Leslie Ann Horgan: 'We need more Public Displays of Fatherhood like David's kiss'
Forget Seann and Katya and their Strictly snogging, this week saw a celebrity kiss that caused a reaction on social media that a lazy writer could liken to the weather we've experienced in the past few days. There was nothing illicit about this particular pucker, however. Instead, it was a true love's kiss shared by two people who are clearly besotted by each other - David Beckham and his seven-year-old daughter Harper.
While many people were charmed by the affectionate snap of David and Harper sharing a kiss in front of a festive ice-skating rink, a significant number were outraged by the fact the kiss in question is a peck on the lips. The photo, which David shared on Instagram, sparked a row between those who saw the kiss as sweet and innocent, and those who deemed it disgusting and inappropriate.
The debate went global after professional pot-stirrer Piers Morgan got involved, calling Beckham "weird" on Good Morning Britain. "Who kisses their kids on the lips?" he scoffed, adding that his own sons "got a firm handshake" by way of affection.
It's not the first time Beckham has come under fire for a kiss on the lips - he was criticised in June of last year when he shared a similar photo of himself and Harper, captioned 'Kiss for Daddy' from a family holiday. (In the interests of gender balance, wife Victoria was also previously criticised when she shared a photo of locked lips to mark Harper's fifth birthday in 2016.)
I'm firmly on the side of team 'harmless' here, but what's surprising about this photo is not a father kissing his daughter on the lips, nor is it an A-lister leaving himself open to social media attack for a second time. The most remarkable thing about the picture is not the PDA, it's the PDF - the Public Display of Fatherhood.
We live in a world where being a celebrity mother seems to be a career choice in itself. The celebrity father, however, is a creature that's not as celebrated - or, indeed, marketed - in our society. You might perhaps see movie stars talking about their children in interviews, and sportsmen often bring their little ones on to the pitch after a big win, but the buggy-pushing, school-run celebrity dad is still something of a rarity.
With respect to those famous faces who prefer to keep their children's lives private, we could do with more strong father figures in the public domain - men who openly celebrate the joys and terrors of what it means to be a parent. Men who show that you can be affectionate with your children and sensitive to their needs, and still look manly. Men who don't class looking after their own offspring as 'babysitting'. Men who show younger generations that fatherhood isn't just something to be left til later in life when their partying days are over.
A scroll through David's Instagram feed shows constant photos of any or all of his children, with gushing captions about how proud he is and how special they are to him. There's a clear soft spot for youngest child and 'daddy's little girl' Harper, with adorable pictures such as her first 'big girl' haircut or a toy Disney castle that her dad was up late putting together as a surprise.
So is Beckham an anomaly or just ahead of the trends? Certainly, in the last year there have been more sightings of the lesser spotted celebrity father. There was Ryan Reynolds entertaining his daughters around Dublin while their mum Blake Lively was shooting a movie. There was Daniel Craig carrying his infant daughter in a papoose. (Craig was also berated by Piers Morgan, who said that the sling was 'emasculating'. You clearly have daddy issues, Piers.) There was Chris Hemsworth being endlessly sweet with his brood on wife Elsa Pataky's Instagram feed.
Given that the likes of Tom Brady have jumped in to defend Beckham this week, perhaps the resulting momentum will see 2019 become the year of the PDF - and it will have started with a kiss.