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This collection investigates the shifting definitions of fatherhood in twenty-first century culture through a variety of popular cultural lenses across national contexts.

Inhaltsverzeichnis

Frontmatter

Introduction

Introduction

Pops in Pop Context
Abstract
“So, if today’s dad is no longer the all-business provider who is less emotion ally engaged than Mom, and he’s not the bumbling, disconnected dad of the past 30 years in popular culture (read: Homer Simpson), then who is he?” Pops in Pop Culture explores contemporary representations of the father in order to contribute to our understanding of who he is in the twenty-first century. The question “who is he?”1 along with related queries like what does he do, what does he want, and what do we expect of him have been driving discourses of fatherhood throughout Western societies over the past decade. The media is especially preoccupied with the changing roles of, and consequent challenges and rewards for, the so-called “new father” of the millennium. Recent newspaper and magazine articles set the tone: “Modern Fathers Face New Expectations” (from which the opening quotation is taken), “Men Get Depressed about Not Having Kids,” “Daddy Is Not a Babysitter,” “Papa’s Got a Brand New (Vacuum) Bag,” “Don’t Call Him Mom, or an Imbecile,” “Ways to Be a Great Father, Regardless of Your Sexuality,” “Dreams of a Stay-at-Home Dad,” “Involved Dads Want a New Identity,” “Calling Mr. Mom?” and “Manifesto of the New Fatherhood.” Headlines like these announce a variety of topics and debates about paternal identity, ones that inform this collection. Pops in Pop Culture considers how fatherhood is defined in relation to masculinity and femininity, the shifting structures of the heteronormative nuclear family, and perceptions of the father as the traditional breadwinner and authoritarian versus a more engaged and involved nurturer.
Elizabeth Podnieks

Self-Defining Dads: Autobiography, Paternal Lessons, and Narrative Performance

Frontmatter

1. Pappahandbooks: Guidebooks for Dads in Twenty-First Century Sweden

Abstract
“In Sweden, Men Can Have It All”—in 2010 this intriguing claim headlined an article in The New York Times on parental leave in Sweden.1 Swedish men’s access to family life in general, and to their children in particular, has been the focus of a range of discourses especially since the 1990s, and the specific history of parental politics in Sweden—especially the parental leave system—is a significant factor behind the increasing visibility of fathers in this national context.2 Fathers often hold center stage in the cur rent media debates about parenthood, as well as in Scandinavian gender studies research, where studies on “new fathers” are much more common than studies of (new) mothers.3 While discourses on fathers have specific inflections in the Swedish papa-political context, the expanding interest is also part of an international—not least Anglo-Saxon—trend of investigating and “redefining” fatherhood, problematizing meanings of fatherhood in nonpatriarchal or postpatriarchal familial contexts, and investigating the (gap between) norms or ideals on the one hand and practices or lived experiences on the other.4
Helena Wahlström Henriksson

2. Fatherhood, Feminism, and Failure in Louis C.K.’s Comedy

Abstract
On April 28, 2014, comedian Louis C.K. launched into a tirade on Twitter against the Common Core State Standards Initiative, a nationwide educational program better known as simply the Common Core. The father of two lamented, “My kids used to love math. Now it makes them cry. Thanks standardized testing and common core!”1 The subsequent tweets revealed pictures of his third grader’s challenging math homework as well as commentary on the increasing dependence on testing to evaluate teachers and schools and how it was hurting children’s ability to learn. He concluded his polemic with a joke: “Okay I’m done. This is just one dumb, fat parent’s POV. I’m pissed because I love NYC public schools. mice, lice and all.”2 These seemingly innocuous tweets, the public rantings of a frustrated father, foreground several aspects and themes of Louis C.K.’s comic performance, including his sincere concern for his children and the future, his self-deprecating attitude toward himself, and his ability to address serious concerns with a comic perspective that largely invites rather than alienates the audience, before ultimately undercutting it a bit to avoid being too serious or self-righteous. In effect, he fails to uphold his own message—but that’s the point.
Peter C. Kunze

3. “Daddy Time All the Time”: Representations of Involved Fatherhood in Contemporary Dadoirs

Abstract
Since the late twentieth century, motherhood memoirs, or momoirs, have become a staple of the literary marketplace. These matrifocal texts, written in the mother’s own voice, are a vital addition to a tradition of both fictional and nonfictional narratives about the mother figure delivered from the adult child’s point of view. The mother’s recent breakthrough into textual subjectivity has inspired—and been complemented by—a proliferation of patrifocal stories. While Andre Gerard identifies a historical trajectory, from the seventeenth century to the present, of what he calls the “patremoir,” an “essay, poem, play or film built around memories of the authors father,” the early twenty-first century has generated a new genre, which I will call the dadoir2: memoirs about fatherhood written by fathers themselves.3 The emergence of the dadoir coincides with, just as it contributes to, our dramatically increasing preoccupation with paternal identity and experience within all spheres of society. At the same time, the dadoir takes its place alongside the socially mediated life writings and performances of blogs, talk shows, and reality TV that have spread since the 1990s on. Through their narratives of confession, self-revelation, and overexposure, these genres accentuate our millennial obsession with the self while blurring, with ethical impunity, public and private lines.
Elizabeth Podnieks

4. Daddyblogs Know Best: Histories of Fatherhood in the Cyber Age

Abstract
The world is filled with the stories of men. In this regard, online paternal life writing (the “daddyblog”) is hardly revolutionary. Yet there is something distinct about writing that takes fatherhood itself as its focal point. Many authors and memoirists throughout history have been fathers, yet the notion of a Great Man has often offered fatherhood as a parenthetical experience, a footnote to the real work of living. By contrast, daddyblogs seek to foreground the work of fatherhood. While the story that emerges is indistinct and multifaceted, it presents an interesting collective response to the tropes of patriarchal fatherhood. Daddyblogs thus both maintain and interrupt dominant discourses of fatherhood and masculinity.
May Friedman

“Real” Men: Brawn, Power, and Protection

Frontmatter

5. Ads and Dads: TV Commercials and Contemporary Attitudes Toward Fatherhood

Abstract
A man sits in an easy chair in his living room, with a large basket of laundry in front of him. He folds the clothes and says, “Hi. I’m a dad mom.” The words “dad mom” appear on the screen. He continues, “That means while my wife works, I’m at home being awesome. I know there’s a lot of ‘mom moms’ that are out there who look at my unique mixture of masculinity and nurturing, and they find it quite alluring. And I know there’s dads who are out there who are astonished at my ability to dress a four-year-old. But here’s the real kicker: I can take even the frilliest girl dress and fold it with complete accuracy. Boom.” After he folds a girl’s romper and sets it on top of the pile, the word “boom” appears on the screen. “And with Tide Boost, I can use the brute strength of dad to mix with the nurturing abilities of my laundry detergent.” The word “smart” appears on the screen. Dad takes a sip of his coffee and says, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go do pull ups and crunches in the other room.” The commercial ends with the tagline, “Tide Boost is my Tide. What’s yours?”
Kristi Rowan Humphreys

6. Hard Bodies, Soft Hearts: Mixed-Race Men as Muscular Daddies in the Films of Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson

Abstract
It has been more than twenty years since theorists like Susan Jeffords, Chris Holmlund, and Yvonne Tasker began writing critically about the muscled masculinities of the 1980s and 1990s action/adventure genre and its hard-bodied male stars, and yet these almost impossibly large male specimens are having a resurgence in Western popular culture. Specifically, extremely muscled men appear in a subgenre I term “hard daddy” films, in which they act as unlikely and sometimes unknowing biological fathers, but more often as step-, stand-in, or surrogate fathers to young children. While early examples include Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Kindergarten Cop (1990) and Junior (1994), and Hulk Hogan’s Mr. Nanny (1993), this chapter focuses on twenty-first-century versions of the genre: Vin Diesel’s The Pacifier (2005), and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s The Game Plan (2007), The Tooth Fairy (2010), and Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012). Films such as these, undertheorized to date, offer an important contribution to fatherhood studies through their discourses of blended families and postracial stardom, and their valuing of father-daughter—as opposed to more typically rendered father-son—relationships.
Andrea Schofield

7. Contemporary Crime-Fighting Dads: Negotiating Masculinity and Fathering in 24 and Castle

Abstract
In the official trailer for the highly anticipated return of the Fox television series 24 starring Keifer Sutherland, Jack Bauer (Sutherland) declares, “There’s no going home for me.”1 Jack, an antiterrorist operative for the fictional Counterterrorist Unit (CTU) based in Los Angeles, appears tough and bold, literally cloaked in shadows and a black-hooded sweatshirt, wielding a handgun. The claim that there is “no going home” for Jack is significant because throughout the series he has aggressively neglected his home (both the physical home structure and his family) in order to do his job. This leads, we can presume from the line, to his penultimate decision to sacrifice any semblance of home and family, and quite possibly his own life, in order to save the president of the United States and avert a world war. Richard Castle (Nathan Fillion), the male protagonist in the popular ABC crime dramedy Castle, represents a much different male crime fighter. In stark contrast to Jack, Richard is a crime fiction writer in New York City, a celebrity, a philanderer, and a devoted father. His partner, homicide detective Kate Beckett (Stania Katic), describes Richard as “a nine year old on a sugar rush,”2 whereas Jack is depicted as rough and hardcore. While Jack Bauer and Richard Castle are vastly different in many ways, they share one essential feature: They are both single fathers raising teenaged daughters while simultaneously trying to save lives and catch criminals.
Christy Ebert Vrtis

8. Tale of Two Fathers: Authenticating Fatherhood in Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain: The Origami Killer and Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us

Abstract
The gaming industry is evolving rapidly, moving from superficial to more mature content that not only challenges gamers but also offers more critical reflection of the world in which they live. In many ways, video games share a kinship with audiences who are more than spectators of media forms such as film and television. Audiences actively participate with diverse media content in various and meaningful ways, moving beyond traditional isolated and observational experiences. The video game medium is, however, a player-engagement experience providing unique ways of seeing, understanding, and interacting. This distinctive interactive experience rests on the complex relationship of the gamer as agent in the game. In other words, the gamer’s role becomes as diverse as the players themselves: soldier (Call of Duty series), explorer (Tomb Raider series), adventurer (Uncharted series), athlete (basketball, football, soccer, etc.), wizard (World of Warcraft), hoodlum (Grand Theft Auto series), and most significantly here, father/detective (Heavy Rain) and father/protector (The Last of Us). There is a certain level of interactivity that can only be experienced in gaming where player choices have significant bearing on the narrative’s outcome.
Melvin G. Hill

Economics and Emotions: Providers, Pals, and Nurturers

Frontmatter

9. Breaking Dad: Reimagining Postwar Models of American Fatherhood in Breaking Bad

Abstract
The sixth and final season of Breaking Bad begins with a cold open (i.e., an in medias res teaser that appears prior to the program’s opening credits and is intended to grab the attention of the audience) that depicts series protagonist Walter White (Bryan Cranston) returning to his much-altered home an undisclosed amount of time after the events of the fifth season finale, titled “Gliding Over All.” A wide exterior establishing shot reveals the extent of the ruination that has occurred since viewers last witnessed Walter communing with his extended family on the patio of 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico. Chain-link fencing bearing bold yellow “Warning: No Trespassing” signs surrounds the White family home. In contrast to the neighbors’ yards, Walter’s is brown and overgrown from inattention, and the tree at the corner of the lot is bare. Boards adorn the windows of the house, graffiti tags are scrawled across its exterior, teens use the empty pool as an impromptu skatepark, and leaves and other debris litter the roof over the garage. Once Walter crowbars his way inside, he discovers a similarly depressing wasteland stripped of its former inhabitants and contents: debris-strewn floors, exposed wiring in the hallway, an insect infestation in the kitchen, and the name “Heisenberg” (Walter’s drug kingpin alias) spray painted in large block letters on one of the living room walls.1
Heath A. Diehl

10. Masculinity, Subjectivities, and Caregiving in the British Press: The Case of the Stay-at-Home Father

Abstract
On February 17, 2009, the then leader of one of the opposition parties in the United Kingdom, Nick Clegg, was quoted as saying that the recession—the “mancession” as it has been called in some quarters—and the resulting large-scale unemployment, gave fathers the chance to be more involved in their parenting. The media response was immediate and openly critical of Clegg’s ideas and soon it became referred to in the press as the “Clegg Gaffe.” Much of this criticism centered on notions of masculinity and what it means to be a father. This chapter examines the contemporary cultural context of fatherhood in the United Kingdom, taking by way of example fathers who have become the primary caregivers for their children. Through a discursive analysis of articles in British national newspapers from 2007–13, we can ascertain how discourses of masculinity are inherently tied to issues around parenting and fathering, and consider this in light of the growing interest in “involved fathering.”
Abigail Locke

11. A Sentimental Fathering Model: Alexander McCall Smith’s Vision for Nurturing Paternity in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency Series

Abstract
Alexander McCall Smith’s books are known to millions around the world. The 44 Scotland Street series, Isabel Dalhousie series, and several others are extremely popular, but The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series is the most popular, with fifteen books, as of this printing, that have sold over 25 million copies,1 and the series has been translated into more than forty languages.2 Despite, or due to, the series’ wide-spread popularity, Smith’s work has not been given much serious critical attention, and the scholarly work that has been done on Smith often centers on the detective genre. Beyond generic concerns, scholarly attention has focused on the protagonist Mma Ramotswe,3 the setting—Gabarone, Botswana—and postcolonial issues. This chapter aims to bring attention to an understudied aspect of this understudied literature: the model of fatherhood embodied in the character of Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. I argue that Matekoni models a nurturing version of fatherhood that is achieved through a hybrid of utilizing African feminist principles and adapting a nineteenth-century version of sentimental masculinity that allows this African father a wide variety of tools that create a “good” father. Matekoni begins by carrying out fairly traditional notions of fathering and gender that are not always effective or fully empowering for the father or the family unit, but as the series progresses he grows as a father, and his sentimentalist reliance on emotion, coupled with his ability to adapt and network, allows for a transformation in his fathering role.
Nicole L. Willey

12. Modern Fathers in Modern Family: The Impact of Generational Differences on Fatherhood Styles

Abstract
With a name like Modern Family, the ABC television show that debuted in 2009 telegraphed its intent to represent families in a way that accurately reflects contemporary constructions of family life, and, in doing so, provided an opportunity for society to revise its notion of what a “family” might look like, due in part to the parenting styles of the fathers in the program. In a recent review of Modern Family, journalist Tim Dowling notes that “one of the main complaints voiced by so-called men’s rights activists is that in popular culture husbands and fathers are routinely portrayed as moronic incompetents … More sensible men’s advocates, meanwhile, maintain that men are still straitjacketed by old expectations, and given no room to express vulnerability, doubt, or any emotion besides anger. Masculinity, it seems, just doesn’t furnish the modern male with very many acceptable ways to be.”1 While Dowling goes on to address the show’s portrayal of Phil as the most “subversive” of the four fathers, the characters of Jay, Cam, and Mitchell also contribute to a mediated understanding of fatherhood that legitimizes a variety of “acceptable ways to be” a modern father. Through the vehicle of comedy, which exposes each of the characters’ best and worst qualities, viewers can both witness and interrogate the qualities of the “traditional dad” and the “new dad,” a distinction that emerges quite clearly as a new generation of men take the parenting reins from their own fathers.
Kathryn Pallister

Backmatter

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