We’ve all become accustomed to a certain type of father on TV and in movies. You know the type: Al Bundy, beer swilling, hand in his pants as he sneers at his wife—that kind of guy. Or the Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin sorts who mostly manage to stay employed around their boneheaded antics with friends and prolific drinking, but that’s about the best that can be said about them as parents. Loving their kids doesn’t mean they relate to them well or succeed in appropriate discipline. They’re not the cornerstones of their families because they’re often almost another child for their longsuffering wives to care for beyond many other familial obligations.
These stereotypes are not the truth of fatherhood, and they do our families a disservice. For this Father’s Day, I offer some fathers in the media who are good role models instead of punchlines.
1. Sheriff Andy Taylor of ‘The Andy Griffith Show’
There’s a reason Mayberry has been culturally enshrined as an idyllic haven of family values. Andy is a kind but firm single father, and deeply involved in the life of his son. There’s no problem in Opie’s life too big for his father to solve. Andy showed us that common sense and a firm moral grounding allows fathers to raise their kids, even when they have to do it alone.
2. Dan Conner from ‘Roseanne’
Dan isn’t a perfect man, but he loves his family and spends his life working hard to support them. He shows his kids that being a good dad means loving your wife, and when things in his kids’ lives get tough he is present, even if he doesn’t have a witty solution. Dan showed us that even when a father disagrees with his grown kids he can still love them and want the best for them.
3. Uncle Phil from ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’
Uncle Phil raises his nephew along with his kids and loves him, despite some rough edges and a radically different early life than that of his own children. He comforts him when Will’s dad blows him off on his birthday in one of the most poignant moments of TV fatherhood I can remember. Phillip Banks showed us that true fatherhood doesn’t always have to do with birth and always has to do with love.
4. Danny Tanner from ‘Full House’
While Danny is the actual father in the show, his best friend and brother-in-law act as good fathers, as well. “Full House” takes us through grief, changing family dynamics, and blending families and growing up. The Tanners showed us friends can work together to raise kids, and raise them well, and that family is more than blood.
5. Seeley Booth from ‘Bones’
Fatherhood isn’t the focus of Booth’s character, but his interactions first with his son he sees during visitation and then with his daughter are positive, warm, and loving. Booth balances work and family, and deeply loves both of his kids. Booth showed us that even if your memories of your own father are terrible, you can be a great father.
6. Henry and Frank Reagan from ‘Blue Bloods’
This show covers multiple generations of a family in New York City and offers many different depictions of strong fathers. They gather for Sunday suppers together and talk about all of the hard things each of them has encountered. The Reagans showed us that family sticks together, always.
7. Eric Taylor from ‘Friday Night Lights’
Eric is a father, but he’s also a coach and father figure to the boys on his team. The sports dynamic creates unique situations and opportunities for Eric to talk to the kids about what really matters, including morality. Eric showed us it’s not just the end goal that matters, it’s how you get there.
Fatherhood is diverse, complicated, and important. Our families need and deserve strong and accurate portrayals of good fatherhood. When we belittle and denigrate fatherhood, it hurts our children—and it hurts fathers.
This Father’s Day, sit down with dad and watch something that will build him up and encourage him. And don’t forget to tell him that you love him.