Why were the nineties so preoccupied with fatherhood?
April 17, 2014 7:01 AM   Subscribe

I guess that was a mini-trend, but then there was also the trend of making dads (and men in general) dumb.

I also question whether the "dadventure" genre really went away at the end of the '90s. The list post 1999 seems cherry-picked, and the author explains away exclusions on dubious grounds. THe 2011 remake of Mr. Popper's Penguins seems to count as a dadventure, and We Bought a Zoo definitely does.
posted by me3dia at 9:18 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I question the validity of thinking boomers started having children in the nineties, when Generation X came out in 1991 and was talking about twentysomethings. Boomers were in their late thirties, hitting forty in the nineties, their kids leaving high school and going to college.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:39 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the idea that the Boomers were just having kids in the 90s is bonkers. And the conflation of Hook with Kurt Cobain suggests an alien visiting earth, unaware of the concept of demographics.

By the 90s, the children of the Boomers were not children, they were leaving home. And that's where a lot of the Regarding Henry-style anxiety was coming from---it was a moment of looking back, and for many Boomers, realizing they hadn't really seen much of their kids since the custody arrangements were finalized.

Meanwhile, the children of the divorce generation were coming of age, making culture, and feeling cheated. Quoth early "alternative" band Jane's Addiction: "Turned around one day / Found my daddy gone." Or as David Foster Wallace wrote:
I'm guessing that for the young educated adults of the 60s and 70s,
for whom the ultimate horror was the hypocritical conformity and
repression of their own parents' generation, Mr. Updike's evocation of
the libidinous self appeared redemptive and even heroic. But the young
educated adults of the 90s -- who were, of course, the children of the
same impassioned infidelities and divorces Mr. Updike wrote about so
beautifully -- got to watch all this brave new individualism and
self-expression and sexual freedom deteriorate into the joyless and
anomic self-indulgence of the Me Generation. Today's sub-40s have
different horrors, prominent among which are anomie and solipsism and a peculiarly American loneliness: the prospect of dying without once
having loved something more than yourself.
The larger problem with the article– what makes it seem at once cold and trivial– is that the authors commitment to comp-lit postmodernism, #nodads patriarchy-smashing, and Frankfurt school assumption that any ideology expressed in cultural product must be a tool of alien mind control, blinds him to the conversation about fatherhood and father-loss that was happening in the 90s. Which is a pity, because it's an interesting subject.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:13 AM on April 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Today, by some accounts, the nineties dad is cool again, at least if you think normcore is a thing beyond a couple NYC fashionistas and a series of think pieces.

How do so many smart people not realize that normcore is an elaborate joke that old people at New York Magazine fell for completely?
posted by Itaxpica at 10:14 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The first movie that popped into my head as I read this piece: Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:34 AM on April 17, 2014

Hollywood has *always* been engaged in breeder propaganda because kids are a lucrative market with low standards and indirect access to the wallets of exasperated parents who just want an hour-and-a-half respite from tantrum-diverting and mucus-daubing. So yeah, dads are cool (Away We Go), moms are cool (40 and Pregnant), Libertarian anti-choice teenagers are cool (Juno), breeding is cool so do it hard and do it often.
posted by Mooseli at 11:48 AM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

"The sixties: hippies, drugs, revolution, rock-and-roll...

But there was, I contend, a current that ran through the culture of the nineties, a theme that has not to my knowledge been recognized as such. That theme is the heroic dad."

Hey, if he's gonna discuss and compare TV, let's discuss and compare TV. We can start with these popular TV shows form the 1960's about single fathers doing a great job raising happy children while pursuing fulfilling careers not involving drugs, revolution, or rock-and-roll:

My Three Sons
The Rifleman
The High Chaparral
Family Affair*
Bachelor Father*
The Danny Thomas Show/Make Room for Daddy**
The Courtship of Eddie's Father
The Andy Griffith Show

*Adoptive father or guardian who took over after death of biological parents
*Series began with two parents, but mother died halfway through run

We can then move on to other popular shows with two-parent families, but with a focus on a father who was either particularly affable, funny, smart, or heroic:

The Munsters
The Dick Van Dyke Show
Father Knows Best
Father of the Bride
Lost in Space

This guy doesn't know a ton about his television history, does he?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:00 PM on April 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Today I learned that David Foster Wallace might be interesting to read.

Thanks FuzzyBastard!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:19 PM on April 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

It started with Dagwood and Jiggs, back in the pre-TV comic-strip era. The ineffectual and emasculated father figure is one subject of Marshall McLuhan's Mechanical Bride.
posted by temporicide at 1:49 PM on April 17, 2014

Could this be related to why 60% of all movies made in the nineties were about baseball?
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:36 PM on April 17, 2014

That's an awful lot of words to say "there were a lot of movies about Dads in the 90s because the Boomers were in their 40s."
posted by workingdankoch at 3:48 PM on April 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always thought it was some weird postmodern backlash against feminism, notably Arnold S and Robin Williams movies.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:03 PM on April 18, 2014

« Older What am I worth?   |   the cow .. the cow ... the cow Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments