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 ...
... middle of paper ...
...: in an attempt to remain the baby of the family, Stewie tries several methods to prevent his parents from copulating, including destroying Peter’s sperm in a microscopic spaceship a la Fantastic Voyage.
While an additional category of sitcom fathers could be Realistic, the conventions of sitcoms determine and thus restrict the depiction of normal fathers. Furthermore, television has effectively corrupted several generations of viewers’ minds with simulacra: it is difficult to distinguish the standards and memories of our parents from sitcom characters, resulting in the question of whether characters resemble our parents or our ideas of parents originate from television. The minimal diversity of sitcom fathers shows that television employs a perpetual cycle of reference in which progress is difficult.
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