Published by the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, University of Canberra

Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

Listicle: Books and TV programs showing great Dads

Sep 7, 2021 | Equality, Book, Parenting, Fathering, Popular Culture, Culture, Feature

Why are dads still so often presented as bumbling fools in popular culture? A recent opinion piece by stay-at-home Dad and journalist Rob Sturrock struck a huge chord with our readers. He argued that the way Dads are portrayed in popular kids’ TV shows and children’s books really matters:

All men are capable of providing the physical and emotion support children require to develop into skilled, confident and socially adjusted people. Yet one of the great parenting myths is that men are thoroughly incapable and inattentive and women are instinctively more attuned to the needs of their children. We continue to feed this misconception to our children, on a daily basis since it is strongly embedded in our pop culture and children’s entertainment.

If you haven’t already devoured his words, we recommend you go ahead and read the whole thing.

This got us thinking, though. Which children’s books and TV programs DO actually show dads sharing the load? Ginger, our Editor here at BroadAgenda asked her Twitter followers their opinions on this matter, and was inundated with suggestions. Here are our favourite picks.  Can you think of any others? Share them with us on @BroadAgenda5050.

 

Bluey

Bandit, at right, is a laid-back but resourceful dad who’s heavily involved in the day-to-day childcare. Image: Supplied/ABC 

  1. Bluey 

We had a few people suggest the ABC TV show, Bluey. Bluey is an indestructible six-year-old blue heeler puppy. Together with her little sister, Bingo, she loves to play and transform ordinary family life into spectacular adventures, using her imagination as well as her mental, physical and emotional endurance. Their father Bandit has recently been described as …”a laid-back but resourceful dad who’s heavily involved in the day-to-day childcare” and  “the ultimate guide to fatherhood“. Woah! High praise – but we agree!

 

Guess How Much I Love You

2. Guess How Much I Love You  

Our second popular suggestion is a children’s book by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram, Guess How Much I Love You – A simple yet beautiful story about Little Nutbrown Hare and her Dad, Big Nutbrown Hare. The book portrays the Dad’s love for his son and sends a reassuring message that it is supportive, enduring, and eternal. The book is a bestseller for a reason. The story of the Nutbrown Hares trying to find a way to measure the unmeasurable, and Big Nutbrown Hare’s heart-warming declaration to Little Nutbrown Hare, ‘I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK’, has become the equivalent of saying ‘I love you’ all over the world.

My Dad is a Dragon by Damon YoungPeter Carnavas

My Dad is a Dragon,
by Damon Young and Peter Carnavas.

3. My Dad is a Dragon 

My Dad is a Dragon is a gorgeous children’s book by a philosopher and writer, Damon Young. The book portrays the diversity of dads through beautifully illustrated pictures by Peter Carnavas and lines that are lyrically expressive and comic. It is a great read for young children, who will delight in exploring the uniqueness in the universal experience of fatherhood.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird

Another book suggestion on Twitter came from the political scientist and gender expert Dr Blair Williams. Yes, we know that To Kill a Mockingbird isn’t strictly for meant for kids, but we wanted to give it a shout out because it does a beautiful job in its portrayal of the father figure.  Atticus Finch, a father of two, is a strong-hearted bloke who lives with his family in the town of Maycomb Country. Atticus teaches his kids life lessons which remain relevant today, including difficult and complex topics such as white supremacy and racism. Throughout the book he shows fairness and treats his children with respect and understanding. He also sets a good example by always being truthful. In our books, that gets the tick for ‘good father’!

5. Finding Nemo 

Another popular suggestion was the movie Finding Nemo. The film was released in 2003, and we’re sure everyone’s seen it, or at the very least heard of it. The story revolves around two clown fish, Marlin and Nemo, and a forgetful royal blue tang fish, Dory. When Nemo is abducted from the Great Barrier Reef and taken to Sydney, Nemo’s father Marlin enlists Dory’s help. Together they embark on a mission to save Nemo and return him to his family. The film shows the great lengths Marvin will go to to protect his son – but it also teaches him a lesson about the importance of letting go. Filled with laughs and amazing animation, it’s a must see and will remain popular for years to come.

6. My Neighbour Totoro

This one is a superb 1988 Japanese animated fantasy filmThe plot centres around a university professor who moves into an old house with his two daughters to be closer to his wife, who is ill recovering in hospital. Tatuso, the father, is warm and loving towards his daughters. Despite not being able to spend a lot of time together, he makes them his priority, always encouraging them and never doubting their capabilities. Tatuso is a beautiful representation of a father figure. However, he does in fact leave the kids to play on their own quite a bit…and not all of our readers were fond of that! The film does a beautiful job at showing the lengths he will go to in order to enable his children to see their mother in hospital, bringing with it a sense of hope and optimism.

7. The Gruffalo’s Child

Another recommendation by our readers is a wonderful book written by Julia Donaldson called, The Gruffalo’s Child.  Ignoring the advice from this father, the disobedient child wanders into the woods in the middle of the night in hopes of finding the big bad mouse. Following the success of the book it was made into an animation. The television show has a strong emphasis on the father and it portrays Gruffalo’s role as a parent in guiding the child through the whims of the childhood.

8. Round the Twist

This next one is an absolute classic. Initially a book by Paul Jennings, it later inspired a TV show remembered fondly by those growing up in the 2000s. The show is about a single-parent named Tony Twist and his three children, 13-year-old twins Pete and Linda, and 7-year-old Bronson. The family relocates from a chaotic metropolitan city to a lighthouse on Australia’s coast, but things take an interesting turn when they find out that the lighthouse is haunted. The show comes with ample feel-good vibes and good belly laughs, but we thought it deserves a mention in particular for its portrayal of single parenthood.

Jabari Jumps

“Jabari Jumps” is a book about a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy.

9. Jambari Jumps

This fabulous book was written by Gaia Cornwall and published in 2017. The story is about Jambari, who tries to find the courage to jump off a diving board. According to the book’s publishers, “Gaia Cornwall captures a moment between a patient and encouraging father and a determined little boy you can’t help but root for.” With the lesson on overcoming your fears and showing how your mind can sometimes be your greatest barrier, it’s a sweet and encouraging book and shows just how important Dads are.

 

 

These are just a handful of the suggestions we received on Twitter about items of kids’ culture that show Dads sharing the load. There were so many more! Do you have any you’d love to recommend?  Feel free to read the original post and respond to our question on Twitter!

 

 

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Ginger Gorman is a fearless and multi award-winning social justice journalist and feminist. Ginger’s bestselling book, Troll Hunting, came out in 2019. Since then, she’s been in demand both nationally and globally as an expert on cyberhate and the real-life harm predator trolling can do. She's also the editor of BroadAgenda and gender editor at HerCanberra. Ginger hosts the popular "Seriously Social" podcast for the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia. Follow her on Twitter.

Lema is a University of Canberra journalism student in her third year who is currently completing her internship at BroadAgenda. She aspires to be on the big screen and also be an advocate for human rights issues.

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