Standard '50s Father
aka: Mister Cleaver
He knows best.
It was an elderly car, but well preserved. Not using Crowley's method, though, where dents were simply wished away; this car looked like it did, you knew instinctively, because its owner had spent every weekend for two decades doing all the things the manual said should be done every weekend. Before every journey he walked around it and checked the lights and counted the wheels. Serious-minded men who smoked pipes and wore mustaches had written serious instructions saying that this should be done, and so he did it, because he was a serious-minded man who smoked a pipe and wore a mustache and did not take such injunctions lightly, because if you did, where would you be? He had exactly the right amount of insurance. He drove three miles below the speed limit, or forty miles per hour, whichever was the lower. He wore a tie, even on Saturdays.
Archimedes said that with a long enough lever and a solid enough place to stand, he could move the world. He could have stood on Mr. Young.
You know this man, and can recognize him on sight.
The Standard '50s Father
was born in a small town in the US Mid-West (or, as in the case of the quote above, the English Home Counties). His parents were farmers of some sort, or perhaps his father was a druggist. A veteran
, he put himself through college (possibly through the G.I. Bill) and is now a white-collar professional
... unless he's a doctor or the owner of his own store (pharmacy, shoe store, grocery, etc.).
The Standard '50s Father
is solid, dependable, and responsible. He's Happily Married
to his wife, who he met when they were both teenagers
. And if the love he gives his children is slightly distant, it is no less heartfelt for being so. He's an upstanding citizen who rarely swears or drinks to excess, if he smokes he smokes a pipe
, and attends a regular "bowling night" with his friends (substitute "darts" if British). If he plays cards it will be bridge, probably in partnership with his wife, not
poker in a room full of cigar smoke. He wears a shirt and tie with dress pants and a cardigan during the day (even while he cuts the lawn on Saturday morning) and sleeps in sensible cotton pajamas. He's buttoned-down, calm, wise, and thoughtful. Only three things can rattle him: his wife going into labor
, his wife deciding that she wants a job, or the threat of losing his
job (the last two together is not to be thought of).
When played straight, the Standard '50s Father
's primary function is to offer object lessons and moral instructions to the various members of his family. When Played for Laughs
, he's the butt of jokes and the perfect example of dorkishness. When played Darker and Edgier
, he's often the male version of a Stepford Smiler
, hiding his neuroses, insecurities, and other issues behind the fatherly facade. Note that he is never played straight anymore
, since such overt displays of patriarchy are no longer generally acceptable
, although the zeal with which writers try to subvert and avert this trope carries its own Unfortunate Implications
that audiences simply won't accept a husband or father who's anything other than stupid
Husband to the House Wife
. Father to the Seemingly Wholesome '50s Girl
and The All-American Boy
Anime And Manga
- Bob, the husband from the commercials for Enzyte brand male enhancement pills. He's the Stepford Smiler type, but instead of insecurities or neuroses, he's trying to hide his massive, massive penis.
- In one of Christopher Hart's How To Draw Manga books, he suggests making the father of any magical girl character the reader creates like this for comedic value.
- Usagi's father, Kenji Tsukino in Sailor Moon.
- Also Nobita's father in Doraemon, replacing pipe and slippers with a yukata and cigarettes.
- Fujitaka Kinomoto from Cardcaptor Sakura is the wise and stable and friendly father of The Protagonist.
- Koudai Ohzaora, father of the titular Captain Tsubasa, when at home. (He works as a marine merchant captain so he spends lots of time travelling through the world.)
- Prysm's 'father' in the virtual reality in which she was raised in Teen Titans comic book (the VR having been designed to simulate the world of a 50s sitcom).
- The Nuclear Family was a supervillain team who fought Batman and the Outsiders. They were robots programmed to act like the stereotypical 1950s Dad, Mom, Son, Teenage Son (Biff), and Daughter — with superpowers, of course.
- Mafalda's father Ángel, though he can be more neurotic than the standard.
- Hyperion's adopted father of Supreme Power acted very much like this but that was only because it was his assignment to give Mark Milton the most wholesome upbringing possible.
- Mr Darren, leader of the Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E from Grant Morrison's run on Doom Patrol fits the darker versions of this trope to a T, to the point where he forces his wife to play a Laugh Track when he comes home from work.
- Mr. Fantastic has played a Standard Fifties Father pretty straight since his conception (Although Fantastic Four #1 was release 1961.) and after marrying his college-sweetheart. "Wives should be kissed — and not heard!" indeed. Modern interpretations make him more subtly—and egalitarianly—condescending. So while his archnemisis is mocked for being medieval, he is merely Rockwellian.
- Shade, the Changing Man once encountered a cult led by a man who was obsessed with normalcy, which to him meant forcibly turning everyone in the neighbourhood into 50's nuclear family stereotypes. Wearing a suit and tie and smoking a pipe was mandatory for men.
- Whiteman, by Robert Crumb, wants you to think he's this, but he has to constantly struggle to suppress his lusts, rages and racial anxiety.
- In the anti-child abuse comic, Batman and the Ultimate Evil, paedophiles are always drawn as middle-class white guys, often smoking pipes. A very nasty subversion indeed!
- And unfortunately Truth in Television. One of the reasons children who reported being molested by their dads weren't believed is that people didn't want to realize that most pedophiles look and act very ordinary; and may deliberately cultivate such an appearance.
- It's a Wonderful Life's main character is a slightly darker take on this: he's genuine, but of course, he's just lost his job.
- In the movie White Christmas, Bob invokes the pipe, slippers, newspaper version of a husband when ribbing Phil, who has just (supposedly) gotten engaged.
- Sam Neill's character in The Dish probably qualifies. He's an authority figure with a tweed suit and a pipe, though a widower rather than a father, and it's the 60s rather than the 50s.
- In Vanilla Sky, it is implied that David invented a father figure for himself (Dr. McCabe) in this mold, based on Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.
- Christopher Walken's character in Blast from the Past.
- The title character of The Stepfather cultivates this image for himself, and seems to think of himself as this. At one point, he's explicitly compared to Ward Cleaver. Unfortunately, the accent here is on cleaver . . .
- Brad Pitt is surprisingly effective as one of these in The Tree of Life, with strong elements of Dad the Veteran and Tough Love as well: he demands respect and strict decorum from his sons at all times and believes his sweet-natured wife to be "naive."
- Audrey imagines Seymour this way in Little Shop of Horrors. She even sings, "He's Father; he knows best."
- Chris in The Woman seems to think that he's one of these, but is in fact a very dark subversion.
- Mr. Young in Good Omens.
- Mike Nelson perceives himself as one around youngsters. He writes in his book Mind Over Matters that anytime kids wind up in his house: "Somehow, though I don't own one, a pipe ends up in my hands, my hair automatically Brylcreems itself into place, I look down to find slippers on my feet, and I'm wearing a robe." He then goes on to utterly creep them out by dropping increasingly dated references, starting with quizzing them on the popularity of Tone Loc and ending with advising them to take precautions against the Bubonic Plague. "Oh, the kids today, how they love me."
- Coping With Parents by Peter Corey, a humorous guide for kids, suggests that unlucky readers may discover their father really is just a newspaper with a pipe and slippers attached.
- Ward Cleaver, the paterfamilias of the Cleaver clan in Leave It To Beaver and former Trope Namer.
- The Adventures of Superman once featured the same actor as Ward Cleaver, Hugh Beaumont, portraying a 50s father with a hidden past as a gangster.
- In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Ted", John Ritter plays this type of man, who gets involved with Buffy's mom. Of course, he turns out to be a killer robot.
- Subverted in Mad Men with Don Draper - when you realize he is the 50's dad at the end of the first episode, it comes as a surprise. And of course, he is most definitely not a paragon of American virtue (what with the affairs, stolen identity, etc). Oh, and the divorce. Let's not forget he drove his wife to divorce. (Or perhaps she drove herself to it. Whatever).
- Steve Douglas from My Three Sons.
- Jim Anderson from Father Knows Best.
- Howard Cunningham from Happy Days.
- Dr. Alex Stone from The Donna Reed Show.
- Dr. Jason Siever from Growing Pains.
- Jack Pryor from American Dreams. Despite being made in the 2000s, he's a mostly idealistic portrayal and never does anything worse than being overprotective at times.
- Mr Brown from the Just William series (father to the main character).
- Carl Winslow from Family Matters during the first couple seasons. Was also the Bumbling Dad at this time.
- Harshly deconstructed on the very retro-'50s Twin Peaks with Leland Palmer, who becomes increasingly vulnerable as we see him mourning the death of his only daughter, and the uncovering of her dark secrets that come with the murder investigation, and he's forced to deal with his failures as a father. Also, he's the killer.
- Lloyd Nielsen from the extremely short-lived Hi Honey, I'm Home.
- The Dad in the Music Video of Simple Plan's Untitled
- Dagwood Bumstead of Blondie.
- In Calvin and Hobbes, Calvin's Dad looks a bit like one of these. He occasionally subverts it by making up Just So stories. For example, he tells Calvin that the reason that old movies were in black and white is because the world was black and white then, and that the sun sets each night in Arizona, which is why the rocks there are so red.
- Mark Trail of Mark Trail, even though he was invented in the 40's, not 50's.
- "The Appletons" was a regular strip in the National Lampoon, a very typical "50s family" with a dad who's a smiling, pipe-smoking psycho who constantly messes with his kids' heads.
- J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, icon of the Church of the SubGenius, is a parody of this type.
- As the Fallout series is based on 50's culture with Zeerust technology, many Subversions, Parodies, and Deconstructions of this character appear throughout.
- Jack Smith and his neighbour Willy Wilson in Fallout 3 are almost iconic. Serious men who dress properly, care for their small families, don't vote for no commie beatniks and don't take kindly to strangers using bad language where the kids can hear. They love their families and believe that it's a man's job to "bring home the bacon". Quite literally since Andale is populated with cannibals.
- Octodad attempts to be one.
- Subverted with Smokey from Ghastly's Ghastly Comic: he looks like he's stepped straight out of the staid starchiness of Fifties suburbia, but it soon becomes clear he's as filthy-minded as the rest of the cast.
- Ghastly himself looked like the perfect stereotype of the '50s father.
- Played with in Homestuck. At first, Mr. Egbert appears to be one of these — a caring, pipe-smoking, hat-wearing, sensible man — albeit with a bizarre passion for harlequins that convinces his son John that the elder Egbert is a street performer. And then it turns out that he's secretly a.) a perfectly ordinary businessman whose apparent harlequin fixation is in fact an attempt to support John's chucklevoodoo-inducedlove of clowns and b.) a superhumanly strong, Made of Iron Papa Wolf capable of taking out enormous monsters with his bare hands.
- And he's also John's half-brother via cloning. It's complicated.
- After the Scratch, most characters are iterated into different forms and different lives. Aside from being Properly Paranoid due to Crockercorp's influence and lacking interest in clowns, Mr. Crocker is the exact same as Mr. Egbert.
- Elliot is cast as one of these in a dream sequence in El Goonish Shive here.
- The Christian householder here
- Father from Codename: Kids Next Door looks like a living silhouette of one, complete with pipe. He's sort of an unusual example, since his children are adopted, Brainwashed Creepy Children and he can breathe fire.
- During one episode of Ren and Stimpy, Ren and Stimpy pretend to be babies for a while. The father featured in this episode was a Mister Cleaver.
- Clay Puppington from Moral Orel. He is a Deconstruction of this trope. To horrifying degrees.
- Dexter's Laboratory.
- Dad from Cow and Chicken.
- Kent Mansley from The Iron Giant was designed to resemble this, and could be considered a deconstruction. He was even voiced by Christopher McDonald, who played Ward Cleaver in the 90s Leave it to Beaver movie.
- Professor Utonium from The Powerpuff Girls.
- Hugh Neutron from Jimmy Neutron is a cross between this and Bumbling Dad.
- Katie's father in the Katie Ka-Boom shorts from Animaniacs.
- The Venture Bros. has Professor Richard Impossible, a Standard '50s Husband combined with the worst traits of Reed Richards.
- Hank Hill.
- The limbless husband and patriarch Bob Oblong from The Oblongs may be the eponymous example of the 1950s TV show father. He treats his wife like royalty, uses child-friendly minced oaths, and is very chipper and upbeat despite his deformities and familys' position as lower-class citizens living near a chemical spill.
- Goofy in the Disney cartoons where he plays a bumbling suburban father named George Geef.
- Marceline's dad on Adventure Time is a rather amusing subversion. He is very like this in terms of voice and personality....and he's also the soul-stealing, Eldritch Abomination Lord of All Evil.