Stay-at-Home Dads Will Hate ‘The Intern’

the_intern-stay-at-home-dadsWe’ve come a long way, baby, but not long enough according to Hollywood.

The new movie “The Intern” stars Robert De Niro as a seasoned citizen who joins an e-commerce company as, yes, an intern. Turns out De Niro’s Ben Whittaker has something to offer virtually everyone in the office. It’s a heartfelt ode to a generation often cast aside in our culture.

What caught my eye as a father is another character not featured on the movie poster. Anne Hathaway plays Jules, the company’s driven founder. Jules is able to work a grueling schedule thanks to her husband, Matt (Anders Holm). He’s a stay-at-home dad who takes care of their adorable young daughter while Momma makes a mint.

Matt is the personification of so many dads I’ve met over the last few years, particularly those gathered over the weekend in Raleigh for the annual At Home Dads Convention. They’re willing to take on full-time parenting, no questions asked, and they’re crushing it. These dads are smart, driven and focused on being the best parents possible. And they’re also a mite touchy when our culture suggests it’s women’s work to stay home with the children. It’s hard to blame them given their sacrifices and dedication.

What’s depressing about “The Intern” is both Matt’s story arc and the critical reaction to his character.

(Spoilers ahead)

Roughly two-thirds into the movie we learn that Matt is having an affair. Suddenly, this progressive father isn’t all he appears to be. In fact, it’s clear he feels disconnected with his wife and, rather than do all he can to reclaim their bond, he steps out on their marriage. How … 1978.

Related: Can Modern Dads Take a Joke?

Now that affair certainly adds drama to the film’s third act. It also speaks to the stereotype that a stay-at-home dad doesn’t think his job is important enough. He needs … something more, and it doesn’t come from under their roof.

It’s rare to see a stay-at-home dad given so much attention on screen. The lackluster reality show “Modern Dads” tried to give these fathers their well-deserved close-up. The show only lasted a season. So we finally see a truly modern dad on screen, and he’s far from the role model type.

What’s equally interesting is how some film critics are assessing Matt’s character. One dubbed Matt “emasculated.” Another, from L.A. Weekly, hit the same discordant note:

As if that weren’t enough, her seemingly awesome but also undeniably emasculated stay-at-home-dad husband (Anders Holm) may not be staying at home as much as she thinks.

Hmm. Are critics responding to what’s on screen, or are they projecting what they feel about fathers who stay home to watch their children while Mommy goes off to work?

How about it, Dads? Have you seen “The Intern?” Are the critics right … or is this simply one character in a sea of Hollywood stories?

Comments

  1. says

    I appreciate a stay-at-home Dad’s point of view. I would agree that this character isn’t very well-fleshed out but I think Nancy Meyer was not placing the blame on the husband’s shoulders alone. She had many scenes of our hard-working breadwinner, Jules, missing out on family milestones and not making the time for her significant others: husband or child. Robert De Niro’s character does place the blame on Matt. But he clearly shows his disapprovel of Jules’ behavior as well.
    And by having the relationship back on track by the end of the film, Meyers seems to agree that better communication and respect for your partner (and probably some counseling!) can save your relationship–no matter WHO is staying at home!

    • Christian says

      Jill,

      I agree… the blame is shared by several parties. But it’s still feeding a notion that being a stay-at-home dad isn’t enough, or satisfying. The film does a better job of giving Matt some good qualities, too, which took me by surprise (in a good way). Will be curious to see what SAHDs say about the plot.

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