Former police officer and current firearms instructor Kevan Norin:
Non PC alert: It takes a man to raise a man.
I was, to put it politely, a rebellious child, but I had three things going for me — strong male role models in the Norin and Blindheim families, fictional heros who reinforced positive masculinity as the provider and protector (Lucas McCain, Matt Dillon, Officers Reed and Malloy, nearly every role ever played by John Wayne, the list goes on) and a culture that upheld these roles as Good. I worked to pass this ideal to my son, and he is passing it on to his.
This comes to mind as there are so many lost boys out there, lacking what I had, and being sought out by forces willing to fill the void that don’t care about what they are producing or are actively trying to build a world devoid of Lucas McCains.
Just sayin’. Your mileage may vary. Before anyone points out the common thread of the capacity for violence, consider the line that divides criminal violence from ambiguous violence (Clint Eastwood didn’t do us any favors with Dirty Harry and The Cowboy with no Name) from righteous violence — and not the revenge genre made popular by movies like Death Wish.
Put in real terms, it’s what’s separates a killer with a gun walking into a school, and a police officer with a gun running into a school to stop him.
The aforementioned McCain, of “The Rifleman,” was TV’s first single father. Dillon, played on radio by William Conrad and on TV by James Arness, was the marshal of Dodge City, Kan., on “Gunsmoke.” While I didn’t watch those often …
… but I was a religious watcher of “Adam-12”:
The series began with Malloy (the driver, therefore my favorite) getting ready to quit the police department after his partner died. On ostensibly his last night, he gets a rookie partner, newly married with a child on the way. (Spoiler alert: Malloy doesn’t quit.)
The actor who played Malloy, Martin Milner, was a real-life role model. He was married for 58 years. He had a 50-year career in Hollywood.
Series like these have remained popular decades after they left the air not merely because cable TV channels need something to fill air time. Viewers didn’t see Reed the father, but over its seven seasons they saw Reed mature under Malloy’s guidance. They saw police officers act how police officers should act, and both “Adam-12” and “Emergency!” (whose Roy DeSoto was also a father, though that was not often depicted either) inspired many future police officers, firefighters, paramedics and EMTs.
I’ve written here before in commenting about the Boy Scouts that children need multiple male role models. That includes fictional role models.