If you watched the Olympics, and I’m betting you watched at least a little, you saw commercials for a new NBC (Jimmy Fallon produced) comedy called Guys With Kids in which a supposedly modern trio of men take care of babies and, not knowing any better because they’re really just children themselves, do the kind of stupid male things with them that could make just about anybody laugh. Except me. What is it with the way fathers are represented by our culture? Is it really this far behind the rest of us? I have two young sons and have always considered myself an equal caregiver. My wife and I both work full time. We share cleaning and other domestic chores, except for cooking, of which I do the majority. We both do laundry, clean the toilets, scrub the showers, mop the floors, iron shirts, clean up puke, piss and shit, and pretty much whatever else needs doing, and sure, there’s comedy to be found in life, but I’m so tired of the comedy, at least as far as shows like Guys With Kids are concerned, happening in the space between what a man is expected to do and what he might actually do. There’s a reason Mad Men is set in the 60’s. Check out the promo for Guys With Kids, then come back.
It’s not…horrible, right? I mean, it’s a step closer to reality than, say, Home Improvement, or Vince Vaughan in Old School. And it’s sort of funny. But I’m still not laughing. And I still won’t tune in. Maybe I’d find it funny if any of it rang true to me. It’s not that the life moments don’t ring true–they do. The lack of privacy, the challenges to find intimacy, the unintentional disappointment of your partner, the desire to be a good man. These things happen. My existence if rife with life’s natural humor and ridiculousness and sometimes all you can do is laugh. But it’s the laughs coming at the expense of an assumed ineptness in men that I find offensive and am so tired of. I just flat out don’t know those guys. And one of them is a stay at home dad, which is actually a pretty progressive thing to put on television, all things considered. But though their lives look familiar, their inner essence bears only a passing resemblance to my own. And, I would bet, to a lot of people. So why does network television and Hollywood keep force feeding us this horse shit? Are we really not ready to deal with a man who is happy to cook dinner and make the bed and wipe his kid’s shitty ass without a laugh track to get him through it unscathed? Or, even worse, castrated? Now I know how gay people must have felt when they watched Will and Grace.
Yeah, I’m a guy sometimes. I drink beer and tell my guy friends lewd jokes. I mow the lawn and try to fix stuff and have trouble admitting when I can’t do things. I like to watch sports and scratch my balls and brag about a good burp now and again. But c’mon! That’s not everything. Shocking as NBC might find it, I know plenty of men who cook and clean their homes and not just because their wives tell them to. I know men whose own domestic instincts surpass those of their (female) spouses. I know men who read cooking magazines right out in public. Men who just like to have things neat and tidy. Men who groom and primp before watching football. And men who wouldn’t mind staying inside to cook dinner while their wife kicks the soccer ball with the kids. Even men who don’t need advice on humility, humanity, or manhood from a faceless neighbor over the proverbial fence.
So where is he? Because he sure as hell isn’t on TV.