And why modern men might want to blame themselves…
By Simon Donohue
First things first: I believe in absolute equality for all. I also accept that women, far more than men, and indeed supported by all right-thinking men, are still fighting a daily battle for absolute equality that dates back to the year dot.
Things are slowly changing, but that fight still needs to be fought around the world. I’m in. Apart from the obvious, there is nothing that men and women can’t and shouldn’t do. Both sexes should expect equal recognition in every regard – pay, employment, human rights, the queue at the bar.
With that comes the caveat that men and women are physically different. Again, both men and women should have the choice to do what they are physically able to do.
So assuming that two wrongs can never make a right, why is it still OK for an entire generation of working fathers to be portrayed as total morons?
Take for instance Peppa Pig’s absolute tool of a dad, Daddy Pig. Striking where it hurts most, slap bang in the most important developmental years of children’s lives, the kids’ TV portrayal of Daddy Pig really gets my goat.
There’s an innocent and poetic truth in the child’s eye view of him going to work to mindlessly hitting a few buttons, but even that undermines the serious graft of working fathers.
Worse still is the absolutely calamitous way that Daddy Pig tackles tasks around the house. He can’t hang a picture without bringing down an entire wall. It’s clear that ‘Silly Daddy’ is a proper klutz – fat, stupid, ineffectual, hopeless and helpless. A great role model then. Peppa’s creator not only admits it, but has earned some serious coin as a result, as this Daily Mail article attests.
Daddy Pig isn’t the only moronic man on television, mind you. Some of Homer Simpson’s adventures arguably leave Daddy Pig looking like a genius. His entire life is a big fat fail in one way or another: No piece of plutonium too big to put in his pocket, no doughnut too small to distract. While none of this is new it is increasingly prevalent. Telly blokes are largely little boys in men’s bodies, goons who look grown up but really haven’t got a clue. From Men Behaving Badly to Peep Show, there’s a rich tradition of using bozo blokes as a lure for (canned) laughter. The Inbetweeners makes it clear that this affliction is being passed on to a new generation of gormless gents.
One theory lies in the continuation of gender stereotypes first cast in circus tents and then perpetrated in the very earliest days of mass media. Women were mystical and beautiful beasts. Male leads could either make ’em swoon or make ’em laugh. Canny actors saw fit to don red noses, plaster their faces with white make-up and clown around. From Laurel and Hardy to The Hangover, the feckless fella remains an impotent force to be reckoned with. Only George Clooney and the Diet Coke bloke are allowed to make women swoon these days, leaving everyone else to at least try and raise a polite giggle.
The harshest truth of all in this is that we fellas probably have ourselves to blame. We reinforce the legend of Daddy Pig with good reason. We try too hard to be workers and fathers and lovers and house fixers, and end up not quite getting any aspect of anything quite right.
We clown around and tell ‘dad jokes’ because that’s what we think the children want, then die a little inside when they one day reveal it to be a cause of embarrassment. (Most of those gags weren’t even intended to be dad gags in the first place). We pick up hammers and nails because those are the things that real men are supposed to be able to do and we’re scared of the expense of getting someone professional in to dent both pride and wallet.
Sometimes it does feel like we’re at work hitting buttons all day for no good reason, but it pays the bills that keeps the roof over the heads of the people we love
We’re meant to be reconstructed caring guys who bath babies and concrete wall-constructing cavemen at the same time. We do what we think is right and it sometimes leaves us looking foolish.
So it’s time to bring home the bacon. Is it a case of ‘manning up’, or one of conforming to the modern stereotype as we make like Daddy Pig? You decide.