Merriam-Webster gives a definition of “trope” as a “figure of speech.” In storytelling, a trope is just that — a conceptual figure of speech, a storytelling shorthand for a concept that the audience will recognize and understand instantly.
Above all, a trope is a convention. It can be a plot trick, a setup, a narrative structure, a character type, a linguistic idiom you know it when you see it.
I had high hopes for The Jim Gaffigan Show. I really did.
I shouldnt have because Ive been burned so many times before by stand-up comics trying their hand at a sitcom (John Mulaney, Im looking at you.). At this point, Im starting to think Louis CK and Jerry Seinfeld might be the only ones who can pull it off.
I’ve been watching Jim Gaffigan’s stand-up for years so I had to give him the chance. Man, was I disappointed. It’s all the same boring sitcom shlock we’ve been subjected to over and over again.
The bumbling dad, the mom who’s the only responsible one, the mom’s disapproving gay friend, the dad’s childless bro. It’s boring. I want something new to happen in one of these shows.
And I’m especially tired of the whole idiot-dad schtick.
You all know the type. He’s a nice guy. He loves his kids. In fact, he basically is one of his kids. He certainly can’t take care of them by himself or do anything else. He just bumbles around making one mess after another while the cute-but-exasperated wife follows him around cleaning things up.
This trope is everywhere, not just sitcoms. It’s movies, it’s commercials. It never ends.
I’ll be the first to admit that my wife does, by far, the bulk of the work with our household and our 3 kids. I’ve always worked full-time and she’s either stayed at home full-time or worked part-time and been home the rest. She is amazing and I am in constant awe of her stamina and patience, the sheer amount of stuff she gets done every day.
I recognize that I’m gone for the bulk of the day, 5 days a week so my load is pretty light in the scheme of things.
But I work hard to be a good parent and partner when I’m home. I have always been capable of watching the kids on my own or taking them places, even since they were babies. I’ve changed a thousand diapers and walked screaming babies around the neighborhood in the dark. I love my kids and we have a fantastic time together. I don’t do as much as my wife around the house but I am useful in other ways. I make phone calls, do shopping research, handle tech support and product returns.
None of this makes me a spectacular dad. It just makes me a dad. This is the kind of stuff parents do. I’m part of a team and I want to make that team as successful as possible.
I know so many men who work hard at being good dads and this idea that men can’t do things does such a disservice to them and their partners.