Follow TV Tropes

Following

Bumbling Dad

Go To

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/172801_the_simpsons_homer_and_bart_350px.png
If you're guessing that he falls, you're half right. note 

Mr. Bergstrom: Lisa, your homework is always so neat. How can I put this? Does your father help you with it?
Lisa: No. Homework's not my father's specialty.
Mr. Bergstrom: Well there's no shame in it, I mean, my dad—
Lisa: Not mine.
Mr. Bergstrom: You didn't let me finish—
Lisa: Unless the next word was "burped", you didn't have to.
Advertisement:

Born out of the Sitcom Dysfunctional Family, he's a deliberate subversion of the Standard '50s Father. Now so ubiquitous the older trope is nearly forgotten.

Although he's clever at times, he's not usually allowed to be smart. He has no idea that Shortcuts Make Long Delays. He's lazy, gluttonous and has miscellaneous other glaring vices. His children may love him, but they often don't respect him. However, he is still a sympathetic character; the source of his charm is his complete love and loyalty to his family, even if the main way he shows it is by fixing problems he caused himself.

His family is made up of at least one child nearing or in their teenage years, and a wife (usually much prettier than Dad) who spends her time Parenting the Husband. If he has one or more teenage daughters, at least one will be a Bratty Teenage Daughter or a Daddy's Girl; whether they are or not, the dad will be an Overprotective Dad in regards to the girl(s) — and quite often Amazingly Embarrassing to the girls and the boys alike.

Advertisement:

Naturally, filled with Unfortunate Implications, and often used as an enabler of several double standards. Sometimes, on the rare occasions that a mom does something dumb, she's cut more slack than she otherwise would be, since the bumbling dad is there to make her look better by comparison. The frustrating and stagnant gender roles enforced by this trope are often pointed to as an example of sexism against men. On the other hand, this trope doesn't let female characters off so good either. For example, if everyone's used to tolerating Dad's incompetence, they might still hold Mom to the standards of a competent adult. In fact, she may end up being held responsible for Parenting the Husband and fixing his screw-ups. After all, somebody's got to be the grownup in a family, and you can't hold Dad accountable for not acting like one if he's just an idiot.

Advertisement:

This trope is still mostly seen in sitcoms and cartoons, along with many commercials, especially ones aimed at kids. In anime, this type of character is taken more respectfully, since it usually consists of a goofier dad, more involved with his family than the stereotypical Salaryman. This is even more common when his children have no visible mother.

This is an example of how a Subverted Trope can end up becoming the norm. Back in the day, fathers were assumed to be wise and in charge, and the bumbling dad was something fresh and unusual—which was arguably what made it so funny in the first place. Today, sitcoms have made bumbling dad an Undead Horse Trope, and consistently competent fathers are a comparative rarity.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Popular in many, many television commercials — especially for products associated with domestic tasks like cooking, cleaning and childcare, as this plays into the complementary trope and stereotype that Men Can't Keep House.
  • This trope's over-use in advertising is frequently Lampshaded and held up for scorn on advert deconstruction forum Ad Turds.
  • Eggo Waffle commercials have dumped their live-action gimmicks in favor of crudely-drawn cartoon shorts featuring a bumbling dad trying to steal his daughter's waffles.
  • A commercial for Verizon internet showed a bumbling dad whose wife had to boss him around — for the good of the family — to stop him from neglecting his chores in favor of playing with the new computer under the guise of "helping" his daughter with her homework. The way it was played out came across as so unfunny and pointlessly insulting it was actually removed from the air after complaints.
    • Heck, several phone and cable commercials will still treat the dad like a goofy dumbass even when he's doing exactly what he's supposed to and buying the advertised service!

    Anime and Manga 
  • In Bleach Isshin Kurosaki, Ichigo's widower father. However, we learn later on that Isshin is in fact an exiled captain-level shinigami, and that his goofiness is a put-on. He's still goofy after The Reveal, just more of a badass. Also, most of his goofiness with relation to Ichigo was actually him being a Stealth Mentor, teaching Ichigo how to fight without Ichigo even realizing it. He is still, however, a complete incompetent boob when it comes to Yuzu and Karin.
  • Naruto and Sasuke are this in Boruto. There's a good balance of it being Played for Laughs, and Played for Drama. Not helping is Naruto not having parents to begin with, and Sasuke's parents being somewhat incompetent.
    • The "Family Day arc", shows a lot of humorous bumbling dad moments with Naruto, Choji, and Sasuke as they spend Parent and Child Day with their respective daughters.
      • In the first episode, Naruto goofs up buying a Kuraa-ma toy Himawari wanted and ended up buying a Shukaa-ku toy instead, which initially disappoints her until she changes her mind by the end.
      • The next episode opens with Choji getting kicked out of his house by his wife for being lazy and eating the sweets she bought for the family to enjoy, and almost losing an eating contest with Chocho in an attempt to when his wife's affection back.
      • The last episode has Sasuke trying to bond with Sarada. Sadly, with a combination of poor social skills and bad advice from Kakashi, he ends up embarrassing her. It isn't until he remembers how spent time with his own father, and getting more practical advice from his wife Sakura does he succeed in bonding with her.
  • Kogoro Mouri of Detective Conan is a loser, but his care towards his daughter Ran is utterly remarkable, which makes him a Papa Wolf all the way. He may burn through a bar's worth of alcohol and tobacco in a day, but if anyone threatens his little girl Ran and his charge Conan he will have their face for a doily.
  • Ouka, father of Recca Hanabishi, in the Flame of Recca manga is like this, despite being a stoic bad ass leader of Recca's 8 headed dragons, Resshin. In the anime, however, he's just like a normal, stoic dad.
  • Inukami!: Dai Youko, Youko's father, is the goofy dad type; described as an "adult child", he throws tantrums when he finds out Youko's in love with her tamer. However he's far from incompetent. Instead he's the only one capable of fighting the Big Bad in single combat.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Joseph Joestar is this in Part 4, due to becoming a senile old man. One example of his bumbling, has his son Josuke entrust the elderly Joseph with his money to buy Shizuka baby supplies, only to unwittingly spend all of it, to Josuke's ire.
    • Joseph was something of a bumbling granddad in Part 3 as well. A lot of the humor came from him screwing up in one way or another.
    • Jotaro becomes a more serious example in Part 6. Due to his rather bad parenting, as in, not being around a lot, divorcing his wife at some point, and not talking to her as much, his daughter Jolyne begins the story with less than pleasant feelings towards him. Once he appears to bail her out of jail, Jolyne beats a guard up in order to extend her stay just to get away from him.
  • Sojiro Izumi, Konata's widowed, perverted, gaming father in Lucky Star. The fact that he was nicknamed Awesome-kun is not surprising at all. It should be mentioned that the manga implied Soujirou is actually the least Book Dumb living member of the Izumi-Kobayakawa household.
  • All the fathers in Ojamajo Doremi, to some degree. Special mention goes to Kenji Senou, Aiko's single father.
  • Ouran High School Host Club has Fujioka Haruhi's widowed father Ranka. He's an odd person considering he's a Wholesome Crossdresser, bisexual, and can be a bit silly at times (especially in some of Haruhi's flashbacks when she was little). His bumbliness is very much portrayed as endearing, and a trait he shares with Haruhi's Love Interest Suou Tamaki. On the other hand, he's the rare bumbling dad who crosses to Good Father too. It's obvious that he loves Haruhi genuinely and has done his best to raise her ever since his wife/Haruhi's mother Kotoko died, working hard in his very uncommon work in the okama bar to support both of them - to the point that at least once Haruhi rebukes him not for leaving her alone, but for overworking himself for her.
  • Nanjiroh Echizen in The Prince of Tennis, though it can be said he's also a case of Obfuscating Stupidity.
    • In the manga, Tezuka's father Kuniharu is hinted to be a bit like this too. Quite a contrast with his kid and his dad.
  • In Ranma ½, both Soun Tendo and Genma Saotome were often Bumbling Dads more typical of the American form of the trope than the Japanese style (as opposed to the egregious Principal Kuno in the same series, who was very much in the Japanese mold despite his obsession with Hawaii). This was even more pronounced for those times when they did act like the competent martial artists they were supposed to be. Genma's a rather... interesting case in that he's often more straight-up malicious than your standard Bumbling Dad. There are quite a few stories where he doesn't even have a hint of good intentions behind his actions, and he's motivated by pure selfishness/sadism.
  • Saiunkoku Monogatari has Kou Shoka, who fills the role not only for his daughter Shuurei, but also to a lesser degree for both Seiran and the young Emperor, Shi Ryuuki. He mostly comes off as kind and good-natured but hopelessly inept, at least until it's revealed that he's also the highly skilled assassin known as the Black Wolf and that his bumbling is mostly an act.
  • Sand Chronicles: Masahiro is hardworking and has good intentions but also a bit of a scatterbrain, and his daughter Ann says she used to think of him as "naive and unreliable" as a child.
  • Shinji Ikari Raising Project transforms Gendo Ikari into one of these. He is an Adaptational Nice Guy, but the times that he embarrasses Shinji with his Large Ham Cloudcuckoolander tendencies are legion.
  • In Soul Eater, Shinigami and Spirit count. Though the case of the former, it's partly the result of putting on a more child-friendly persona, which he then apparently became fond of.
  • Tenchi's dad Noboyuki in Tenchi Muyo!. He is a pretty competent architect, but when off-duty he exemplifies the trope.
  • Omakes in Tokyo Ghoul:re reveal Yoshitoki Washuu to be one to his Antagonistic Offspring, Matsuri. His various attempts at family bonding fail miserably, primarily because of how completely different father and son are in personality and interests.
  • Ichigo's dad in Tokyo Mew Mew is a bit...off his rocker, but nonetheless a very nice guy. Ichigo speaks of him and her mother as her "ideal couple", and hopes that she and her love interest Aoyama will be like them one day.
    • Recca's adoptive father, Shigeo Hanabishi, however, plays this trope straight in both versions.

    Film — Animated 
  • The Father in The Movie of Coraline. In contrast, the Other Father is attentive, caring, and much cooler.
  • Professor Bomba from Epic is already unused to interacting with humans, let alone his own daughter.
  • In Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure Scamp sees his father as one of these, a lazy dad who could never understand his desire to be a wild dog. Little does he know that his father was THE wild dog back in the day.
  • As pointed out by The Nostalgia Chick in her episode on Disney Princesses, there was a pretty huge trend in "infantile, impotent fathers" that the Disney girls had to put up with during the company's Renaissance era; while they were always well-meaning and wanted the best for their daughters, they tended to get easily fooled, were intelligent but eccentric, were too caught up in traditional values, etc.. Interestingly enough, the main aversion to this is Fa Zhou, wise, poetic, kindhearted Retired Badass and father of Mulan, who wasn't even really a princess.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Played with in American Beauty. Kevin Spacey's character is initially a depressing version of this, but as the movie continues he manages to shirk the mantle.
  • Subverted in Cheaper by the Dozen. Tom is unable to control the kids at times, but he's clearly frustrated, not stupid. Although many claimed Tom was stupid, this clearly is not the case.
  • Honey, I Shrunk the Kids Wayne Szalinski is a more highly intelligent version of the bumbling dad. But he is far from irresponsible, even though his inventions have done bizarre things to his loved ones. Big Russ Thompson, on the other hand...
  • Gang-du from The Host is clumsy, immature and absent-minded, which explains why his wife left him. He feeds his daughter Hyun-seo beer and can't even gather enough money to buy her a cellphone. In fact, he's so clumsy that he inadvertently allows his daughter to be captured by a giant monster from the river Han. Still, as incompetent as he is, he loves his daughter more than anything else in the world and fights with all his might to save her. And as it turns out, the authorities are even more inefficient than he is.
  • Played with in Juno, where the protagonists' father and stepmom look clueless in the beginning but appear wiser and emotionally supportive as the movie advances.
  • Subverted in Maleficent, where three female pixies are bumbling moms and the only male involved in raising the child is shown to be quite good at it.
  • Mean Girls has Cady's father who doesn't know that kids aren't allowed outside when they're grounded.
  • Played With in Moms' Night Out. Alysson imagines all sorts of horror scenarios when Marco and Sean are in charge of the kids. However, most of the shenanigans, including the fathers and their kids winding up in jail, are the fault of the mothers.
  • Mr. Mom is about a bumbling dad who has to stay at home and take care of the kids while his wife works. Once he stops feeling sorry for himself about being unemployed and his wife being the breadwinner, he gets it together and gets quite good in the role.
  • Clark Griswald is very much this in the National Lampoon's Vacation movies.
    • Pretty much, every movie where Chevy Chase plays the dad, starting with Cops and Robbersons and going rapidly downhill. His role as Clark Griswold might have been an aversion if he could have kept his plans from going to hell, but that was rarely ever his fault; fate just doesn't like the Griswold clan.
    • Whatever it may be, Rusty Griswold is looking to receive this same treatment in Vacation.
  • Subverted in Suffragette; Maud's husband Sonny seems to be this at first, when he fails to dress his son in the morning and the child still wears a pyjama when he's sent to the carer. However, it soon turns out that he is not loyal to his family, but ruthless enough to give the son up for adoption without Maud's consent, which the law of that time allowed.

    Literature 
  • Averted in A Brother's Price - the fact that the Whistlers are such a well-organized family is attributed to Jerin's grandfather Alannon, as the grandmothers were a ragtag bunch of soldier-spies. Jerin's father seems to have done a good job, too, and Jerin is a very competent replacement dad for his younger siblings. His love interest points out that he's good at parenting in an attempt to convince her relatives that he'd be a good match.
  • Papa Bear of The Berenstain Bears.
  • In Deep Secret and The Merlin Conspiracy, Ted Mallory is a generally competent individual and a best-selling author, but he absolutely does not understand his teenaged son Nick.
  • Frank Heffley in Diary of a Wimpy Kid is a bumbling dad. He acts like he's in his 80s. Not only does he regularly yell "Dagnabbed rotten teenagers!", but in the webcomic, he tries to get Classical music playing throughout the town to scare the teenagers away, is apparently teenager phobic, can't figure out how Gregory's game system is even hooked up to the TV, and says people at drive-thrus are idiots...yet he tries to place his order through a garbage can.
  • In Harry Potter, Arthur Weasley (Ron's father) somewhat gives off this vibe, although he seems to be competent enough when it really counts. Ron possibly fulfills this trope during the epilogue era. Vernon Dursley might count as a rare villainous version.
  • This is the premise of Jill Murphy's Mr. Large in Charge.
    • Though in the Animated Adaptation of this series, The Large Family, both the mother and father are portrayed of either equal competence level, or Mr. Large being slightly more competent compared to the slightly bumbling Mrs. Large.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Gomez Addams of The Addams Family, had eccentric habits and interests and could lean towards Cloud Cuckoolander tendencies at times, but was still depicted as a selfless, loving and attentive husaband and father. In addition to being Happily Married, he and his wife Morticia usually worked together to solve various family problems.
  • Cliff Huxtable from The Cosby Show was created specifically as an antidote for this. Bill Cosby was tired of all the father figures on TV being essentially dominated by their kids, and created a competent, intelligent, but still funny father character for himself. It's still present in a downplayed form, as his family refuse to let him try to fix household appliances.
  • Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs. The episode "Dirty Dancing" has Earl watching a show called "Totally Ineffectual Dad", which is all about the father being a bumbling dad. At one point and advertisement for the show mentions that it is followed by other shows with the "bumbling dad" concept, such as "Dad's a Moron" and "Father Knows Nothing".
  • In Doctor Who, though we never saw any of his family aside from his granddaughter, it's heavily implied that the Doctor was one of these, due to most of his incarnations being wonderfully eccentric.
  • In Everybody Loves Raymond, there is Frank Barone, a blustering uberboor with no concept of sensitivity or restraint who embodies this trope: his husbanding skills to Marie are non-existent, and his concept of bringing up sons involved intimidation and lots of shouting combined with insults and rough treatment—all for their own good, naturally. His sense of personal hygiene is hazy and he is a voracious glutton as well as an exemplar of Doom It Yourself.
    • His son Raymond views wife Debra as almost a surrogate mother and he is inclined to be lazy and to let her do all the work. When prodded to do chores, he has gone so far in ineptitude as to burn out the kitchen with an accidental fire; he has bought a new vacuum cleaner for no better reason than that he found the saleswoman attractive; and his parenting of three children is wildly inconsistent, veering from permissive to Victorian Father. There is every sign that his brother Robert, who married late, is learning from a master in his relationship to wife Amy.
    • A few episodes of the show suggest that Ray deliberately invokes this trope—by messing up simple tasks, he gets out of doing work. Granted, that's just as frustrating...
  • Carl Winslow from Family Matters was this on occasion. For instance, in the "Opposites Attract" episode when Harriet asks, "Why must I take part in such a pointless activity?" Carl responds, "Because we are men and we thrive on pointless activity." Additionally Carl is shown as being no better at household repairs than Cliff Huxtable, with one early episode involving an attempted repair being titled "Mr. Badwrench"note 
  • In the series Father Knows Best, the titular father complains about this trope in the Show Within a Show called Father Does It Again, exclaiming that such a "stumblebum" husband could only exist on television. After watching the show he becomes Wrong Genre Savvy, convinced his family is pulling a sitcom-style deception to keep him from going hunting.
  • Also averted by Uncle Phil on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Yes, he has his moments of stupidity, but overall, Uncle Phil's portrayed as competent and knowledgeable way more often than other sitcom dads. And he's also an excellent lawyer and an even better judge, although his skills as a handyman and cook are even less impressive than Bill Cosby's above.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Mace Tyrell is entirely Played for Laughs as a bumbling, sycophantic Momma's Boy.
    • Tytos Lannister is remembered as a good man who nearly ruined House Lannister.
  • Mr C in Happy Days. Not quite as bumbling as later examples, but an early subversion of "Father Knows Best" type dads (to quote one meddling executive: "He doesn't look like a father. He looks like my father.")
  • Tim Taylor in Home Improvement. Unlike most bumbling dads, however, he is actually very competent at his job. At least, he would be if it weren't for his almost mental-illness-level compulsion to "improve" things. When he isn't creating outdoor grills that can achieve geosynchronous orbit, he's actually a very skilled handy man. He's far more "No concern for safety or moderation" than "Doesn't know what he's doing". As far as his family goes, Tim is a little closer to the standard for this trope, usually not always understanding how he should act in various circumstances, as having effectively raised himself after his dad died, he's not clear how a family works. This conversely means that in any episode where someone dies, Tim ends up being much more competent and capable.
  • Eric Sweet, on House of Anubis, after he was revealed to be Eddie's father. He tried hard to rebuild their relationship, but was a bit clueless, making it get awkward for the both of them at times. However, he wasn't a complete moron, he was just not used to being a father.
  • Tim Allen's character in the Spiritual Successor Last Man Standing actually subverts this trope. He's a very caring and loving father, but there is no question that he is more intelligent, rational, and mature than his kids, if at times a bit brusque. More often than not, he acts as the Only Sane Man within his family.
  • In an odd dramatic example, Don Draper of Mad Men tends to be cluelessly oblivious, if well-meaning, towards his children (particularly Sally), in sharp contrast to Betty (who is generally quite cold and hits Sally for her acts of rebellion).
  • Most people who remember Make Room For Daddy probably remember the many times Danny Williams was this, his excuse being that his work as a nightclub singer kept him from spending a lot of time with his family. Much of this took place later in the series, after Danny had married Kathy. In its earliest inception, the show was noted for more serious portrayals of Danny and Margaret's conflict, to the point that Margaret talked about leaving (pretty edgy for 1953). When the actress playing Margaret quit, though, they just said that Margaret had died.
  • Hal from Malcolm in the Middle. However, he shows great intelligence and patience for an example of this trope - his relationship with his family is as far as the similarity goes. Certainly his wife is more of an antagonist than him. In fact, it's frequently hinted that Hal used to be a happy, intelligent, emotionally stable guy before marrying Lois.
    • There's also a great episode were Hal becomes increasingly reckless and carefree when Lois isn't around to temper his more compulsive attributes.
    • Hal is the INSTIGATOR for most of the madness in the Middle household, and the part of the equation the kids get their mischief from. Lois might be more strict and punishing, but Hal is the one with all the crazy schemes..
  • Al Bundy of Married... with Children is a more caustic version of this. In the case of Al Bundy it's more along the lines of a reasonably competent man who's been surrounded by insane circumstances for so long it's hard for him to care anymore and he doesn't apply himself. He hates his life, his wife, his kids, his job, his neighbors, his boss and everything else he has to deal with, and when he proves he knows what he's doing nobody cares. Why even bother?
  • Phil Dunphy of Modern Family, mainly as a result of his attempts to seem cool.
  • A stock trope on The Munsters was that Herman Munster would screw up in some well-meaning way as a father/family patriarch and the rest of the family would rally around to get him out without damaging his ego (too much). Also from the series was Grandpa, who didn't let the fact his daughter was All Grown Up stop him from acting just as bad as Herman in the fatherhood department.
  • Michael from My Wife and Kids, on the other hand, was an subverion of the bumbling dad trope Gone Horribly Wrong, or perhaps true to life. Instead of being a bumbling dad whose controlled by his wife and children... his relationship with them throughout the series can be summed up with this quote, "I Bugs Bunny'd you."
  • Felix Unger in the TV adaptation of The Odd Couple mostly averts this (being an incredibly good cook and housekeeper), but his dorky demeanor usually draws his children's attentions towards Oscar.
  • Josh's dad Alan on Please Like Me is a well-meaning guy who nevertheless manages to behave irresponsibly with a certain regularity.
  • Averted by Jimmy Chance on Raising Hope, who is shown to be a loving, attentive, and good parent. His father (and mother) are shown to be bumbling parents in flashbacks.
  • Largely averted with Dan Conner on Roseanne. While he could be a little bumbling (such as needing help finding his lost pants) and occasionally lazy in regards to household chores such as cooking, he is, for the most part, attentive, hard-working, and an excellent father to his children, providing Cool and Unusual Punishment when the need arises and not being afraid to take on anyone who hurts his family.
  • William Shatner plays one in his TV series, $#*! My Dad Says. The title says it all.
  • Step by Step: Frank Lambert was a clear example, usually by trying too hard be the father. This often annoyed or outright angered eldest stepdaughter Dana many times, who viewed him as uncouth and uneducated ... but many times, Dana could rely on Frank to stick up for her in her time of need.
  • Ted Wheeler from Stranger Things lives and breathes this trope. He's useless whenever the family gets into an argument, speaks in lame baseball metaphors to a son who couldn't be less interested in sports, and instantly believes everything the government cover-up team tells him.
  • Inverted in Up All Night, as noted here. Chris began sort of this way, but as a stay-at-home-dad got things under control. His wife, Reagan, who continued working as a TV producer, is instead the one who tends to bollix things up when she takes charge.

    Music 
  • Country Music parodist Cledus T. Judd has "Where's Your Mommy?", a parody of Toby Keith's "Who's Your Daddy?" that features a man struggling to keep a baby entertained and clean while the mother's away.
  • Kaito often gets portrayed as this in Vocaloid fanworks that make him and Meiko the Designated Parents of the Crypton Future Media Vocaloids, though usually not to the extent of the typical sitcom dad; sweet and well-meaning, but naive, childish, and obsessed with ice cream, as opposed to the usually more mature if somewhat hotheaded and booze-loving Meiko.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The comic Adam@home embodies (and lives on) this trope with its bungling and adorkable (though still rather competent) title character, apart from his reasonably more attractive (and assertive) wife, his two kids (his son is somewhat of a Cheerful Child and his daughter is quite bratty) and more recently, a labradoodle.
  • Usually averted by Darryl MacPherson of Baby Blues. We're talking about a guy who changed a diaper in the men's room at the mall.
  • Dagwood Bumstead on Blondie ranges between a Standard '50s Father and this. Justified by his Idle Rich background— he never learned to do most of the things required of him as a working-class father.
  • Roger Fox from FoxTrot gives Homer Simpson a run for his money. In one strip, he managed to burn his silhouette onto the wall trying to light the furnace. In another, even more ridiculous strip, Roger flooded the house when he tried to use the dishwasher, and that was while Andy was out of town.
    • That's not even mentioning his regular failure to properly operate a grill... using a "whole bottle of lighter fluid" at a time, more or less. One grill strip brought it to Epic Fail levels. After he piles on the lighter fluid and charcoal, it makes a fire blast that continues upward into space. In the second to last panel, it destroys one of the Mars rovers. The last panel implies this has happened before.
    • Every single one of Roger's camping trips has been horrible from the get-go, whether at Skeeter Falls or at Cactus Flats or a cabin in the woods. And in classic Bumbling Dad form, he doesn't ever notice that he's the only one to enjoy them: one year, he quits his job (more on that later) and once he gets it back, announces that they won't be able to go camping that year, is puzzled by the kid's (and wife's) obvious joy.
    • He once bought a mobile phone... that's bigger than a backpack and has 10 power cords to charge it up.
    Roger: Look, the moment the warranty expires I'll get on of those flip-top jobbies. You know, the king Captain Kirk uses.
    Andy: Star Trek takes place in the 23rd century, Roger. What exactly are you trying to say, Roger?
    • Roger once quit his job to spend more time with his family. When he told the kids, their reaction was a unanimous "Are you insane?!?". Thankfully he managed to get it back.
    • Surprisingly, Roger wasn't always like this; there was a period of the strip where he was rather competent (at least 60% of the time, as opposed to 10% in the later ones) as a father and not just at chess. (Now it's a Running Gag that anyone can beat him unless they're trying to lose.)
    • One gag constant from the strip's beginning is his need of youngest son Jason's help to operate the computer because he can't even remember how to turn the thing on.
      • In one arc the kids accidentally destroy the computer and only fess up after about a week of Roger being blamed for it (he was the next to use it
      • In one arc he buys a tax program for Windows... because there's a window right there in the office.
      • In one strip he pushes the computer off the desk because it told him the hard drive needed backing up.
    • Roger is very, very bad at chess.
      • Jason once agreed to play chess with his father, and immediately rattled off both his and Roger's moves and thanked him for the good game, leaving Roger thinking he might have gotten too predictable.
      • Jason once set up a computer chess game where Roger had 16 queens and the AI had 16 pawns. guess who lost.
    • Roger is generally a complete idiot when it comes to matters of money and technology. He bought lots of stock in "GrowCo", because a friend said it was a "good buy". The company crashes and burns the very next day (and their only response to questions about this is "So sue us").
    Roger: Of course I didn't invest all our money in GrowCo, I'm not a complete fool.
    (reads stock pages)
    Roger (thinking): Only 65% of one.
Roger doesn't even know what GrowCo does, despite still being completely convinced that it will rise again.
Roger: Hey, the stock today raised up a point! Time for some champagne!
Andy: (facepalming) With only a net loss of-
Roger: (interrupting) Who cares about nets? Tennis players! And fishermen! I don't care about nets!
  • Larry the crocodile from Pearls Before Swine. He is completely idiotic, even compared to the rest of Zeeba Zeeba Eata, and he is quite an Alcoholic. Once he didn't even bother to rescue his wife, Patty, when Zebra kidnapped her, and they only got her back when Zebra realized he was only hurting their son Junior.
  • Wally of Stone Soup is another notable aversion. He takes care of the kids as much as his wife, and he can cook.

    Theatre 
  • Played to tragicomic effect in Canadian playwright Ed Riche's one man show Possible Maps. While the protagonist's father, a university professor, wasn't stupid by any means, he was somewhat scatterbrained at best and manic depressive with what looks like a touch of autism at worst. Most of the play revolves around the protagonist reminiscing about what a chore it was for the family to put up with him and his own anxieties about the possibility of inheriting the man's mental frailties.
  • Old Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice. This arises partly from the fact that he's too blind to recognize his own son.

    Video Games 
  • Asura from Asura's Wrath was like this before being betrayed. Unlike most of the other examples however, this isn't out of actual idiocy: Since his Mantra is that of Wrath, he's so angry about almost everything that the only parenting he knows is of the two step variety: 1) Find reason daughter is crying. 2) Apply punch to the face of said reason.
  • Boggy from Banjo-Kazooie is a polar bear who is utterly incompetent at parenting. In the original game, he abandons his kids at Christmas to go sled racing, leaving Banjo and Kazooie to find their missing presents. In Banjo-Tooie, he has given up sled racing to watch his big-screen television set, leaving his wife to take his kids to the Witchyworld amusement park, and Banjo and Kazooie to round them up for her.
  • Wally Warbles from Cuphead is an interesting example. He's shown as short-tempered and aggressive, but he's not exactly bumbling, being as tough a boss as the others in the game. His unnamed child mentions the two of them "bringing the pain" together and doesn't seem to be ashamed of him. Despite this, Wally still shows signs of incompetence, most namely during his bullet hell phase, in which he strains himself to the point of losing his breath.
  • Octodad, who due to being an invertebrate creature with poor motor controls has difficulties performing tasks that would be otherwise simple for human beings (at least in gameplay).
  • Jun Kurosu's father, Akinari Kashihara, in Persona 2: Innocent Sin, which contributed to his divorce, and lead to young Jun's embarrassed lies about his father, which created a shadow copy of Akinari that Nyarlathotep took over. Somewhat de-Bumbled in the second half of P2, Eternal Punishment, enough to at least keep his marriage intact.
  • Persona 4: Ryotaro Dojima downplays this. While he isn't a totally incompetent parent, he still feels he's not doing a good raising his daughter Nanako on his own after his wife's death. The protagonist can help Dojima reconnect with Nanako in both their Social Links. Sadly, he does play this trope straight later on, but in a very tragic light. Once he suspects the protagonist of being involved with the murders, Dojima takes him to the police station to question him, while leaving Nanako alone at the house, which makes it very easy for Taro Namatome to kidnap her, throw her into the TV World, and much later note , permanent death.

    Web Animation 
  • Pop of Happy Tree Friends. It's usually fatal for Cub when he's Distracted by the Shiny. He means well, but he doesn't exactly live in a world which pities mistakes or oversights. (Or seemingly safe and sensible decisions for that matter.)

    Webcomics 

    Web Video 
  • In what fellow troper Bishop Barron calls "The Homer Simpson Effect," popular works like The Simpsons and Family Guy depict fathers as boorish, stupid, and unvirtuous to make the women in the family look better. While he understands this as a Deconstruction of patriarchal norms, the Bishop cites Aristotle to argue that women can be virtuous without relegating good fathers to the trash heap.
  • Dad's heart is bigger than his head; he means well, but he embarrasses Daughter, struggles to have any sort of authority, and is generally a goof.

    Western Animation 
  • Hunson Abadeer is Satan in the Adventure Time universe. When it comes to Marceline his daughter, he reverts into a light parody of the trope.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • Gumball and Anais' dad Richard; in fact, he's such a bumbling dad, it's even shown that the universe literally falls apart when he gets a job. By contrast, his wife Nicole is a neat freak perfectionist to the extreme, though since she actually enjoys being busy all the time it works out fine for the most part.
    • Banana Bob, who is Banana Joe's father. Banana Barbara could also count as a Bumbling Mom, since she's as stupid as her husband and son.
  • Bunnicula: Mina's single dad, Arthur Monroe. Despite the fact that he's a good father to Mina, he's barely aware of his surroundings. For example, he thinks Mina's thirteenth birthday is her third birthday, and when Bunnicula creates a bunch of Mina clones, the only thing he notices wrong is that the clones served him pancakes instead of waffles for breakfast, rather than the fact that there's only supposed to be one Mina.
  • The titular character of Clarence doesn't live with his dad, but his stepfather Chad can play this role, being a total Manchild.
  • Jack Fenton of Danny Phantom. One good look at him and you can tell he's not meant to be treated seriously... at least until he gets dangerous (especially when his family is at risk). He is also something of a Genius Ditz, having invented at least half the Fenton gadgets, which go between being useless (The Fenton Ghost Gabber) and working a little too well. (Fenton Ghost Catcher, Ghost Peeler, Ectxo-Skeleton).
  • In Dexter's Laboratory, both parents, though their primary flaw was being clueless to Dexter's Laboratory (and he has a memory erasing gun, so its more like they look stupid by comparison to their supergenius son.) Also, Dexter's father turns out to be a stunt biker when his job is finally revealed (up to then, he left every day dressed for an office job), making him much cooler and more competent than the typical example.
  • El Tigre's father Rondolfo Rivera, AKA the legendary hero White Pantera, isn't as bumbling as most examples, but he comes off as way too goody-goody, especially for his Anti-Hero son and Card-Carrying Villain papi.
  • Cosmo and Mr. Turner of The Fairly OddParents!. The show is fair enough to show that Mrs. Turner isn't that much brighter... That may explain Timmy. It should also be noted how Wanda used to be not much brighter than Cosmo, who had gone through severe Flanderization, and in fact in the pilot episode they describe themselves as "two halves of a whole idiot".
    • Practically all the dads (and adults, for that matter) are bumbling. Special mention goes to Chester's dad.
    • And in one episode Mr. Crocker. Ironically, despite normally being a Child Hater, he's shown to genuinely care for Denzel Jr. DJ Poof. Though, his parental skills are quite questionable since Crocker tried to teach him how to shave in total darkness and how to drive... despite the latter being an infant.
  • Both Fred and Barney from The Flintstones were bumbling dads when Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm came along. They'd been bumbling husbands since the start of the show, though, so it wasn't really new for them.
  • Dexter's father in Freakazoid! takes it to ditz levels. When imprisoned, he can't even learn to do tally marks correctly.
  • Goofy in Goof Troop, A Goofy Movie and, earlier, in his '50s cartoon shorts where he attempted to play a Standard '50s Father named George Geef. A perfect example of this trope in action is "Father's Day Off", in which Goofy, as Geef, assumes his wife's duties while she goes out for the day. However, it's easy to forgive Goofy for being bumbling as a family man, because bumbling has always been part of his overall personality.
    • Pete can also be a fairly bumbling dad on Goof Troop depending on the episode, and has more of the stereotypical traits such as laziness and gluttony, but generally speaking he's actually worse, with most of his "bumbling" coming in non-parenting forms such as not thinking through his schemes.
    • While on the subject of classic Disney characters, Pluto can also be seen as this in a handful of shorts where he becomes a father to at least one or more puppies, such as in "Pluto's Quin-Puplets" and "Pluto, Junior".
  • Billy's dad in The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. Like his son, he often doesn't care about anything and has a small IQ. Interestingly he was originally the more sane member of the family due to his wife's mental breakdown around Grim, then Flanderization hit in.
    Mandy: I guess we know which side of the family Billy got his brain from...
  • Hugh Neutron from Jimmy Neutron. Many times, Hugh would screw up one of Jimmy's inventions.
  • Kim Possible downplays this trope with Kim's father, who is a rocket scientist and is more an Absent-Minded Professor than a real bumbling dad, and who has often dispatched sage advice, even if he does still refer to her as "Kimmy-cub". Ron's Dad, on the other hand, once showed up in public wearing a cape.
    • There have been times when he bumbled due to being distracted when he's advising Kim. Like that time he accidentally launched a rocket ahead of schedule when talking to Kim on the phone.
  • Peppa Pig's Daddy Pig is a rare pre-school kid's show example.
  • Phineas and Ferb: Lawrence Fletcher, while neither dumb nor irresponsible nor lazy, can be quite dorky and is also extremely laid-back and mellow when it comes to everything. He's also completely useless when it comes to Candace's quest to bust her brothers, as his reaction to their insane exploits ranges from mild confusion to approval.
  • Professor Utonium of The Powerpuff Girls is a talented and intelligent scientist. As a dad to three superhero little girls, he's a well-intentioned if addled buffoon.
  • Oscar Proud from The Proud Family. Oscar Proud is an unsuccessful inventor of snack foods. He regularly engages in, and loses, competitions with his Rival "The Wizard." He is the frequent victim of cartoon-slapstick mishaps. His mother, the "cool" grandmother Sugar Momma, insults him constantly. And to top it all off, many episodes portray him foolishly overprotective of his daughter Penny.
  • Ready Jet Go!: Carrot is this due to be very silly and often clueless compared to his wife. However, he provides helpful information to the kids and is a great baker, making this thankfully downplayed.
  • Jerry Smith of Rick and Morty is a rather dark deconstruction. He's not especially bright even when compared to his kids, but his wife is a great deal smarter than him and his father-in-law is an outright Omnidisciplinary Scientist. His incompetence and relative lack of intelligence do provide some comedy, but they've also left him extremely insecure, resentful of his entire family, and have caused some severe problems with his marriage.
  • Rugrats:
    • Stu Pickles is a downplayed example. He's good-natured, loves to invent, and has a child-like personality. He builds toys for income, but said toys can be hit or miss depending on how well they work. He may not be the brightest dad, but is still helpful to his wife and two sons in many ways, and he loves them all very much.
    • Chas Finster is a kind, well-meaning man, but is also clumsy, awkward, absent-minded, and frequently a Horrible Judge of Character.
  • Vijay Patel from Sanjay and Craig is more of a dork rather than an outright idiot.
  • Randy Marsh in South Park has drifted in this direction over the years; in the beginning he rarely appeared (and the first episode he played a major part in needed him because he was a scientist); now, he usually gets caught up in every stupid fad, and is frequently portrayed as the single dumbest individual in any of the kids' families, while his wife is one of the sanest (...of the adults, at least).
  • Becky Botsford's adoptive father has no idea she's the titular WordGirl, and often makes stupid mistakes and screw-ups.
    • Really, the show has no intelligent adults in it at all. Well... none that aren't also either insane or evil.
  • Greg Universe from Steven Universe is an interesting example. The Crystal Gems consider him to be this trope, due to his inability to help with many of the dangers and threats that the characters face. However, as an actual father, he's a very loving and supportive parent who tries to raise Steven as best he can, having built the house Steven lives in (despite living in a van himself), covers their living expenses, and was the one to raise Steven for several years due to the Gems having no concept of child-rearing and Steven's mother Rose Quartz giving up her physical form to give Steven her gem.
  • In a way, Baloo, from the animated series TaleSpin, though he wasn't married to Rebecca, and wasn't Kit's actual father.
  • Dwayne in Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race is this since he's an Expy of Clark Griswold, who may be the king of this trope.
  • Mr. X from The X's is your typical bumbling father, who knows 50 ways to destroy a man with his bare hands alone.

Top

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:

/

Media sources:

/

Report