Categorization of Sitcom Fathers
For this essay I consulted EPGuides.com and The Internet Movie Database, which also includes minimal facts of television shows and casts. Throughout the course of television history there have evolved several types and variations of fathers: the Simulacrum; the Single-parent; the Substitute; the Homer Simpson; the Apathetic.
Though their characteristics coincide with American values, the Simulacrum Father does not merely represent ideals but America’s adoption of simulations. Jean Baudrillard concisely describes his complex idea of simulacra as “the generation by models of a real without origin or reality” in “The Precession of Simulacra.” Mid-Twentieth-century television fathers such as those on Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, and Ozzie and Harriet serve as the origin for this type: these patriarchs appear caring, benevolent, insightful, and family-oriented. Fathers on shows like The Cosby Show, Family Ties, and Growing Pains both continued the tradition of teaching-through-correcting while their children confronted tough issues and established the image of the ideal father. This image, though, lacks a real referent: these fathers are simulacra because their origin is the father image of the past, a construct of ideals.
If contemporary audiences examined their ideas of how fathers should be, they would likely identify those traits depicted by past and present sitcom fathers; the problem with this, though, is that audiences derive the standards for real fathers from simulations without real referents. Contemporary Simulacra Fathers on such shows as Everybody Loves Raymond, Boy Meets World, 8 Simple Rules, and My Wife and Kids continue the cycle of simulation, as their origins are not real fathers but the ideal fathers featured in past sitcoms. Oliver Beene, currently airing on Fox, markedly illustrates the process of simulation through its 1962 setting: television both constructs nostalgia and features images that reference other images instead of the real. The Simulacrum Father endures because sitcom fathers reinforce American ideals of fathers through deriving from past generation of ideal father images, the same origin of audiences’ ideals.
The Single-parent Father diverges from the Simulacrum as such fathers exist as referents; however, this type signifies another American ideal of the virtuous parent. The model for this type is Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner of Full House, who strove to provide his three daughters the experience of two parents through dedication, over-compensation, and unhealthy doses of didactic conversations. Two shows descended from Full House illustrate both the simulacrum (through their cast connections to Full House) and attributes of the single-parent father: Raising Dad, featuring Bob Saget, “A sitcom about a widowed father struggling to separate his professional & personal lives and keeping his sanity while raising two daughters,” (imdb.com) and “Two of...