Strong, burly, authoritarian and unfaithful: all the characteristics of the classic “family man”. The character portrayed in literature and media throughout history remains unchanged and consistent.
The reliable father figure comes in different guises, but at heart, it’s the same person.
The “father of the family” tends to take care of his family and puts it above everything else. He usually works hard and quantifies his self-esteem and pride by using his career and his ability to perform unnecessary manual labor. This character derives itself from gender roles dating from before 1900.
The man was the head of the family and held all the power in a family dynamic. This is reflected in the characterization of male characters in many television shows, movies, and books, even in contemporary media. These heteronormative “guys” are essential in all media.
In Arthur Miller’s “Death” of a seller”, Willy Loman deplores his shortcomings in his place of work and the problems with his family. He starts to cheating on his wife and all his problems come to a head, leading him to suicide.
He is an example of “failure” in this trope but an applicable character all the same because he operates on the same principles. His self-esteem and sanity were shattered by his job failures and family issues. Without these successes, he felt that his life had no value.
The TV show “Bones” exhibits similar phenomena. The main male protagonist, FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, continually insists on his masculinity and heterosexuality.
He immediately refutes any parallel drawn between him and womanhood, and his religious and military background serves as the basis for his insistence. This follows the same “family man” pattern, with Booth being a father and a family-oriented individual. He, though never unfaithful to his partners, is bossy, strong, and emotionally unavailable. He seems almost afraid of being seen outside his concept of “man”.
This “family man” idea even extends to celebrities and well-known personalities in internet media and music.
An example of this is Adam Levine, lead singer of Maroon 5, also known as the band whose music plays at Target.
His face depended on the fact that he was a family-oriented person, who puts his wife and daughter first. All his “schtick” was an easily digestible household name.
Then, the news falls that he cheated on his wife.
Another similar example is with Ned Fulmer, formerly of The Try Guys, a famous YouTube band with a big platform. His entire internet persona has been sculpted around the fact that he “loves his wife!”
Then, videos emerge of him inappropriately fraternizing with an employee and eventually, news of his affair goes viral.
They are the “fathers of families” in the flesh (or through a computer screen, of course).
Their public identities center on their families and yet their actions contradict this. The concept of the unfaithful husband comes as no surprise to viewers and consumers of today’s mass media. digitally connected world.
The general sentiment of “I’m not even surprised” floods social media in response to such events. However, is it acceptable to standardize these concepts just because are they common?
Common and acceptable are not the same thing, although the the lines are often blurred.
With the “father of the family” portrayed in all facets of media consumption and literature, it is difficult to delineate the problems with the trope.
However, the intrinsic problems linked to the concept of “father of the family” make it necessary to leave the status quo.
The idea that someone who identifies as a man cannot exhibit the conventionally accepted qualities of femininity and emotionality is deeply antiquated.
Although male portrayals of the “family man” have strayed from this convention, as with Phil Dunphy of “Modern Family,” it’s time to abolish the boring, dated trope altogether.