“Mr. Mom” no more: single-father representations on television in primetime drama and comedies


National discourses surrounding fathers and caregiving have changed in the last two decades. Once, fathers were only expected to financially provide for their children and be a disciplinarian; today we see that acceptable parenting behaviors for men have expanded to include traditionally feminine roles. One way to understand the current caregiving culture is through popular media; however, depictions of single fathers, and the issues inherent in their lives, have generally been absent in the history of U.S. television. Media representations of families and individuals impact our understanding of fatherhood. We find mixed results when we compare recent representations of single fathers in primetime television to prior research of the lived experiences of off-screen single fathers. Some representations are fairly authentic (i.e. emotional connections) and others perpetuate stereotypes (i.e. inability to parent). By featuring the inept father trope, television reifies these stereotypes in lived experiences of single fathers. We conclude that positive television representations of single fathers through single-father characters mirrors a culture of “new fatherhood” which more accurately reflects the experiences of men as primary caregivers in the U.S. today.

Publication Title

Critical Studies in Media Communication