Bean Dad, or “Maximum Fun Isn’t That Fun 3”

Welcome to the first week of 2021! Today’s Twitter trends are “Bean Dad”, “She’s 9”, and “Six Hours”. All of these trends are about the same topic.

Twitter, as we all know, is a fantastic website to have thoughtful and nuanced discussion about complicated and difficult topics. So it should be of no surprise that “Bean Dad” is about a father who withheld food from his daughter for six hours.

You’re probably here because you’re wondering: who is the Bean Dad? Why is the Bean Dad? Buckle in for a humiliating public spectacle of awful parenting.

This tale begins as most heartwarming, wholesome parenting stories do: our brave father John Roderick is busy with a jigsaw puzzle, you see, when his daughter complains about being hungry. Roderick tells her to cook some baked beans on the stove, and they both discover that she does not know how to use a can opener. Instead of helping in any way, because he is busy with a jigsaw puzzle, Roderick sees this as a prime opportunity for a lesson.

Roderick then takes the span of 23 tweets to go into excruciating detail about his daughter failing to use a can opener as he tells her to look at the parts and see how they fit together. She gets frustrated, she gives up, she cries, she tells her dad that she hates him. This happens over the course of 6 hours, during which she was allowed no other food to eat (apparently not even a snack, as Roderick defends in another tweet that 6 hours is an okay length of time to go without food).

There are so many things wrong here.

Learning long-term skills is impaired when you’re hungry. This issue is the focus of basically every food security organization in America. There are plenty of times to teach – after a meal, when the lesson will actually stick. This is why don’t use food as a reward‘ is one of the basic fundamentals of good parenting. Feeding your child is the bare minimum of taking care of them, and should not be withheld for any reason. Food is a human right that we are fighting for, and children are in the most need of it.

Roderick insists several times that 6 hours is an okay length between meals, but doesn’t account for the fact that she was already hungry, meaning it could have been 8 or more. His excuse is that she had a ‘full breakfast’, which isn’t even a healthy way to handle feeding children (they need smaller and more frequent meals), and still doesn’t explain anything because once the food is digested it doesn’t matter how much there was.

There are so many red flags that she is impaired from learning the task at hand (even if just because she’s hungry), the worst being her complaining “My brain is fuzzy! I can’t think of anything else to try!”, a sentiment a lot of my disabled friends agreed was hauntingly familiar. Little girls with learning disabilities frequently struggle with getting help in their education because they are treated as merely incompetent and overemotional, something which Roderick is keen to do by talking at length about how his daughter is not “mechanically inclined” and how she frequently cries over things he sees as silly or childish. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not armchair diagnosing his daughter, but my point is that if you spend like five seconds in any disabled community you’ll learn that this style of ‘teaching’ is useless on children who aren’t receptive to it.

Roderick has replied to all dissenters by claiming that his followers and friends know better than to assume he’s a child abuser. Many of his followers have spoken against him; most damningly, someone he apparently considered a friend compared him to Mommie Dearest (in his deleted replies, he tries to reason with her), yet he still continues to claim everyone who could possibly disagree with him is a troll.

A lot has been dug up since then, all of it vile: Roderick has promised in the past to not tweet about his daughter for her privacy, but is doing it anyway, often in the form of disparaging ‘jokes’. Roderick has said horrible things, lots of slurs, antisemitic jokes. But it was around the point when people found his (many) rape jokes that he deactivated his Twitter account, the timing of which I don’t think is a coincidence – a musician he toured with has spoken out about their experience with him sexually harassing them.

So who the hell even is this guy?

John Roderick is a co-host of several shows on the Maximum Fun podcast network, and he’s also the lead singer-songwriter for the band The Long Winters. If that rings a bell for you, you might know him for “Itsadepartureoffthealbumputtingthedaystobed”, the theme song for the wildly-popular-on-Twitter comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me (henceforth MBMBaM), also hosted on Maximum Fun.

This has raised a lot of issues for some people: MBMBaM is an LGBT ally podcast about 3 dads, and as such it’s become very popular with disenfranchised teenagers, many of which have had strained relationships with their fathers. The hosts of MBMBaM have frequently praised Roderick for his work and plugged his album on their podcast.

MBMBaM has already stated that they are going to be changing the theme song, mercifully:

It still leaves a bad taste in my mouth, given that they were friends with him while he was making horrifying tweets, and this wouldn’t be the first time the McElroys have gotten tangled up in this kind of thing. Griffin McElroy worked for years with sex pest Nick Robinson, Justin McElroy’s in-laws the Smirls handle racial issues poorly, the McElroys themselves have a rich history of making offensive jokes at the expense of marginalized groups, and their boss Jesse Thorn (owner of Maximum Fun) gladly turns a blind eye.

As a matter of fact, Jesse Thorn was two tweets deep into writing a response to the Bean Dad debacle …

… before he presumably realized he was digging his own grave.

The McElroys are straight white men, and I have to be realistic with my expectations. As disappointing as it is that this keeps happening, I don’t think it’s their fault. But having their boss defend this human waste of time and resources does not bode well for the future of the network. This happened, and it will keep happening, and we won’t even get a coherent apology for it.

MBMBaM fans, and Twitter users in general, struggle frequently with boundaries. The Maximum Fun network as a whole markets itself off of being your friend, and encourages you to form parasocial bonds with its hosts. This is just another sobering reminder that these people are not our friends, and sometimes they can fuck up in pretty serious ways.

I have literally no stake in this. I don’t know these people. I just happen to listen to podcasts as a hobby. This hit me in a hard way, as a woman with a learning disability who struggled with being taken seriously in my crucial developmental years. But in the end, I have to accept that this is just going to be another drop in the bucket of stupid Twitter topics. Will it actually change anything? I hope so. But probably not.

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