2012 will bring more nervous parents to the screen — in March's "Friends With Kids," Jon Hamm and Kristen Wiig are parents with a deteriorating sex life; in May's "What to Expect When You're Expecting" a fictionalized take on the pregnancy advice book, Elizabeth Banks plays a Type-A breast-feeding enthusiast; in "The Odd Life of Timothy Green," due in August, Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton play a couple who can't conceive but find a 10-year-old child on their doorstep; and in September, Disney is re-releasing in 3-D the highest-grossing overprotective dad movie of all time — 2003's "Finding Nemo," about a widowed clownfish whose son is captured by a scuba diver.
"When I think about the movies involving parents and child-parent relationships in the last few years, the dominant emotion that comes to my mind is guilt," Greydanus said. "Parenthood is seen by and large as a losing game, as something that you can't really do well, or at best you try to make up later for the mistakes of the past and maybe your children will forgive you when they get out of therapy."
If there's an upside to these struggling screen parents, it's that they can serve as a needed dose of reality for would-be Atticus Finches and June Cleavers, Barzvi said.
"Parents don't have enough permission to talk about how hard parenting is and how much they hate their children sometimes, or their children's Diane Keaton behavior," she said. "It's important that parenting be depicted accurately and with humor. It's very helpful for families to see blended families, all of these kinds of new combinations, single parent families. People wonder, are TV and movies brainless activity? No, they alleviate anxiety and guilt. Great, I'm glad to see I'm not the only imperfect parent!"