A few days ago, Disney announced they were ditching their old dad characters. A very small sample of men, 160 spread across four countries, told them they were out of touch. 160. That’s a ridiculously tiny sample to base such a big shift in policy on. That in itself says something.
Here’s the most entertaining quote from the article covering the news.
“We’ve often looked at the mums and the female leads in our films. But actually when you look at characters like [the Lion King’s] Mufasa, and Parr (The Incredibles Dad), and even Darth Vader, who has some very questionable parenting skills … it shows the great influence that fathers have in our stories.”
What does this mean?
That society is shifting and will shift quicker when we see the change on our screens. That’s going to make it easier, in subtle ways, to put your family first.
That, perhaps, a generation of men are reaching positions of power and questioning the stereotypes their entertainment, advertising and media content reinforce. Again, this only means more change. A good thing.
But it also begs the question of just how deep our unhelpful models of men with kids runs. It’s taken this long to reach a point of realisation, and a survey of only 160 men shifted the balance. The realisation that the stereotypes, or archetypes of fathers are deeply unhelpful was the spark that started BeingDads.
When I realised I was an angry dad, and knew I never wanted to be one, and asked myself what kind of dad I wanted to be. Immediately I ran into the deeply unhelpful stereotypes of haphazard Hugh Grant-esque dad, or 1950’s emotionally distant disciplinarian dad.
Let us hope the new models Disney develops don’t just mimic today’s attitudes. That would be like raising the bar of what it means to be a good dad from ankle height to just above the knee.
Let us hope they go further, taking a more Moana like approach. Ditching the old stereotypes all together to write a new narrative that sets the bar aspirationally high.
Let us hope.
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