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Who Is 'Bean Dad' and Why Did He Apologize After Going Viral?

John Roderick
Mat Hayward/Getty Images

John Roderick speaks on stage during the Sasquatch launch party at Neptune Theatre on Feb. 3, 2014 in Seattle.

It's 2021's first big meme, so get on board.

By now you've surely seen the phrase "bean dad" in one or all of your feeds after it became 2021's first major meme over the New Year's weekend. But what is everyone going on about?

Well, to sum up, it's a since-deleted 23-tweet saga about a can of beans, a can opener and a dad who was determined to teach his 9-year-old daughter a lesson in self-reliance.

The Beginning of #BeanDad

After Long Winters singer/guitarist John Roderick shared the story of how he made his hungry daughter spend six hours trying to figure out how a can opener worked as he watched her tear-stained frustration during what he said was a "teaching moment," the internet had many, many things to say about it.

"So, yesterday my daughter (9) was hungry and I was doing a jigsaw puzzle so I said over my shoulder 'make some baked beans,'" read the since-deleted first tweet from Roderick, who is also a podcaster. "She said, 'How?' like all kids do when they want YOU to do it, so I said, 'Open a can and put it in pot.' She brought me the can and said Open it how?”

He continued, "'With a can opener!' I said, incredulous. She brought me the can opener and we both stared at it. I realized I’d never taught her to use it. Most cans now have pull-tops. I felt like a dope. What kind of apocalypse father doesn’t teach his kid how to use a manual can opener?!? I said, 'The little device is designed to do one thing: open cans. Study the parts, study the can, figure out what the can-opener inventor was thinking when they tried to solve this problem.' (The can opener is also a bottle opener, but I explained that part wasn’t relevant.)"

He described how his daughter eventually "collapsed in a frustrated heap," and after he explained how the various parts worked, she said "I hate you." He assured her that "neither of us will eat another bite today until we get into this can of beans." The saga of frustration continued (which Roderick referred to at one point as "parenting theater"), and the beans were eventually available to father and daughter. But the real can of worms that Roderick opened was just beginning to take shape.

Roderick, a former touring member of the band Harvey Danger who released the first Long Winters album, 2002's The Worst You Can Do Is Harm, was instantly tagged as #BeanDad. After initially throwing his arms around the nickname and using it in his Twitter bio, Roderick deleted that account as well as his Instagram due to the backlash, but not before saying he found it "astonishing" that some people said the incident sounded like child abuse, writing, "the only thing people are touchier about than parenting style is dog ownership."

The singer co-hosts a podcast called Omnibus! with Jeopardy! champ Ken Jennings, who on Sunday (Jan. 3) tweeted, "If this reassures anyone, I personally know John to be (a) a loving and attentive dad who (b) tells heightened-for-effect stories about his own irascibility on like ten podcasts a week." (Jennings, who last week apologized for some of his own past "unartful" and "insensitive" tweets, is slated to begin a stint as the guest host of Jeopardy! later in January.)

Roderick received some support from the New Pornographers' AC Newman, who tweeted, "Here is a question: Is my opinion of John Roderick tainted by the fact that I know him? Does that context give me a better idea of who he is or should I defer to strangers’ opinions? It is not as easy for me to judge him only by that thread, not as easy to demonize him."

More Trouble

But things got even worse for Roderick after some of his old anti-Semitic and homophobic tweets resurfaced, drawing further condemnation. According to The Wrap, the alleged tweets included jokes about rape, mockery of gay and mentally disabled people, the use of the N-word and one that said the "founders intended USA as white homeland." The Long Winters' "It's a Departure" was the theme song for the McElroy brothers' comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me, but in a statement, the hosts said on Jan. 3 that "for reasons we're sure you're all aware of, we're getting started finding new music for MBMBaM."

Comedian Michael Ian Black, known for his mordant, often envelope-pushing Twitter feed, said he was bummed that "people are sh---ing on John Roderick, who I know as a lovely and funny guy. Those old tweets are obviously jokes, not proof of any abhorrent beliefs."

The Apology

After reflecting on the situation, Roderick realized that maybe his initial telling of the lesson he hoped to impart on his child wasn't as humorous as he had intended. The musician-podcaster shared a lengthy mea culpa on his website Jan. 5 to admit his faults.

"I want to acknowledge and make amends for the injuries I caused. I have many things to atone for," he wrote. "My parenting story’s insensitivity and the legacy of hurtful language in my past are both profound failures. I want to confront them directly." Roderick admitted that his tale about his daughter's attempt to use a can opener was "poorly told," and said that he and his 9-year-old -- as well as his wife -- had actually laughed throughout his daughter's hours-long attempt to open the can of beans (which came after a full breakfast). He also added that the duo also snacked on pistachios during the lesson.

"I framed the story with me as the a--hole dad because that’s my comedic persona and my fans and friends know it’s 'a bit,'" he further explained. "What I didn’t understand when posting that story, was that a lot of the language I used reminded people very viscerally of abuse they’d experienced at the hand of a parent. The idea that I would withhold food from her, or force her to solve a puzzle while she cried, or bind her to the task for hours without a break all were images of child abuse that affected many people very deeply. Rereading my story, I can see what I’d done."

Roderick, who wrote that he was "deeply sorry" and wished that no one had to grow up with an abuse parent, also addressed the anti-Semitic, racist and other offensive tweets he had made in the past. He explained that he believed at the time that he was "being an ally" by "taking the slurs of the oppressors and flipping them to mock racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry."

"I am humiliated by my incredibly insensitive use of the language of sexual assault in casual banter. It was a lazy and damaging ideology, that I continued to believe long past the point I should’ve known better that because I was a hipster intellectual from a diverse community it was ok for me to joke and deploy slurs in that context," he wrote.

"Yesterday those old tweets resurfaced and hurt a lot of people anew," he continued. "They had to suffer this a--hole #BeanDad casually demeaning them and their friends. I deeply regret having ever used those words. I do not want to spread more hate in the world. I want the opposite."

Roderick concluded by noting that he has more reflecting to do and would be taking time off from being a public personality to allow "these lessons to sink in." He wrapped up with a final apology: " I apologize to my partners, my friends, and to all the people affected by my words for the hurt I caused."

Read Roderick's full message on his website.

Reactions to #BeanDad

As Roderick's telling of the can-opener lesson circulated over the holiday weekend, supporters and detractors reacted on Twitter. Here are some of their thoughts: