The Berenstain Bears and the Degredation of the Modern Father
I have a ton of Berenstain Bear books from my childhood that I have been reading to my daughter recently. Since she is only 10 months old, I doubt she is learning from the not-so-subtle themes of each tale. I fully admit I’m reading them for me. The timelessness of the overall moral message is what makes these books classic. It had been years since I read these books and as an adult, a new-parent with fresh eyes, I am actually becoming more and more disturbed by the portrayal of the modern family.
The early books start out with a classic all-american family that could have taken place in any time period. As we follow the bears, we learn little lessons about going to school for the first time, visiting the doctor and the dentist, going to camp, moving, getting a new baby-sitter, etc. However sometime in the mid-’80s, there was a shift to this modernization of the father figure. Papa Bear becomes another “child” for Mama take care of. For example, in “Too Much TV”, Mama decides that the family watches too much TV and Papa Bear is the worse then the kids when it comes to breaking the habit. The same is true in “Too Much Junk Food”, and in “Forget their Manners”, *it gets even worse when Sister Bear corrects Papa. The father figure should be an example that the kids aspire too, not the one getting disciplined the most from Mama’s new rules. It is typical of today’s joke where Mom in the family counts her husband when listing those she takes care of. Not only is this terrible for today’s man as he is emasculated in front of his kids, but this also teaches today’s boys not to grow up into strong men. And people wonder why more and more “men” have Peter Pan syndrome in conjunction with failure to launch syndrome – read 30 and still living at home. I’m going to go out on a limb here and blame the Women’s Liberation Movement. As our society, in a quest to liberate women from traditional housewife roles, we have destroyed the modern man and with it, the nuclear family. We have created a generation of boys that expect their mom to do it all and not be responsible for themselves.
The most disturbing of all of them, though, is “Don’t Pollute (anymore)”. This is the one Obama would be truly proud of. To celebrate Earth Day, the children must educate their parents about saving the planet. Of course this lesson is extremely difficult for Papa Bear whose profession is cutting trees down and woodworking. But again we find this theme that the parents are the children and the children must show them the error of their ways.
In doing some research on the series, I have found that there are a ton more books that I haven’t read written more recently. Given the changing dynamic along with the cheered destruction of a traditional family, I doubt I will be acquiring more of these books. It’s too bad really, the early ones are really good.