Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Lampooning The American Dad

The new sport in satire is the American Dad. Take the show American Dad. Or South Park. Or The Simpsons. The patriarch is the buffoon who is a caricature of authority. Seth Johnson's South Park makes out dads to be stupid, perverted, hideous, comical. Anything but respectable. And what can American dads do but role. Lets face it. Being the heavy is always going to be lampooned. But where did this lets roast dad genre come from?

Certainly Ward Cleaver didn't start it. Dad was cool. He came home from work and kissed June and handled the Beave and never lost his shit. He was the man in charge who never broke a sweat even as The Beave raised hell. And from there we go to Father Knows Best  or Family Affair or Gidget or Happy Days or Dick Van Dyke. Dad did progress. Pick up on Bill Cosbys dad. He was pretty cool and kind of a hard ass. He would crack the whip but he knew the score. So dad went from the distanced Ward Cleaver to a hipster dad.

And then...then dad went sideways. He became not respectable at all. In fact dad became the guy to be disparaged. Or he became the totem pole for all that is wrong with bourgeois living. The magnet for every crappy thing that can be attached to living in a suburb and raising a family. Ted Bundy was the precursor of this animated dad who garners no respect and only derision. Like metafiction we doubt not only the man but the institution. No one can win because the whole paradigm of having a family in America is suspect. Dad being the easiest target

And why not? Suburban sprawl brings no respect. It is a lifestyle choice of the man predicated on raising kids in bland safe surroundings. So the blanding applies to moms and dads but dads are the blandest of all. Totems left over from the Greatest Generation they are respected by neither their wives or kids and left to hide in garages or in basements or to leer at young women.

So what to do. Nothing. You are either a dad or you are not. And the people who are lampooning are now dads too. They know there is little to be done to escape their fate. Of course you could always not watch I suppose.

Rocket Man...the American Dream Turned upside Down

Books by William Hazelgrove