Back in the 20th century, America's dads passed down viable skills (masonry, woodcarving, mafioso-ing) or bustling family businesses (brick laying, carpentry, the syndicate) to their beloved sons, in hope that their offspring would grow up to become productive, progress-making citizens. But now all dads want to do is play the damn Angry Birds game. What kind of role-modeling is that?

According to New York Times writer Rick Marin, Steve Jobs and the iElves are to blame for this latest manifestation of dad-ly permadolescence. "The iPad... is the ultimate generational equalizer," or so Marin says, adding that Angry Birds has become "among the man-boys in our house a furious competition for power, points and digital 'Achievement,' a word that flashes rewardingly on the Angry Birds screen." Instead of leading young boys to do mature things like plan out their retirement and enroll in evening MBA programs, however, the iPads and their digital Birds are making dads regress—transforming them into the little babies they used to be. The dads push their sons into participating in their obsessive scoring contests, reinforcing the old, quasi-machotastic behaviors that make angry feminists write blog posts about the persistence of machotastic male behaviors. And nobody wins.

Aside from causing generationally equalized wars between fathers and sons, Angry Birds has also brought about Birdaholism, of which Marin is a sufferer:

"What level are you on?" became shorthand around the apartment. Diego, my older boy, soon eclipsed me with his 6-year-old reflexes. Meaning I had to stay up till all hours to catch up. And if I surpassed him, he freaked out.

"Don't play Angry Birds," he'd admonish me before going to bed.

"Don't worry, I won't," I'd say, in reassuring tones.

Then, of course, I did.

Surely in the olden days, when objects were real and three-dimensional, fathers did not feel compelled to sneak an extra hour or two of bricklaying or cabinetmaking behind their sons backs. It would probably have been regarded as odd, even though such activities often led to the creation of beautiful, privacy-giving walls, cozy wooden houses, custom-made Faberge egg cabinets, and the like. Do you think we should, I don't know, consider returning to those days of jobs and a functioning economy? It could be good for us.

Then again, maybe our modern Angry Birds world is actually better in the long run for American society? Marin's experiences suggest that our iPads are helping to erase the hierarchical structure that has defined America's families for so long, keeping parents and children at different power levels. Now there is no difference between fathers and sons: they speak the same language, play the same games, achieve the same "Achievements," and—most importantly—share the same addictions. Sounds pretty democratic to me.

[NYT; photo via arnybo/Flickr]