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Television and dads - Jason A. Smith

Television is starting to get on my nerves.

Aside from the fact that fewer and fewer shows seem to attract my interest these days, even the commercials are beginning to annoy me.

I've noticed a disturbing trend over the last several years, one which I've written about a few times since my college days. That trend centers on the way men, and particularly fathers, are portrayed on TV.

Once upon a time, fictional fathers were seen as men to be respected, revered, even feared at times. Now, however, female lead characters are the ones who appear to be strong and in control, while men are depicted as buffoons.

What once was called "Father Knows Best" has turned into "father knows nothing."

I realize that, to an extent, this trend is a reflection of what has happened in the real world over the last few decades. As I told a friend recently, it's hard to know whether the stereotype is feeding the reality, or the reality is feeding the stereotype.

There's also a marketing component to this discussion, as women are predominantly the ones who purchase products which are advertised on television. Simply put, it pays to show them as having all the answers, and I understand that.

But, does that have to mean that men are clueless?

This dynamic has bugged me for a while now. I've voiced my opinion on it in everything from college term papers, to columns in past venues.

However, I've become more bothered about this topic since the birth of my own little girl. While it is true that her mother is among the smartest and most capable people I've ever known, I don't want my daughter to develop the mindset that her dad isn't worthy of respect.

So, what's the answer? How do I make sure my child grows up with a positive image of her father, and the other men in her life? Do I keep her away from any TV shows or commercials which betray that image?

That's one solution, I guess, and I probably wouldn't be the first parent to choose that option. But, I don't think sheltering her from the outside world to that extent would, in the end, teach her the lessons I want her to learn about me, her uncles, her grandfathers or her future husband.

The best way for me to ensure my little girl respects me, is to be the kind of person who is worthy of such respect. It's one thing to complain about how men are depicted, but it's another thing entirely to stand apart from the stereotype.

Certainly, I will stumble and make mistakes along the way, as I have done many times over the last nine months since becoming a father. I'm not perfect, nor is any dad.

But, I refuse to let my little girl grow up thinking television and commercials constitute reality, when it comes to my relationship with her.

Jason A. Smith covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald.