Doing Away with Dad

It’s hard not to like a movie that stars Mr. Potato Head, a Slinky dog, and a cowboy doll who looks like Tom Hanks. And millions of moviegoers have enjoyed Disney’s Toy Story, a tale about toys that come to life. But what parents may not have realized is that the film contains a subtle attack on fatherhood. Now, if you’ve seen the movie, you might be thinking, But Toy Story doesn’t even mention fathers! That’s precisely the point. The dearth of dads in Toy Story symbolizes one of Tinsel Town’s most troubling trends. Why are images of fatherhood so important? David Blankenhorn, the author of Fatherless America, explains that films about family life help create a "cultural story"—one that explains what kind of behavior is acceptable in society. The cultural story about fatherhood defines our "shared understanding of what it means for a man to have a child." This story can have profound consequences on how fathers view their responsibilities toward their children. And that’s why films like Toy Story are bad news. Toy Story is about a boy named Andy who lives with his mother and baby sister. The three of them celebrate Andy’s birthday, move to a new home, and even observe Christmas without any mention of Dad. It’s as if he never existed. The "cultural message" to fathers seems to be: Who needs you? Of course, the correct answer is: Kids do. A recent study by the Casey Foundation confirms that kids who grow up without dads are far more likely to be poor, drop out of high school, get pregnant out of wedlock, and go to prison. Given these facts, you have to wonder why Hollywood elites keep endorsing a dad-free environment through television shows like "Murphy Brown" and films like Made in America, about a girl conceived through a sperm bank. New York Times cultural critic Caryn James even praises this trend. She explains, "Women who want children do not need or necessarily want a spouse underfoot." Get it? Dads aren’t important—they’re just "underfoot," like the family dog or pieces of Mr. Potato Head. But the statistics tell the real story of what happens when dad goes AWOL. As columnist Charles Krauthammer has explained, the "moral deregulation of the 1960s" brought about an explosion of deviancy in family life. In particular, he writes, the association of fatherlessness with social pathologies like crime "points to a monstrous social problem." Yet, Krauthammer says, "as the problem has grown, it has been systematically redefined by the culture . . . [especially] by the mass media—as simply another lifestyle choice." It’s part of what he calls "the vast social project of moral leveling." But in dismissing the importance of dads, today’s cultural storytellers are rewriting an ancient script conceived by God Himself. The Scriptures emphasize the tremendous importance of fathers, especially their role in providing moral training to their children. When biblical fathers failed to do this, the consequences were severe: Remember, when God slew the sons of Eli, He blamed Eli for not restraining his sons from evil. Toy Story is a delightful movie, but you and I have to reject the cultural subplot that tells dads they’re optional accouterments to their children’s lives. If your own kids see this movie, ask them if they notice anything missing. Then tell them the rest of the story. That dads are an indispensable part of the family picture.


Chuck Colson


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