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There have been some awesome TV dads over the years. Bill Cosby, Ward Cleaver, Homer Simpson (yes, Homer.), and Hank Hill immediately come to mind. The first father influence on television for me was James Evans from the 1970’s sitcom, Good Times. Good Times, based in Chicago, was about a poor African-American family living in the projects barely making ends meet. James and his wife, Florida, did the best they could to provide for their three children; Michael, Thelma, and J.J. (you know, “Kid…DY-NO-MITE!!!).
James was the first strong, black father figure that I remember from my childhood. James would do would work multiple jobs as a car washer, a dish washer, a ditch-digger, and a construction worker. He showed that if you had to fight, scratch and hustle just to put food on the table for the fam, then so be it. James was also a strong man who was not afraid to show love to his wife and his children. He stayed strong for his family of five (not including Walona and the building super, “Buffalo Butt” Bookman). Later in the series, James was written off the show by being killed while, you guessed it, working in Mississippi. This leads to the now famous “Damn. Damn. DAMN!!!” that his wife, Florida, unable to deal with the stress of it all, yelled after James’ funeral. As much as the world beat him down, James could come home to the solice of his family. Good Times indeed.
As much as I admire James Evans, another person came to mind when I saw the theme for this week’s Fatherhood Friday post. The late, great comedian, Bernie Mac of The Bernie Mac Show.
Bernie, by television standards, was not your typical father. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t a father at all. The show, based on his life, portayed “The Mac Man” as the successful uncle who to0k in the three kids of his drug addicted sister from Chicago and brought them to his home in L.A. The show ran from 2001 -206 on Fox.
During the six year run of The Bernie Mac Show, his lessons in fatherhood were the exact opposite of Cosby. He would loving threaten his kids with physical violence (which, on the show,got him into hot water on more than one occassion (hence the title of this post). Mac kept it real, meaning he illustrated the fact that tough love is sometimes the best love.
I have used Bernie as an example in this blog on more than one instance here and here. Beneath the rough exterior, was a man who was determined to raise his kids the right way, all while breaking through “the fourth wall” and seeking the counsel of “America”.
The reality of it all is that fatherhood is not the perfect world of Ward Cleaver, but it is a rough and tumble ride through life trying to do the best you can. Sometimes your kids DO make you so angry that you want to “bust’em in the head ’til the white meat shows”. Real dads would never actually do that, but it illustrates the humaness of fathers. I’m more like James and Bernie than Beaver’s dad or Bill.
My daughter just read the title of this post. She is still laughing…