The name Baby Daddy may be a little risqué for a television show that originally premiered on ABC Family (which has now changed its name to “Freeform”).
But if anyone takes a minute, or 22, to watch an episode, they will realize that this show is packed with family values. Even better, it takes traditional or stereotypical familial roles and completely disregards them.
The show itself is about a man named Ben Wheeler (Jean-Luc Bilodeau) in his late twenties who lives with his best friend Tucker (Tahj Mowry) and his brother Danny (Derek Theler). The Wheeler brothers still act like children and cannot claim any responsibility for anything. Then one day, Ben opens his door and a baby girl is on his doorstep. It’s revealed that she is his, a result of a one-night stand, and the mother does not want her. Ben has to make the decision to raise the baby, named Emma, or put her up for adoption, ultimately choosing the former. Of course, Ben doesn’t raise Emma by himself. He has the help of his roommate, brother, his mom Bonnie (Melissa Peterman), and his childhood friend Riley (Chelsea Kane).
While the point of the show is to entertain and be funny, the audience can’t help but notice off the bat that this show breaks a lot of serious gender stereotypes that are in place, especially when it goes to who should be raising a child. It is not often that a show gets made about a single father raising his daughter while the mother runs off.
As difficult as it is to watch anyone walk out on their baby, it was interesting to see the perspective of a woman who is not capable of raising a baby, acknowledges that, and leaves. Normally, the father leaves and the mother is left raising a child on her own. Sure, the father is looked down upon, but no real repercussions hit him for walking out on his child. After all, since the baby came out of the woman, she is meant to take care of it, right? Not in this case. That’s a very important thing to see on TV.
Seeing as it is a television comedy, not everything is going to be 100% realistic or explained in depth, but Emma’s mother is never shamed for being a bad mother or for being less of a woman for leaving her baby. She even has a small storyline showing how she struggles with the choice, ultimately deciding that leaving Emma with Ben is the best choice.
Speaking of the way women are treated on this show, it’s not all that shabby. One might expect that once Bonnie re-enters Ben’s life after finding out she is a grandmother, the whole show would be Ben passing Emma off to Bonnie to take care of while he lives his bachelor life in New York. This isn’t true at all. Sure, Ben will ask someone to babysit while he’s at work trying to provide for his daughter, but everyone lends a hand in taking care of Emma. Bonnie’s role in the show is not the mom or the grandmother. She is a single woman herself, who bleeds self-confidence and beauty. She is the only woman over 40 on the show and yet she is the most flirty, sexually active one out there. In Hollywood, typically when a woman gets close to the 40-year mark, she’s not allowed to be sexy, beautiful, or fun-loving. Bonnie tears down those walls.
Riley is the other female lead, and she also isn’t made to be in the motherly role. She and Ben have a relationship for a lengthy duration of the show and it is never expressed that her point is to be a mom to Emma. In fact, Riley is the most successful of any of them, as a young woman working at a law firm with a stable career and bright future.
Critics can argue that the show isn’t at all progressive because the baby is being raised by three men who try very hard to act macho, occasionally use the baby to pick up girls, or that there are still two women in the mix helping. These criticisms don’t mean anything when you take into account that Bonnie also used Emma to pick up a man once, or that no matter what the men are never shown as incompetent when they handle Emma. They take care of her responsibly and with love because the Wheelers don’t have time for your gender stereotypes when they’re all so busy trying to bring a new life up in this world.