Saturday, June 15, 2013

Life Lessons From The Imperfect TV Dads of My Childhood

Act #167:  This one's for you, men:  Consider mentoring a young man so they can see real-life examples of kind, loving males beyond the TV screen.

James Evans, Sr., Good Times
Some things are worth compromising, some things aren't.  
While his character was a hard-working father who often worked 2-3 minimum-wage jobs to support his family, when he had to, he grabbed his pool stick and snuck out to hustle up a few bucks in order to feed his family.  But perhaps his most important contribution was his real-life refusal to accept the producers exploitation of his television son's (JJ) character, as a less-than-intelligent, dy-no-mite preaching, cringe-worthy buffoonish, stereotype of a black man.
Howard Cunningham, Happy Days 
Always look up from reading the paper.
As a child, this is what I thought my Thai American family was supposed to look like.  Complete with heart throb, family friend, Chachi of course. Mr. C was always mild-mannered, always loving, always successful (as the owner of a hardware store)...and always looking up from his paper on that Lazy Boy, whenever his family needed him.  Might have been cool for him to actually get up out of the Lazy Boy every once in a while to say....fix himself a sandwich, or maybe give Mrs. C a break?
Phillip Drummond, Different Strokes
Anybody can be a dad if they are willing to mentor someone.
Single dad, Phillip Drummond navigated the complexities of blended families, tackling issues of race and privilege along the way.  The most shocking revelation to the 8-year old me:  New York apartments fancy enough to warrant stairs.  
Tom Bradford, Eight is Enough 
Sometimes, you just need mom.
Who are we kidding, this kind-hearted working dad of eight, couldn't have possibly managed without his first wife.....and then his second, shortly after he widowed.
George Jefferson, The Jeffersons
Usually, the tough ones are mush on the inside.
Opinionated, rude, bigoted, witty, and painfully politically incorrect, George Jefferson finally brought to life the portrayal of smart, successful African-American families, "moving on up" during a time when formal racism was no longer sanctioned, but its enduring impact were still oh, so prevalent.  George Jefferson seemed to aggravate just about everyone - his wife, his maid, the interracial couple who lived in his building, but at the end of the day, his character proved to be complex and rich way beyond the wealth that he accumulated.

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