Father figures in television

Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey

The following comes from a November 28 story on the Catholic News Agency website.

At an upcoming spring conference, the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross will examine father figures and their portrayal in TV, including Lord Grantham from the British series Downton Abbey.

Many television series “portray the father as being the family’s problem,” observed Professor Enrique Fuster, one of the organizers of the conference scheduled for April 22-23, 2013 at the Roman university.

Fuster, who teaches cinema history at Holy Cross, noted that screen writers often depict schizophrenic and dysfunctional families and their solution for these situations is usually “a family rupture.”

The official title for the conference will be “The Figure of the Father in Television Series,” and it will feature speakers comparing how British and American series portray the role of the father.

“We chose to speak about the role of the father because the role of the family is very vague and the father is a sort of window that represents it,” Fuster explained.

Talks will include an analysis of parental models found in the British dramas Luther and The Hour, as well as the American shows Mad Men, Breaking Bad, In Treatment, Shameless,  and Dexter.

Downton Abbey‘s Earl of Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, could be faulted for his involvement with a maid in season two, as well as his sometimes strained relationship with his daughters….

To read entire story, click here.



To add a comment, click on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ icons OR go further down to the bottom of comments to the Post your comment box.


  1. Father Karl says:

    In the golden age of television, when some sanity was in the entertainment industry, the father was portrayed as a noble man, with many virtues, a leader of the family. Now the father is shown to be a fool, a stupid idiot, who does nothing right. Since the mid 60’s, the family has been attacked. This could only happen to man, because in the animal kingdom this would never occur. In nature, there is always a main force, or something that has dominion over the others. Look at the planets, if one got out of its orbit, there would be terrible results. The moon never wishes it were the sun, nor the sun desire to be a planet. This is called ORDER, which came about because of God. Since the Russian (communist) revolution, the feminine has taken over male roles in society, causing many problems. Sure, the hand that rocks the cradle rules, but normally it was the man who built the cradle. This choas is from the devil, and goes against God’s plan, but because we have free will, these errors will continue, and the male role in society will be mocked. As a result, the family will dissolve, and westernn civilization will destroy itself.

    • Anonymous says:

      Father Knows Best, eh?

      Even many very old films show men and women engaged in immoral conduct, so I don’t believe for one moment in your mythical “golden age of television.”

      As for your appeal to the animal kingdom, just interview any praying mantis, or black widow spider, and wait for a big laugh.

      • Catherine says:

        In response to Anonymous, who also being in great torment approached Father Karl.

        Gospel of Mark, Chapter 5, Jesus heals the possessed man.

        And they came over the strait of the sea into the country of the Gerasens. [2] And as he went out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the monuments a man with an unclean spirit, [3] Who had his dwelling in the tombs, and no man now could bind him, not even with chains. [4] For having been often bound with fetters and chains, he had burst the chains, and broken the fetters in pieces, and no one could tame him. [5] And he was always day and night in the monuments and in the mountains, crying and cutting himself with stones.

        [6] And seeing Jesus afar off, he ran and adored him. [7] And crying with a loud voice, he said: What have I to do with thee, Jesus the Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God that thou torment me not. [8] For he said unto him: Go out of the man, thou unclean spirit. [9] And he asked him: What is thy name? And he saith to him: My name is Legion, and we are many.”

      • Anonymous, sorry but you are wrong. There WAS a time when one could leave one’s television on when company came without being embarrassed by intimate commercials and near porn sitcoms.

        • Anonymous says:

          Anne, I’m not talking about intimate commercials and sitcoms.

          I’m talking about films like “Going My Way” (1944) in which a young woman tells Father O’Malley she’ll use sex to make her way as an aspiring singer.

          Such ‘realities’ were part of movies even in the old days, because such ‘realities’ were also part of life.

          Father Karl’s “golden age” never existed.

          • Anonymous you are right that there has never been a “Golden Age” and never will be, but times have gotten worse in many ways since the fifties. In some ways it has gotten better, but it has also gotten worse. Abortion was illegal and there were very few of them in the fifties, and the idea that there were a great amount of women dying from botched abortions has been greatly exaggerated and lied about, and most people who had children were married, Students were not killing each other either. Schools did not have lock downs because of shooters on school playgrounds and college campuses. A teacher was shot to death and students injured at on an elementary school playground here in California about ten years ago, and it happens quite frequently in other places, even at private schools and day cares. That never happened when I was growing up. People also kept their intimate matters to themselves and did not air and brag about their sins in public. Private matters were discussed with relatives, trusted friends, ones doctor and pharmacists, not blathered about in public and on national television..

    • Great post, Fr. Karl. I long for the days “When Father Knows Best” and “Sheriff Taylor” of Mayberry were the most popular sitcoms. My husband and i still watch them. Although my mother and father were divorced, it was my grandfather who took me to church, and even though it was not a Catholic church and he was not perfect, I am most grateful that he did and for his protection.. I learned later that I would have been used by the young men in our neighborhood had it not been for their fear and respect for my grandfather. Other young women were not so fortunate. Sheriff Taylor in the Mayberry sitcom did not have much “book learning”, but he had the common sense of the common class (not so common now).Many years ago a Presbyterian Orthodox minister wrote a book with such a title as “Missing in Action, Manhood in America”. He was spot on as to some of the reasons it has come about and why missing fathers are so damaging to the culture. Now they are trying to put women in the trenches during war, right along with the men, as if that will solve any of the world’s problems. It will definitely not, just add more problems — broken marriages for one with military men having too much familiarity with other women. Our culture lost its common sense way back in the sixties. I do not know if we will ever get it back before this country grumbles.

      • My last word in my post should have been “crumbles” .

        • Also, Anonymous, guns were very prevalent in the fifties, My grandfather had a rifle in the house, many boys had bee bee guns and one of my male cousins had a rifle, and never shot anyone except when they were in the military.. It is quite likely that my other male cousins had some type of gun also. All able-bodied men had to serve in the military, so many men and boys knew how to use and owned some type of gun in the fifties.

  2. WOODY GUIDRY says:


    • The title of the book and author is “Missing in Action, Vanishing Manhood in America.”, by M. Weldon Hardenbrook. It is still being sold.

  3. Lets not forget the ‘feminist’ who were also instramental in this.

    • Amen! but sometimes they became feminists because the men took advantage of them and did not fulfill their duties as men to their wives.. Later they went way overboard. It was a too way street.

  4. This is a cronic problem, and Hollywood feminism and TV marketing is part of the issue here. Men are depicted as dysfunctional, neurotic, bumbling, insecure, and just plain not as “together” as their female costars. Also, the women on TV are depicted as NEVER even contemplating having a man in their life on an ongoing positive relationship basis, one with emotional values, partnership marriage and shared decision making. A true functional marriage doesn’t sell on TV. So it’s no surprise that the biggest audience for these shows are women, and Hollywood is catering to them by portraying all men as below a women’s dignity and status. Hollywood is not trying equalize the genders, it’s giving women the upper hand by tearing down the masculine gender.

  5. Catherine says:

    Don’t be concerned with father figures on television. Father Karl is correct, they are only the reflection of a world that has gone astray. Go to the Real Fountain of Life. The only hands that truly rock the cradle of the world ARE the hands of Real fathers. These are men! These are our Catholic priests! The man that barely finished his education is now the Patron saint of all priests. The devil told St. John Vianney that if there were three such priests as you, my kingdom would be ruined.”

    Here are some beautiful excerpts from the writings of a Saint who was a holy man: ‘St. Alphonsus Liguori on the Dignity and Duties of Priests’

    “The dignity of the priest is estimated from the exalted nature of his offices. Priests are chosen by God to manage on earth all his concerns and interests. ” Divine,” says St. Cyril of Alexandria, “are the offices confided to priests.” St. Ambrose has called the priestly office a Divine profession. A priest is a minister destined by God to be a public ambassador of the whole Church, to honor Him, and to obtain His graces for all the faithful.

    The entire Church cannot give to God as much honor, nor obtain so many graces, as a single priest by celebrating a single Mass; for the greatest honor that the whole Church without priests could give to God would consist in offering to Him in sacrifice the lives of all men.

    But of what value are the lives of all men compared with the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, which is a sacrifice of infinite value? What are all men before God but a little dust? As a drop of a bucket, as a little dust. They are but a mere nothing in His sight: All nations are before Him as if they had no being at all. Thus, by the celebration of a single Mass, in which he offers Jesus Christ in sacrifice, a priest gives greater honor to the Lord, than if all men by dying for God offered to Him the sacrifice of their lives.

    By a single Mass, he gives greater honor to God than all the Angels and Saints, along with the Blessed Virgin Mary, have given or shall give to Him; for their worship cannot be of infinite value, like that which the priest celebrating on the altar offers to God. Moreover, in the holy Mass, the priest offers to God an adequate thanksgiving for all the graces bestowed even on the Blessed in Paradise; but such a thanksgiving all the Saints together are incapable of offering to Him.

    Hence it is, that on this account also the priestly dignity is superior even to all celestial dignities. Besides, the priest, says St. John Chrysostom, is an ambassador of the whole world, to intercede with God and to obtain graces for all creatures.”

    So after reading these most excellent excerpts from holy St. Alphonsus Liguori, it is plain to see that it would be far less destructive for an ordinary man to have been a bad character on a TV show than for a man to have been an unfaithful priest.

    • Kenneth M. Fisher says:

      Coward allias Anonymous,

      Your so called talking points are so inane, they defy reason!

      God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
      Kenneth M. Fisher (that is my name, and if I could I would give my contact information, even though I know there is a possibility that you or someone like you will turn it over to the Obama Gestapo)

  6. Kenneth M. Fisher says:


    The great St. Padre Pio said it this way “it is easier for the world to exist without the sun, than without the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass”!

    God bless, yours in Their Hearts,
    Kenneth M. Fisher

  7. Maryanne Leonard says:

    I have always admired and appreciated men, but before we lay all the blame (as usual) on women for the sad state of the American family today, I think it is important to note that many of the unwed mothers and divorced mothers were abandoned by the fathers of their children and would have chosen to be married mothers if the choice had been entirely theirs. In fact, it was the need to prevent abandoned or unmarried mothers being penniless and in a perilous condition with children to feed that led to society’s agreement that girls could be educated and allowed to hold jobs (for which they are still not given equal pay). Fathers have been known to abandon their responsibilities to their children in numbers that are staggering; mothers, as a rule, stay and raise their children, even if it means less appealing jobs, working conditions, pay and benefits. We need to help our boys become more manly men, not denigrate only women as the sole cause of the lack of respect society is showing men these days, as reflected in sitcoms and many other expressions of cultural attitudes. If men want respect from society, they need to man up, do better by women, and take full personal responsibility for the children they seem to enjoy creating and too often fail to care for. Why is the breakdown of the family blamed on working women? Should they all stay home and let society support them and their kids when the men take off? It is women who are keeping families together more and more these days, and they need to be honored for being responsible, not denigrated.

    • Our battle is not with a men vs.women or a he did that, so it made her have to do this. The devil is just thrilled when he tickles a feather in our nose to flare up past wounds and hurts. Once he is successful he can sit back to chuckle and relax on a hammock and watch people get distracted. Defend Christ first and Christ will defend you!

      Father Karl is a Catholic priest. Father Karl hears both sides of our fallen nature inside the confessional. “Let us not hold on to anything that is less than Eternal” Keep your eyes, heart and mind focused on the on the prize, which is Jesus Christ!

      Douay-Rheims Bible

      “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places”….Ephesians 6:12-15

      • Maryanne Leonard says:

        My point is that women as a class of human beings absolutely do not deserve to be blamed for the fragile state of the American family. As a rule, a woman does not abandon her children, rather she stays with them and holds together whatever is left of her family. If a family is abandoned, the gender that takes off most frequently, in human families and animal families, is the male. Let’s be honest. I don’t care if a priest blames women or not; he is not God, and in this case, as wonderfully right as he usually is, he does happen to be completely wrong to blame women for the breakup of the family. Rather, women should be praised for doing all they can for their families, working longer hours than their husbands both outside and inside the home, and doing more for their families as a rule than their husbands. That is, if there even if a man around after the fun is over and the babies are born. Most men need to thank most women for keeping their families together, even when they themselves sometimes abandon their own children. Facts are facts.

        • MARYANNE, i agree with you completely!

          as for FATHER KARL, we don’t know if he’s a priesst or not, but his words do not come across as ve3ry priestly when he speaks of his parishiohners — he really seems to look down on them quite a bit.

          even if KARL is indeed a priest, you are sensible in pointing out that he’s not GOD and that he is wrong to blame women for the breakup of our traditional families.

          it’s the men who take off — like those teenage boys tyears ago who used to brag about how many girls in high school they got pregnant, moving from one to another! disgusting.

          and who got stuck with all the responsibility? the girls, of course!

  8. The buffoonish father upstaged by his smarter wife was a staple of the “golden age” of television. It was either Ricky Ricardo ranting for laughs in “I Love Lucy”, or Danny Thomas being the fool in “Make Room for Daddy”. Even Ward Cleaver had to be corrected by wife – gently of course – as they handled the challenges of the Beaver.

    As for the relative blame of men and women in the achievement of the rotten state of today, men have always been dogs. But until recently, society, through various sanctions, helped women keep their men attached to their families.

    The real genius of the age is that men convinced women to abandon those sanctions and that women have embraced the very policies that impoverish them.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.

Speak Your Mind

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

COMMENTS POLICY: Comments are limited to 750 characters and will be truncated at 750. Comments should not contain offensive or libelous language. Please strive to be civil. All comments are subject to approval by our moderator and to editing as the moderator deems appropriate. Inclusion of your email address is optional.