Is It Wrong to Slam Deadbeat Dads on TV?

Posted by Delaine - June 11, 2009 - Children, Parenting, Single Dads, Social Barriers & Change - 12 Comments


What do you think of the idea of a reality show that exposes fathers who refuse to pay child support?


This is what divorced dad and author Joel Schwartzberg opined on a few days ago in his article, “Is it Wrong to Slam Deadbeat Dads on TV?”  Cause apparently Lifetime TV has announced their intention to air such a show – it’s called Deadbeat Dads.  And it has ‘dads’ rights’ activists in a tizzy.

Fathers & Families, a dad-advocacy group, says the problem is that a strong majority of divorced dads with shared custody pay child support regularly, so such a program paints an unrealistic and demeaning stereotype of divorced fathers.

An editorial in The Washington Times calls Deadbeat Dads a cheap shot that ignores “the damage the show can cause children, wives and other family members.” It also cites a study finding that 77 percent of non-custodial fathers are not able to spend court-ordered time with their children as a result of “visitation interference” by the custodial parent. Comparing apples to Apple Jacks, the piece concludes, “In short, lousy moms outnumber deadbeat dads 3-1.”

As a divorced father, Schwartzberg says he doesn’t feel maligned by a show vilifying deadbeat dads any more than he feels maligned by To Catch a Predator simply because he met an (appropriately-aged) girlfriend online.  He writes: “The subliminal association isn’t between “deadbeat dads” and “divorced dads” as much as it is between irresponsible and responsible behavior.”

Schwarberg continues:  “If you want to see some really “bad dad” influences, just watch Everybody Loves Raymond or any sitcom featuring a pudgy, buffoonish, sedentary man-childish father with a knockout wife. Better yet, let’s boycott the majority of Father’s Day cards that emphasize our laziness, our inattentiveness, our proximity to senility, and our love of all things nautical.”

Myself, coming at this issue through the eyes of a divorced mom of three, I think such a show can have merit – depending on how the ‘slamming’ is done. I think a program that reveals the harsh repercussions of dads’ irresponsible behavior is eye-opening and much-needed for both children and adults. I know many men who rise up in every capacity as divorced dads but I also know several deadbeats; I don’t confuse the two groups. And there’s no denying the injustice and devastating effects deadbeats’ have on everyone’s lives. I think this truth needs to be exposed for what it is…though not necessarily ‘slammed.’

 What do YOU think?

* Joel Schwartzberg is an award-winning essayist and author of “The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad