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Culture Vulture: Father's Day

Mafiosi, meth maker, amnesiac spy - dad just wants to hang with his boxed-set mates.

Mafiosi, meth maker, amnesiac spy - dad just wants to hang with his boxed-set mates.

IT IS Father's Day tomorrow. Throughout the nation the squeaky noise of thick fingers pressing hopelessly against wrapping paper will be heard. Not so long ago, they would have been attempting to unwrap handkerchiefs. Now, the boxed sets contain DVDs: the one present the kids know is guaranteed to bring a smile to those unshaven jowls.

Australian homes once stood straight and true because gift-receiving dads appreciatively whistled while they wielded Makita power drills and Sidchrome tool sets. Now, these houses are barely held together by teetering towers of DVD sets of The West Wing, The Wire and The Godfather Collector's Edition (with additional commentary from Sicilian dialect coaches and firearms handlers).

Chores remain undone. Light bulbs flicker and burst. Wives and partners linger wistfully on the fringes of rooms, their silence more reproachful than any cranky monologue. Rusty bicycle wheels rotate forlornly in the breeze amid the overgrown grass, while inside, sedentary dads spend time with their imaginary friends from The Sopranos, The Office and The Killing.

A generation of soft-handed, squishy-bellied men have woken up to the new slumber. Who needs a superannuation plan when retrenchment, retirement and the inevitable infirmity can be spent surround-sounded by people far more interesting than anyone you have known and most certainly are ever likely to know?

Put down the Amazon app and take a look out the window, pal. The streets are clogged with DVD-illiterate multitaskers in Subarus returning from Bunnings and Ikea with do-it-herself pergolas and flat-pack walk-in wardrobes. They think ''special features'' is a term about home decor. They think ''continuity'' means renovating the Californian bungalow instead of moving. Their idea of a ''dolly'' is something that you have to spend an hour looking for so Savannah can get to sleep. They have no idea.

The notion of ''provider'' went out in the 1950s. If you want to wallow in the outmoded idea of ''breadwinner'', then better to hunker down under the blankets with a Don Draper-sized bourbon and bitters and turn to series one of Mad Men.

If you want to know what it means to be a ''protector'', then order the new Danish drama The Protectors. Pick up some pointers from the kick-butt lead bodyguard in the elite personal protection unit of the Danish government who bears all the hallmarks of the classic male hero - unwaveringly brave, true, selfless, open and honest ? only her name is Jasmina el-Murad.

If the kids come in bearing a tray of poached eggs and irritatingly hit the pause button in order to stage a philosophical intervention (''Dad, what is a fatherly role model?''), my advice would be to snatch back the remote and give them a brief sound bite of Michael Caton as Darryl Kerrigan in The Castle. His famous line, ''It's not a house, it's a home'', sounds comfortingly patriarchal but his spirited retort, ''Hey, bad luck ? ya dickhead!'' is nicely authoritative and covers most tricky situations life can throw their way.

Tell them the father who kicks the football on Father's Day is the father who denies the mythic pull of the ''boxed set'', a father who has lost his openness to the greatest and most beguiling of all mysteries: how do you get rid of the subtitles on an English-language show?

Cover all bases by force-screening the offspring an episode or two of Breaking Bad as a tiny warning that if they don't back off the pressure, you might just throw in your day job as a mild-mannered salaryman and turn their cubby house into a crystal-meth suite and sell all their unused Wii games on eBay to buy fertiliser. A man has to do what a man has to do to cover the cost of 15 years of tennis lessons that result in their kid being able to play two games of social tennis per adult year until their knees go at 42. (And if one of the kids could somehow download series four of Breaking Bad, which has just come out in the US, then that would be most appreciated. No questions asked.)

It is not your fault. You have grown up in the Homer Simpson age - an age in which television has defined both all that you are and all that you are not. Just because you are a little bit of a Phil Dunphy from Modern Family doesn't mean you don't have your Jason Bourne moments. You have your inner action man, it is just that since Adam got blown up at the beginning of series seven of Spooks, your self-confidence has gone a tiny bit AWOL. There are plenty of times you are the he-man of yesteryear. It just depends on who is playing the Sony flat-screen tonight.


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