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Arts & CultureBooksDad Bod: portraits of pop culture papas by Cian Cruise

Dad Bod: portraits of pop culture papas by Cian Cruise

by Edith Cody-Rice

I have to acknowledge at the outset that I am probably the wrong generation to review this book. I think Cian Cruise is at least a generation and a half behind me and many of the references in his new book Dab Bod go right over my head, but the essence of the book does not. Mr. Cruise is a talented local author, having moved to Almonte quite recently. He has an extensive resume of writing. His cultural criticism has appeared in Hazlitt, Maisonneuve, Playboy, Vulture and Little Brother Magazine.

As stated in the title, this book is a portrait of pop culture papas. In a series of essays, Mr. Cruise digs into the elements of fatherhood as they show up in contemporary films, television and video games. I am struck by his ability to thoughtfully slice and dice them.

But what is a Dad Bod? As Mr. Cruise explains

The term initially popped up in 2015, as an example of the curious media sphere we currently live in. Mackenzie Pearson, a student at the time, coined the term in her college newspaper claiming that a guy who was less-than-ripped was actually more attractive.

Pearson provided a tight psychological argument: a guy with a dad bod is sort of in shape but doesn’t take it to seriously, that means a guy with a dad bod is less self -obsessed: he therefore has good priorities; and being with a guy with a dad bod doesn’t make a woman feel bad about her own body, given society’s ever crushing mandate to make women undermine their self-worth at every opportunity.

At the time of writing of the book, Mr. Cruise was the father of a two-year-old. He explains that his love for his son is transformational and with that in mind, he examines the images of fatherhood in the culture in which we live.  As he explains in the first chapter,

The dad bod is an acceptance that images and particularly media-driven images of fatherhood are essential to our knee jerk apparatus for navigating the world. When push comes to shove and we are bombarded with imagery all the dang day long, we will fall back upon the associations and patterns that Occam’s razor provides regardless of how well they stand up to sober scrutiny.

This association is also an acceptance – within that image, and only to a certain extent – of “softness” within the definition of mass-marketable masculinity. Specifically, the softening that accompanies placing other people’s needs before your own…. If you focus on yourself to the exclusion of others, you become a narcissistic monster. That sounds a lot like a recipe for taxic masculinity!

So maybe “softness” is great. Let’s be honest, masculinity needs all kinds of help, espcially when it comes to identity and definition.

The author proceeds, with wit and insight, to dissect the various images of fatherhood in our culture. He characterizes them in the following chapters: The Absent Heart of Robin Williams, Rambo’s Big Tantrum, the Sitcom Dad, the Distant Drive Dad, the Major Dad, the Adventure Dad which bleeds into the Wanderer Dad. He moves from the hapless father image of Homer Simpson, through the essentially untrustworthy father of Robin Williams’ Mrs. Doubtfire, on through to the violence at the centre of masculinity for the Adventure Dad. While reading, I frequently felt a zing of recognition, an insight that I immediately understood although I had never thought of it before.

Mr. Cian’s language in the book definitely has a  conversational quality, without formality and full of interjections. One feels one is out to the pub for a pint with Cian Cruise.

This book is a thought-provoking analysis of fatherhood, its reality and our cultural images of it, just in time for Father’s Day.

A Dad Bod launch  and author chat will be hosted by Mill Street Books at the Almonte Coffee House and Emporium on Wednesday, June 15th at 7pm!
Light refreshments will be served

Published by Dundurn Press

258 pages

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