDadIn4Words” is poignant in its polarity/pendulum swings on paternal influences (ouch, and wow; but also awww and sweet… 🙂

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