A new trend is happening in mainstream entertainment — single parents have become a hot commodity. TV shows and the gossip rags are portraying them as glamorous, appealing and independent. Even the biggest schlock-fest of reality shows, The Bachelor, with its cloying pitch of instant romance, positioned single father Jason Mesnick, an attractive single father with a young son, as the man to covet, demonstrating the appeal of single parents. And out of the ten female contestants clamoring for his attention, two were single mothers themselves.
It is refreshing, and also high time, that single parents are seen as the desirable individuals that they are — even while they deal with the unglamorous flip side — the responsibilities that come hand-in-hand with parenting. A dose of mystique and fascination in the media also might help focus public opinion on discrimination that non-celeb single parents face.
Then and now
In the past, some TV shows rather timidly broached the subject of life either alone or with a second marriage. The Brady Bunch is one of those. The “past” of the father and mother in the series was veiled — Mike Brady was a widower and his wife Carol Martin… well, we never knew what happened to her first spouse. Single fathers raised children in a number of ‘60s TV shows, including such icons as Bonanza, The Rifleman, My Three Sons and The Andy Griffith Show. But in those shows, the marital status of the parent was simply accepted as a permanent situation, they lived in a monk-like vacuum, where their personal lives and needs were concerned — and the characters definitely didn’t aspire to sex appeal. Once married, now not married or interested in relationships, forever and ever.
The Gilmore Girls, which ran from 2000 to 2007 and is enjoying re-runs, was an innovative series that began to bridge the gap. It featured an attractive single mother and her teenage daughter, living in a small town. The series broached topics of interest to single parents, with political references and social commentary. It gained in popularity through the years, and by its fifth season, it was one of Warner Brothers’ most-watched primetime shows. The subjects it tackled were considered daring and pertinent to real-life single parent issues.
Today we have series like Two and a Half Men, Brothers & Sisters, The Starter Wife and Denise Richards: It’s Complicated on E! Denise is a divorced mother of two making her way through life’s challenges, albeit Hollywood style, in designer clothing. Yet, the series addresses the difficulties that impact “normal” single parents. She expresses no negativity for having chosen her previous husband, or for divorcing him. She muses about hoping to find someone who might appreciate and accept her for who she is — a happy individual with a full and interesting life. Sounds like a typical Singular to me.
Tim Roth plays a divorced tough guy deception expert with a troubled teenage daughter in the new series Lie to Me. Roth’s character, Dr. Cal Lightman, is a complex character — smart and with a rough-edged sex appeal. In a Huffington Post article, the writer comments that single dad/daughter shows are a growing trend and that only a couple of years ago, the daughter figure (same age!) would have been the love interest.
Divorced father, troubled daughter is a recurring theme in other shows such as 24 (Keifer Sutherland), Shark (James Woods) and Thief (Andre Braugher). However, most TV shows that feature single parents today seem to prefer mother figures rather than fathers.
You’re not alone
If Hollywood is now looking more closely at single parents as compelling primetime characters or subjects for shows, it’s probably because they also have an eye on the demographics. Statistics released in 2007 showed there were 13.6 million single parents in the U.S raising 21.2 million children. Of those, 84 percent of custodial parents are mothers and 16 percent are fathers.
TV shows influence public opinion and awareness. Positive role models such as The Cosby Show have helped race relations in America. So it is entirely feasible and probable that shows like The Bachelor, Two and a Half Men and Brothers & Sisters could continue to alter public perceptions and make employers, legislators and even potential dates be more accepting of sexy, bright, single parents — and singles in general. We at SingularCity and Singular magazine certainly hope so!
Did you like this article? Are you a single parent — or dating one? We would love to hear your thoughts below!