Last night I live-tweeted the 1987 film Three Men and a Baby starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenburg. Why I decided to spam my delightful Twitter followers and Facebook friends with my irreverent commentary on this TNT Classic Movie favorite is up for debate. Wine may or may not have been involved. I admit nothing.
Something that occurred to me about this movie (other than it was directed by Leonard Nimoy — No way!!) is that it actually represented a fairly progressive view of child rearing for the time. Twice in the film, female characters close to the main men — the girlfriend of one, the mother of another — are called upon to take care of the child, due to the apparent ineptitude of the father and his roommates. Tom Selleck’s character’s sometimes-girlfriend shows up at his apartment, takes a look at the kid, and when he begs for her help, she says, “What, just because I’m a woman, I’m supposed to know what to do with a baby?”
“Well, yeah!” says Tom Selleck’s mustache, grumpily. At which point, she pats him kindly on the arm, reminds him that she is not obligated to help him in anyway, tells him to man-up, and then GTFOs. Good for her.
Later, Ted Danson tries to convince his mother to take the child into her care, preying on her grandmotherly instincts. She acquiesces that she would love to take the baby (Can I also mention here that never is his mother shown to be bent out of shape over her son producing a child out of wedlock, or knowing nothing of that child until she is left on his doorstep. Progressive!) but she’s not going to, because sometimes all it takes to make a good man out of a screw-up is a dose of baby-daddy: “You were a screw-up. Now you’re a father. And you will be a fine father.” I think that’s a message that more new dads need to hear.
Is it just me, or are the themes in this film (excluding the slap-stick “hide the heroin” routine) grossly underrepresented in recent family comedies? I don’t recall seeing any “unlikely father figure toughs it out on his own with a baby and becomes a good father” stories recently. There are always mothers — the baby’s or the father’s own — coming to the rescue. And that’s the best case scenario. Worse case, the father’s potentially harmful blunders are played for laughs until the child’s care is relinquished to someone with greater expertise (I’m looking at you, Daddy Day Care).
Dads just don’t get enough credit. Maybe he was a screw-up, maybe he does make mistakes, but he’s still a good dad. Let’s put his story on screen.