So Daddy's a Dope!
"Fathers of the world unite!" cries this outraged parent. "Down with radio for telling our kids we're all idiots!"
THE FATHERS of this country are on the spot. Unless we pull up our socks, boys, and do something . . . but quick . . . we’ve had it! This will come as a shock to some of you hard-working breadwinners, but we are being taken for an unmerciful ride on the radio these days and our gentle little progeny are getting a heck of a bang out of it.
For some reason radio writers and producers seem to be obsessed with the idea that it’s a scream to make a fool out of the head of the house. In at least half a dozen programs, which . . . Heaven help me ... I have listened to during recent weeks, poor old pop is billed as a spineless, absurd, blundering nincompoop who can’t tie his own shoelaces without getting the situation hopelessly snarled up.
He is the world’s champion boob. If he decides to buy his wife an anniversary or Halloween present he either buys the wrong thing, buys it for the wrong day, loses it or indulges in some other pooferish nonsense too ridiculous to mention. If he takes a hammer in hand and attempts to repair a cupboard . . . why, he’s just u riot. And should he attempt anything as complicated as running his business or his home, or trying to advise or help his children, he invariably makes a hopeless fool of himself.
He is jeered at by his children . . . but loved, you understand . . . pitied and put up with by his wife, hated by his neighbors, bullied by his boss and laughed at by everyone with whom he comes into contact . . . especially the kids who are listening to the radio.
I happened to find out what was going on behind
our loudspeakers one night a couple of weeks ago, when I let; my nine-year-old daughter talk me into listening to one of her favorite programs, a happy little story of family life called “Allan and Me,” carried by the CRC trans-Canada network. Now' as far as I could make out this is a pretty average little family. All except father. If he’s average . . . well, judge for yourself.
Dad Falls for It
THE SHOW starts off with a sweet little moppet proclaiming that we were about to be treated to another adventure of Alan and her. At this juncture Alan comes along and the two of them waste no time in getting their knife into old dad. They mention a hilarious incident that took place the day before and during which father contorted himself in his usual asinine manner. After the two of them have a merry laugh at poor pop’s expense we are treated to the incident.
The old man came home this night, it seems, feeling “tired and just, kind of run down.” And that is the only resemblance he bears to any father I have ever known. From here on in he is strictly all clown.
Well, he starts sounding oil about how he needs more exercise. This Continued on page 32
Continued on page 32
So Daddy's a Dope!
Continued from page 8
is the cue for the dear little angels to spring their trap. They state that they are going skating that night and why doesn’t dad come along? Mother aids and abets the little assassins by making some snide remarks about her husband’s waistline and having a mild little laugh at bus expense. Why are radio wives always so smug and superior?
Instead of telling the kids to go fall through the ice, he’s going to read the paper, pop, the goof, plays right into their hands. He starts puffing about what a whiz he used to be on skates and how, under the name of Cannon Ball Clay, be was the terror of his highschool hockey team. More merriment from the kids and snide remarks from friend wife. The upshot of all this . . .
as you have probably guessed ... is that the whole family goes out for an evening’s skating.
The next scene takes us to the neighborhood pond where we find everybody having a good time except the head of the household. While the children laugh and shout and dash merrily about he sits on the bank groaning because . . . now get this ... he can’t tie his own skate laces. Also, although it’s a warm night, he has turned up with six sweaters on.
When he finally gets his skates on he falls flat on his puss and we have another round of merry laugher and caustic cracks. Instead of saying to hell with this and going home, father tries to bluff it through. He flounders around like a hippogriff on stilts, pulls his wife down with him and generally demonstrates that a father is the last word in clumsy oafs. During this
exhibition one of the kids is heard to remark . . . “darn, why did we have to bring him along!” Poor, clumsy, ridiculous old dad.
But this is only the beginning of the indignities to be heaped upon pappy by the heartless scriptwriter. There are, it seems, holes in the ice, clearly marked by signs, which everybody can be expected to understand except father. The kids keep warning him of the danger, but of course it would be too much to expect him to pay any attention. Finally the inevitable happens and pop can’t be found. It looks as though he’s fallen through and got drowned . . . which would have been all right by me.
Paw Sleeps It Off
So a great man hunt is begun and everybody in town, including the police and fire departments, is drawn into it. And where do they find pop? Has he taken off his skates and gone off to a poker game or to have himself a solacing beer like any ordinary male would do? Not he. He’s up on the bank sleeping . . . the poor old duffer must be all of 30 years old.
Well, you get the idea . . . everything that father does is silly. Oh yes, he finally does fall through the ice after he has been “found out” and has established himself as the laughingstock of the town for many years to come. Pop ends up at home with wifie and kids pitying him like all get out and finishes off the fiasco by poutingly remarking that he wishes . . . “they’d left him in the puddle to drown.” Which is the only sensible remark he made during the show.
Maybe this is all good clean tun and I’m just an old sourpuss. Maybe some people even find it amusing. And if Mort Clay were an honest-to-goodness clown like Charlie Chaplin or Ed Wynn I might get a laugh out of him myself. But what is eating my liver is that this Goop is billed as a more or less typical Canadian father . . . the head of a family, the breadwinner . . . even, dear long-suffering father, as you and 1. Also every attempt is made to make it appear that this is just a simple homey story of what may be going on in any Canadian home on your street, in your town. Heaven forbid. And the most insidious thing about it is that the story of all pop’s blundering is told by his little son and daughter.
Fm no psychologist ... I can’t even pronounce the words they use . . . but it seems to me that this sort of thing must be bad for growing children. I’ve heard somewhere that it’s a good thing for kids to respect their fathers and to consider them, if not supermen, at least a cut above a buffoon.
During all the time the above effort was on my daughter enjoyed herself immensely. I thought she would die laughing when the poor dopey old daddy fell on his pants and nearly killed himself. After it was over I asked her if she’d liked the show and she said, “Are you kidding, brother?” I suggested mildly that that was hardly the way to answer her father. Whereupon she threw a sly look at her mother and the two of them got that smug look on their faces as though they knew a joke 1 didn’t. I guess they did at that.
I stuck to my guns though and asked her if she thought the show were true to life. “Oh sure,” she flipped. “I think that’s what would happen to any man.”
1 decided to do a bit of checking up on just what kind of radio shows are keeping the small fry in stitches these days. And I discovered, with a slight feeling of nausea, that unless I stand over the radio with an axe my daughter will listen to seven or eight programs
with the samo Oh-what-a-fool-is-daddy thomo every week. You couldn’t blame her if she developed some pretty weird notions about fatherhood.
The next show I caught was an NBC Saturday evening show called “Life of Riley,” starring William Bendix. Now Bendix is . . . for my money ... a pretty fair comedian. But does he play the part of a Colonel Stoopnagle, or a Happy Hooligan? Oh no . . . he’s a hard-working father with two kids . . . Babs and Junior. As usual the kids and wife, Peg, are pretty close to being average citizens and behave pretty much like rational human beings. But father . . . Wow!
Add Ozzie and Harriet
He gets a few laughs by mispronouncing words and from funny lines, but the bulk of the humor lies in his making a dizzard of himself as a husband and a father. On the show I heard he came home and got his family all excited about a car that he thought his boss was going to give him. But it turned out that the boss gave him a watch instead. A natural enough mistake. But instead of telling his family about this he let them believe that they were still going to get the car. Then, by some contrivance possible only to a radio father, he managed to get his family into his boss’ car and to wreck it. Poor father.
Next I dropped into another typical American home to visit a typical American father and his typical American family . . . the CBS Sunday show from Hollywood, “Ozzie and Harriet.” We find the wife and children sitting around the room doing something sensible while pop is reading the funnies. (Very funny ... yuk,yuk,yuk.)
In fact this father runs pretty true to form for radio fathers. In all his dealings with his wife and children he acts the complete fool. This time he found, or his friend found, his wife’s ring where she had carelessly left it. He decides that this is a good time to give the family an object lesson on carelessness and keeps the ring. Well, you know what happened ... he lost the ring through a hole in his pocket, and his wife found it, but in the meantime pop had the kids looking for it and they found it on their mother’s dressing table when* she’d put. it. It got. fairly complicated here and 1 got lost, but I know it ended with father being completely bested and instead of teaching anybody anything just making a (loop of himself.
During the course of these shenanigans one of the extra characters made this remark, which pretty well sums up the typical radio husband and wife relationship . . . “Nothing is more beautiful than the look that comes into a woman’s eyes when she is forgiving her husband for being a dope!”
But the program that galled me worst' than all the others put together was an ABC sustainer, the story of that sap-to-end-all-saps. Willie Piper. Now Bill isn’t a father . . . yet . . . but he is a husband and an insult to every husband living. This program is based on the premise that husbands are wellmeaning. hard-working, lovable and simple-minded; while wives are understanding. forgiving and oh so appreciative of their husbands’ pitiful attempts to act like full-grown men.
Naturally everything Willie attempts goes haywire, and more often than not, good, sweet little wifie catches on to his little schemes before the show is half over. But, like a kind mother with a not-too-bright little boy, she doesn’t spoil things for Willie by letting on.
“Good night, you two little boys,” says Willie’s wife fondly as she goes off to bed after a particularly trying day
with Willie. She’s talking to her husband and her father. Grrrrr!!!
Another top-ranking show dedicated to the proposition that father is a blithering idiot is the “Baby Snooks Show,” which is heard over CBS networks on Friday evenings. Here are some of the ridiculous things that happened to “Daddy” on the show 1 heard ... all with his little daughter looking on and heckling like crazy:
1. Gets bitten by a bearskin rug.
2. Bribes his kid not to tell anybody.
3. Can’t close his own suitcase.
4. Steals his boss’ dog.
5. Gets bawled out by his boss in front of his kid.
6. Flies into a temper and tells his daughter to “shut up.”
7. Tells a deliberate lie in front of his child.
Not a very impressive example of American parenthood.
In the Phil Harris Show, heard every Sunday night over NBC, two sweet little cherubs needle their father mercilessly. “Old Hot-shot” they call him. After he’d made a particularly bonehead play one quipped . . .“Gee, daddy just hasn’t any character at all, has he?” It’s true that Harris is supposed to be a clown, but to millions of listening kids he’s just another example of how daffy a daddy can be.
As I remember the books we read as kids . . . there were no radios . . . any fathers that turned up were represented as pretty reasonable and intelligent persons. Quite frequently their children addressed them as “sir” instead of “pop,” “pater,” or “dad.” And it seems to me that most of us regarded our own fathers with a good deal of awe and respect. If they had any weaknesses . . . and they probably had ... we didn’t know about them and certainly wouldn’t have laughed at them if we had.
I listened to three other shows, highly recommtmded by my daughter and therefore under suspicion . . . “Blondie,” (CBS),“Date With Judy,” (NBC) and “The Aldrich Family,” (NBC). On each of these the fathead father tradition is pretty well upheld by the male parent whenever he speaks or does anything . . . particularly when he is attempting to show his children a thing or two.
It’s Time to Organize
Now I contend that these programs are doing the North American home no good. For one thing it is pretty hard for a father to know just how to act around the house. If he tries to discipline his children he has a horrible feeling that they are thinking of that hilarious situation in the Aldrich Family when Sam Aldrich spent the whole half hour giving Henry what-for and was himself entirely in the wrong. If he feels like having a game of croquet, say, with the kids he strongly suspects that the kids will be disappointed if father doesn’t knock himself cold with the mallet. And he doesn’t dare attempt to fix anything around the house any more, knowing that he will be an unnatural father if he doesn’t cut off a finger or at least lock himself inside a cupboard.
But the kids know how to act all right. They’ve got a pretty good idea just what pop is and how he can be handled. They know that given enough rope he’ll hang himself every time. I offered to help my kid with some homework the other evening and she just laughed at me. She knows what happens when fathers attempt to do arithmetic problems. She listens to the radio.
Fathers have got to do something about this before it is too late. The future of the family depends on it. But we are up against a pretty big thing and
we’ll have to do something pretty big about it. Maybe we could form a league . . . The Indignant Fathers of North America, for instance. With an organization like that we might lick this thing. Here are some of the ways that The Indignant Fathers of North America Inc. might work to reinstate the dispossessed fathers of our land:
1. Have its members put an absolute ban on the duffer-dad type of program in their homes. A tough enough assignment considering the hold kids have gained over radio listening. But it’s got to be done, fathers, one way or another. Either those programs are out or we are.
2. Have the secretary of the association write to the sponsors of these programs and tell them they are making a big mistake. For although the kids and women may be getting a big kick out of the degradation of daddy, the old man is still the guy who pays the bills. Make it plain that unless there are drastic changes we’ve bought our last box of Quickies.
3. Make a rule that all members shall confiscate all Dagwood and other comic strips of a like ilk as soon as they come into the house and burn them. Another rule: any father who is referred to by his wife or children as a “little boy” shall grab the nearest croquet mallet and break it over the offender’s head.
4. Swing into action with a monster public relations’ program to glorify the American Father: Along with the usual magazine and newspaper coverage we might hold a special father’s show. We could display work that has been done by fathers, like end tables they have made and book ends and stuff like that. We might even have booths where fathers would put on demonstrations. We could have a father hang a picture, fix a light socket or climb a ladder just to show that he can do these things without nailing his necktie to the wall, electrocuting himself or breaking an arm.
I don’t see why too, if we pay enough for them, we shouldn’t be able to get some testimonials from wives. Something like this. “Listen to what Mrs. Meeker has to say about her husband . . . Quote . . . My husband is no angel, but he’s no little boy either and believe me he’s no fool . . . unquote . . .”
One thing is sure, if we just neglect this thing or pretend to ignore it we are done for.
Forward, Indignant Fathers of North America ! ★
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