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Standard '50s Father

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He knows best.

"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."

The Standard '50s Father typically is born in a small town in the American Midwest, although (as the quote above implies) he can be of any nationality. His parents were farmers of some sort, or perhaps his father was a druggist. A veteran of World War II, he put himself through college (possibly through the G.I. Bill) and is now a white-collar professional... unless he is the proprietor of some small local business (pharmacy, cobbler, grocery, etc.).

The Standard '50s Father is solid, dependable, and responsible. He's Happily Married to his wife, whom 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 (darts in the pub if British). If he plays cards it will be bridge, probably in partnership with his wife, not poker in a dingy room full of cigarette 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 usually wears glasses. He's buttoned-down, calm, wise, and thoughtful. None but a few things can rattle him: 1.) His daughter getting a boyfriend, 2.) His wife revealing that she's going to have a baby (and her later going into labor), 3.) His wife deciding that she wants a job (assuming that it's her idea and not his), or 4.) The threat of losing his job (combining 3 and 4 could send him into open hysterics). If the Red Scare is in effect, he'll go berserk at the thought of someone close to him being a communist.

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 dorkiness. 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, because a man isn't supposed to show weakness in public.

Note that he is rarely played straight anymore.

Husband to the House Wife. Father to the Girl Next Door and The All-American Boy. Contrast Bumbling Dad and Amazingly Embarrassing Parents, two tropes created as a direct subversion to this one.


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  • 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.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Only Yesterday: Taeko's father is depicted as one during her childhood flashbacks, though her memories as a ten-year-old take place in 1965. He's stern and stoic but can be loving towards Taeko in his own way, wears glasses, frequently smokes cigarettes, and wears a suit when going out (though he wears a kimono at home, showing his traditionalist mindset).
  • Spy X Family: Loid Forger tends to fall into this mold in both sides of his life. As Loid Forger, he's a kind and respected psychiatrist, and when not in a lab coat, he usually wears a shirt and tie with dress pants and a cardigan during the day. And while he's wise and diligent, he's kind of a Bumbling Dad who takes raising his daughter to comically serious levels. As Twilight, he's a veteran, and generally unflappable in the face of danger, but he went into his line of work through genuinely altruistic reasons and is a firm but fair disciplinarian toward his adopted daughter.

    Comic Books 
  • For British anthology comics such as The Beano and The Dandy, this was the default position for portraying fathers of the child characters, such as the long-suffering father of Dennis the Menace (UK), a man portrayed as a white-collar suit-wearing pipe smoker, who remained an unchanged and increasingly anachronistic Fifties Father until well into The '90s.
  • Batman: From the '40s to the the '60s - with occasional resurgences even in the '80s — Bruce Wayne was often depicted as an upper-class version whenever he shared a scene with Dick Grayson, calmly smoking a pipe and offering more mature, coolheaded analysis to Dick's excited, Hot-Blooded rumblings on the case-of-the-week.
  • Doom Patrol: Mr. Darren, leader of the Men From N.O.W.H.E.R.E from Grant Morrison's run, forces his wife to play a Laugh Track when he comes home from work.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Reed is not only the Fantastic Four's Team Dad, but he married his college sweetheart and fathered two children (one girl, one boy, of course). While Comic-Book Time means it is no longer the case, he originally did serve in the military in WWII, and the accident that gave the Fantastic Four their powers was born from his earnest desire to beat the Russians in the Space Race. Early stories had him as a casual sexist as was just commonplace for the time; "Wives should be kissed — and not heard!" That's since been dropped, but other stories make him more subtly condescending, usually in the form of being a low-key Insufferable Genius. So while his archnemesis is mocked for being medieval, he is merely Rockwellian.
    • Reed can also be read as a rare positive subversion of this trope. Reed has all the trappings of a Standard 50s Father; the pipe, the respectable patriarchal role, the distant-but-loving attitude toward his family.... But while most examples are in some way conformists associated with boring, rigid lifestyles, Reed is a brilliant inventor and futurist who takes the charge leading his family into incredible adventures across time and space.
  • The Outsiders: The Nuclear Family was a supervillain team who fought the Outsiders. They were robots programmed to act like the stereotypical 1950s Dad, Mom, Son, Teenage Son (Biff), and Daughter — with superpowers, of course.
  • Shade, the Changing Man: Shade once encountered a cult led by a man who was obsessed with normalcy, which to him meant forcibly turning everyone in the neighbourhood into '50s nuclear family stereotypes. Wearing a suit and tie and smoking a pipe was mandatory for men.
  • Whiteman by Robert Crumb, wants the reader to think he's this, but he has to constantly struggle to suppress his lusts, rages and racial anxiety.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's Dad looks a bit like one of these, wearing an outdated suit to his job as a patent attorney, and trying to present an image of stern discipline and authority to his son. He's also the Trope Namer for Misery Builds Character. He occasionally subverts it by making up bizarre Just So stories. For example, he tells Calvin that the reason that old movies were in black-and-white is that 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. He also practices cycling as a hobby, with a few strips focusing on his escapades.
  • Dennis the Menace (US): Henry Mitchell is tall, thin, has black hair, wears glasses and a tie, is Happily Married to Alice, his bond with Dennis is stronger than that of Alice, and in his earlier appearances, he smoked a pipe.
  • National Lampoon: "The Appletons" was a regular strip about a very typical "50s family", with a dad who's a smiling, pipe-smoking psycho who constantly messes with his kids' heads.

    Fan Works 
  • Child of the Storm: Joe Danvers Sr. is a darker variant on the trope. He's a Stepford Smiler who tries to force his older two children (a sporty Action Girl and tomboy, and a quiet and artistic boy) into the roles he feels they should follow: the demure Proper Lady (though he'd settle for a Girl Next Door) and The All-American Boy (like his youngest child). In a complicating twist, he does actually love his children, sincerely believes that he's doing what's best for them — even when that extends to asking Harry to Mind Rape his daughter into compliance — and was genuinely good with them when they were small... and not defying his expectations.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Pie: Parodied with Noah Levenstein. He is framed as this trope personified, which makes it incredibly awkward for his son Jim whenever he gets himself involved in the films' Sex Comedy antics, whether it's frequently catching Jim with his pants down or having to give him The Talk as a result. That said, no matter how embarrassing he gets, he's always presented as a genuinely good father who wants what's best for his son.
  • Bicentennial Man: Sir, known to everyone else as Richard Martin, undergoes some minor changes, mostly expanding his lines and giving him the role of mentor to Andrew. He is very dependable, and does a good job of teaching his moral opinions to other family members. His clothing, naturally, reflects his affluent yet conservative style, with him choosing cardigans and ties in the relaxed setting of his home, even as fashions change around him. Despite the film being set 20 Minutes into the Future.
  • Bigger Than Life: Ed Avery is this at the beginning of the film, being a dutiful husband and father trying his best to provide for his family. Unfortunately, his behavior takes a turn for the worse when he starts abusing cortisone, and he becomes increasingly abusive toward his family.
  • Disneyland Dream: The Standard '50s Father is featured in his natural habitat, being amateur filmmaker Robbins Barstow's record of his family's vacation to Disneyland in 1956. Surely nothing is more Standard '50s Father than Dad giving his son a crew cut.
  • Falling Down: Deconstructed by Villain Protagonist Bill Foster. While the film takes place in The '90s, Bill dressed in the white-collar attire and rimmed glasses typical of this trope, and was filled with Patriotic Fervor as he previously worked in the defense industry before losing his job to post-Cold War budget cuts. Throughout the film, he laments how America's changed for the worse as he believed that the system he worked for screwed him over and had grievances with anyone who doesn't have basic respect for American culture, economy, language, or even just simple human decency. According to Word of God, Foster was intended to represent "the old power structure of the U.S. that has now become archaic, and hopelessly lost" as well as the need to adapt or die.
  • I Saw What You Did: Libby's father, Dave Mannering, bears many of the classic hallmarks: he is a besuited, pipe smoking businessman who is sweetly overindulgent of his daughters, and has a tendency to downplay his wife's concerns as typical female overreaction. Kit's father, John Austin, is similar, but doesn't smoke a pipe, and is probably too suspicious and proactive to truly fit the mold.
  • It's a Wonderful Life: George Bailey tries his best to provide for his four children and steer them on the right path, even when life continues to drag him down and destroy his dreams. His lashing out at his family after taking the fall for the theft of $8,000 dollars is the start of his downward spiral that leads to his attempted suicide.
  • Little Shop of Horrors: Audrey imagines Seymour this way. She even sings, "He's Father; he knows best."
  • Parents: Nick Laemle at first appears to be a loving family man to his wife and son. In reality, he's a Serial Killer who preys on innocent people to provide food for the family.
  • Pleasantville: As a parody of the "good old days", the film features one that is a Stepford Smiler type, but with a slight twist; the emotion he's primarily suppressing behind his facade isn't hatred or anger, but rather affection, which he's not allowed to openly display as the stern patriarch. His change to color (which in the film happens when one taps into something suppressed), is triggered by accepting the love he has for his wife and family.
  • The Shape of Water: Colonel Strickland is a pretty thorough deconstruction of this trope. He is deeply unsatisfied with his bland, mediocre home life, and is constantly driven to progressively more depraved acts because of this. He conforms obsessively to the social mores of his time period, feeling that he always has to be "in charge" and tends to overcompensate because of this. That's not mentioning that he's a racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, Bible-thumping Hate Sink.
  • The Stepfather: The title character cultivates this image for himself and seems to think of himself like this. At one point, he's explicitly compared to Ward Cleaver. Unfortunately, the accent here is on cleaver.
  • The Tree of Life: Brad Pitt is surprisingly effective as one of these, 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."
  • The Woman: Chris Cleek seems to think that he's one of these, but is in fact a very dark subversion. He is a narcissistic misogynist who regularly slaps Belle around whenever she speaks out of line, encourages his son to act like him, [[spolier:and raped and impregnated his own daughter, Peggy. What's even worse is that he imprisoned his other daughter and made her feral by locking her up in the barn because she was born without eyes.]]
  • 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.
  • White Christmas: Bob invokes the pipe, slippers, and newspaper idea of a husband when ribbing Phil, who has just (supposedly) gotten engaged.

  • 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.
  • Good Omens: Mr. Young is pretty much the Platonic ideal of this kind of character. He's so serious-minded that in the finale his mere arrival on the scene is enough to dispel Satan.
  • Just William: William's father, Mr. Brown, is the stern patriarch of the family, though he is willing to turn a blind eye if his son's antics gets rid of a person or guest he finds annoying; one example is "William and the Smuggler," where he and William are both equally irritated by Mr. Percival Jones. Another is "William and the White Satin" where the narrator notes him as being rather envious of William and his cousins when they get out of having to attend a wedding by dirtying their white clothes.
  • In Mike Nelson's book Mind Over Matters, he perceives himself as one around youngsters and writes about 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."
  • To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus Finch, the widowed father of Scout and her older brother Jem, may be the quintessential example. He's a lawyer from a small, Southern town who is willing to uphold due process when a black man is accused of raping a white woman. He stoically endures being spit in the face by his enemies and definitely imparts wise lessons to his children. In Go Set a Watchman, however, he returns as a darker version of this — Scout, who idolized Atticus as a child, returns to her hometown after years apart and discovers to her shock and rage that her father had become a senile old racist in his advancing age. Much of the story revolves around Scout coming to terms with reality and accepting that Parents Are People.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Call the Midwife: Dr. Turner is a reconstruction of the trope: an actual father in the 1950s (the series begins in 1957), who actually dresses like the stereotype (although he smokes cigarettes, not a pipe), he's a genuinely wise, caring physician with much love and firm but fair discipline for his son Timothy. However, as a widower, he has trouble balancing his hellish work schedule and his duties to Timmy; this gets easier after he marries Shelagh, the former Sr. Bernadette. He also has distinct Bumbling Dad tendencies at times, and his obligatory experience during the War (as he was a medical graduate, working in a field hospital) resulted in a mental breakdown (from all the goriness of the wounded, sick, and dying in the war).
  • Community: In the episode "Custody Law and Eastern European Diplomacy", Chang wants the chance to be a father to Shirley's son (it's a 50/50 chance he's the biological father) and Jeff tells him Shirley might give him the chance if he acts responsibly, just to get him out of his apartment. Chang starts dressing and acting like every '50s tv sitcom dad in a clear case of Sanity Slippage.
  • The Cosby Show: Cliff Huxtable was a reconstruction of this trope for The '80s. Bill Cosby envisioned him as everything that a father (and specifically a black father) should be, an aspirational, kind-hearted family man with a playful sense of humor and decidedly old-school tastes in music who is always there for his kids. This was a big part of why Cosby's arrest for sexual assault hit so hard for so many people: creating and playing Cliff for eight seasons had earned him a reputation as "America's Dad".
  • Father Knows Best: Jim Anderson is an insurance agent and the father of three (two daughters and one son), and is portrayed as a strong, responsible figure of the family. He even smokes a pipe. Ironically, the TV series' version of Jim was supposed to be a subversion, as the original radio show depicted him as a traditional Bumbling Dad. There's even an episode of the TV series where Jim complains that fathers on television are always idiots.
  • Happy Days: Howard Cunningham is a reconstruction, with the show giving him more nuance compared to other shows with this character archetype. He has rather old-fashioned views which can make him rather gruff, tends to be overprotective towards his daughter Joanie, and sometimes gets into spats with his wife Marion. However, he is a wise and loving man who holds great affection for his family and never lets his flaws get in the way of doing right by them. He even becomes a Team Dad to resident bad boy Fonzie, who grows to respect him in turn.
  • Leave It to Beaver: Ward Cleaver, the patriarch of the Cleaver family, is a defining example of this to where he became the (former) Trope Namer. Ward is a stern, but easygoing and wise figure who is Happily Married to his wife June, and is always ready to give his sons helpful advice and encouragement. Even though Ward was truly a "father knows best" archetype, a couple of episodes did point out that he wasn't without his faults. One episode had Ward really come down hard on Wally and Beaver, so when the boys ran into trouble, they were afraid to come to him for advice; Ward realizes that he acted out of haste. In another episode, when Wally and Beaver are late a couple of times delivering newspapers, the parents try to pick up the slack by delivering for them – except they delivered the wrong papers, not knowing that Wally and Beaver already had completed that day's delivery run with the correct ones, and they cause their sons to get fired. Ward in the early episodes also got angry very easily, not a typical trait for this type of character.
  • Mad Men: Subverted with Don Draper — once the audience realizes he is the 50s 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). He also drove his wife to divorce.
  • The Man in the High Castle: Subverted with John Smith, a loving but authoritative American father who has a proper breakfast with his three kids and homemaker wife each morning... while in uniform as a high-ranking Nazi SS officer.
  • Stranger Things: Deconstructed by Mike & Nancy's father, Ted Wheeler. Despite it being The '80s, he's a Bumbling Dad and Lazy Husband who dresses and acts like it's the 50s to symbolize his stagnant ideals and behavior. While he's far from the worst parent on the show, he's pretty checked-out when it comes to the lives and concerns of his wife and kids, and usually puts in the barest effort possible into engaging with them. Nancy bitterly analyzes her parents' relationship as a Marriage of Convenience, and is proven right when her mother contemplates cheating on him but ultimately changes her mind.
  • Supernatural:
    • Henry Winchester has elements of this. A suit and tie are his main clothing choices, with a trench coat and fedora for when he goes out. He took his son, John, to see Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and keeps a picture they took together in his wallet. The only major deviation is his job: demon hunting.
    • The Monster of the Week in "A Very Supernatural Christmas" is a pair of pagan Gods. While they have no children, they dress, talk, and act like a couple from a 50's sitcom. Emphasis on "act".
  • Twin Peaks: Harshly deconstructed 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.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: As the series is based on 50s 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.

  • Homestuck:
    • Played with: 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-induced love 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.
  • Red Meat: Ted Johnson looks like one of these, with this slicked hair and pipe, but is yet another subversion. He's as much of a perverse Cloud Cuckoolander as any other character in that strip.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • Played for Laughs in 3Below. The ship (known as "Mother") disguises itself as a standard house in the neighborhood, and creates artificial parents for Aja and Krel to blend in. However, the ship's computer database is sixty years out of date, so everything looks like the 50s, including the Leave-it-to-Beaveresque parents it creates for them. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Father from Codename: Kids Next Door looks like a living silhouette of one. He's got the hairstyle, carries around a pipe... but he definitely is not a good father, or even a good person.
  • During one episode of Ren & Stimpy, Ren and Stimpy pretend to be babies for a while. The father featured in this episode, Mr. Pipe, was a Mister Cleaver variety, and appeared in a few other episodes, too. He's the slightly flatulent guy depicted by two black-sock-and-garter-clad legs and a meerschaum-style pipe hanging down onscreen.
    • Sometimes, Ren himself would also take on this trope, wearing glasses, a red robe, and slippers, smoking a pipe and reading a newspaper countless times. Stimpy, his partner, would also treat him as a House Wife would her husband. This is most apparent when he gets a son in the episode "Fake Dad".
  • Clay Puppington from Moral Orel is a deconstruction of this trope. While he certainly acts like an upstanding, mentoring father, it quickly becomes apparent that this demeanor hides his true personality: a bitter, cynical, washed-up drunkard who hates his wife and son with a passion and craves attention above all else. It's best shown in "Nature", where he becomes drunk in front of Orel and goes on an unhinged rant about having "no one to be", forced into the role of this trope as a result of Moralton's deeply pious culture.
  • Professor Utonium from The Powerpuff Girls (1998) is sort of like a scientific variant of this. He carries a pipe and is a good guy in general.
  • King of the Hill: Hank Hill fits this archetype in many ways. Could be seen as a Deconstruction, as this personality type is portrayed more as an eccentric quirk, than as normal, and is constantly clashing with the fact that the world he lives in is not like a 50s sitcom. Sometimes crosses over with The Comically Serious.
  • 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 family's 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 demon lord of the Nightosphere.
  • Carrot Cake from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic exhibits a few traits. He's well-dressed, wearing his baker's outfit with a matching tie even when he's not working and he's firmly devoted to his wife and twin children. It's even implied that he was a Panicky Expectant Father on the day the twins were born.
  • Bojack Horseman:
    • Deconstructed with Bojack's father, Butterscotch, who admonished his son for having an Imaginary Friend because they were "invented by Communists to rip off welfare", slapped BoJack when the colt did or said something he didn't like, and was generally an emotionally abusive tyrant. We eventually learn in flashbacks that he was originally an aspiring writer who idolized the Beat Generation, but he turned against them after they mocked his works and adopted an extreme right-wing worldview. On top of that, he was pretty much forced to marry BoJack's mother after getting her pregnant, and he blamed BoJack's birth for trapping him in a loveless marriage.
    • BoJack's maternal grandfather Joseph Sugarman is an even bigger deconstruction. He's shown in flashbacks to be an extremely strict husband and father who disregards his family's feelings and pushes them to fulfill their expected societal roles, to the point that he got his wife Honey a lobotomy because he was woefully unprepared to handle her grief over their son's death in World War II, and then threatened his daughter Beatrice (BoJack's mother) with one of her own if she didn't keep her emotions in check.
  • Hugh Neutron from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius alternates between this and Bumbling Dad. He tries to play the part of the wise, all-knowing father figure to Jimmy, but he doesn't understand Jimmy's scientific pursuits and frequently embarrasses his on.
  • Bandit Heeler of Bluey is a Reconstruction of this trope for The New '10s. He's a sensible, hard-working, hard-playing guy who always makes time for his kids and who loves and is loved by his family. He's not perfect, but he's far from the typical Bumbling Dad.
  • Work It Out Wombats!: Fergus Fishman appears to be a modern reconstruction of this archetype. He is a caring, responsible father who dotes on his children and will do anything to make his family happy.
  • Boys Night Out: Subverted. While Linberg’s stepfather fits the archetype at first glance with his voice and design, he turns out to not be a very good role model for his stepson due to taking him to a strip club and allowing him to drink alcohol.

Alternative Title(s): Mister Cleaver, Pipe And Slippers Dad, Standard Fifties Father