There’s a scene in the second season of “Riverdale” (stick with me, people) that would function an imperfect metaphor for 2018. The telltale indicators of a city in collapse are crammed into 42 bracing minutes: rioting, gun violence, households torn aside, political secrets and techniques and sabotage. It all culminates in a face-off between good and evil, with the life of Riverdale High’s golden boy at stake. Archie Andrews continuously delivers his neighbors from perilous eventualities disproportionate to their suburban environment, and this time evidently solely he can save himself. Until … three “hot Riverdale dads” arrive on the scene, without delay defusing the bloodthirsty rigidity and charming the licentious creativeness of onlookers. Amid whole chaos, the thirst stays actual.
And not simply thirst for warm guys usually. After the “dad bod” debacle of 2015 and the so-referred to as “dad style” that has been adopted by all genders in recent times, it appears we’ve reached peak “daddy.”
A latest “Saturday Night Live” skit signaled that the phrase, used affectionately by youngsters, and lustfully by homosexual males and straight ladies, had achieved a selected significance in the cultural mainstream: “Any guy can be a father, but it takes a hot, middle-aged guy with a big job to be a daddy,” Kate McKinnon and Matt Damon mentioned in unison, as the hosts of a contest referred to as the Westminster Daddy Show.
You might need seen an uptick in growing old heartthrobs of the ’90s and early 2000s showing in applications marketed to younger viewers — and receiving outsize attention for their (mostly supporting) roles. Consider Luke Perry in the aforementioned teen drama “Riverdale,” John Corbett in the Netflix rom-com “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” John Cho in “Searching,” Sterling K. Brown in “Black Panther” and “This Is Us,” and Jude Law as Albus Dumbledore (or shall I say “Dumbledaddy”?) in the latest “Fantastic Beasts” film.
In practice, age is not always a defining characteristic. A daddy might be any man with graying hair (see: the salt-and-peppery fitness entrepreneur Peter Kraus, 33, whom many American women hoped would lead the last season of “The Bachelor”), or a beefy action-movie hero (Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, for example, who also happens to be a father), or … the mascot of a boxed cereal brand. (Tony, we’re so sorry.)
While on the internet “dad” is most often used to express devotion to a cultural father figure, in the same way that “mom” emerged as a term of reverence for feminist patron saints, “daddy” has tended somewhat problematically toward the sexual. Barack Obama is “dad.” Bill Murray is “dad.” Idris Elba, People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, is “daddy.” Jeff Goldblum is “daddy,” and also sometimes “zaddy.” You get the point.
Making the jump from “dad” to “daddy” can be as simple as a few minor lifestyle adjustments. On Netflix’s popular “Queer Eye” reboot, the Fab Five turned its schlubby “heroes” into daddies — or, at least, more dateable versions of themselves — by grooming their beards and showing them how to make simple meals. (The show’s first run was so successful that the streaming company released a second season less than six months after its premiere.)
That narrative, of male self-interrogation and self-improvement, aligns with a broader paternal revisionism that has permeated visual media in recent years. If you’ve watched an ad with a dad in it recently, you know that the couch-potato who can’t cook or clean or wear pants that don’t have an elastic waistband is a trope of the past. In the age of “dadvertising,” father-actors are, instead, competent, present, presentable, even mythic parents, and equal if not more hardworking partners. Those depictions are aligned with the optimistic, egalitarian standards the newest generation of fathers has set for themselves.
Accordingly, dads and daddies have become motifs of the ever-growing retail category that is merch. The cotton baseball cap, often used to express fandom, has been christened the “dad hat,” just as tapered light-wash denim is considered the quintessential “dad jean.” There are $360 “dad” sweatshirts, dad hats inscribed with the word “daddy,” a video game whose objective is for dads to date each other … you name it.
Rachel Antonoff, a fashion designer in New York, recalled a T-shirt from her fall 2017 collection inscribed with “daddy” in a Barbie-like script. Like most of her line’s graphic tees, it was initially conceived as a piece of social commentary. “I wanted to do a shirt that said ‘No more daddy-daughter dance,’” Ms. Antonoff said, to critique what she found to be “an insanely heteronormative concept.” But her colleagues encouraged her to soften the message and create something more lighthearted. They landed on a design that was meant to be neither reverential nor incisive, but rather seen as “funny, and a bit.”
It struck a chord with her customers, who are primarily women. But, she said, “there were other people who were like, ‘I’m a dad,’ or ‘my friend just had a baby.’”
Which is to say: It’s 2018, and being a daddy is for everyone.
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