'Bean dad' viral thread opens a Twitter can of worms

Seattle musician John Roderick tweeted about his daughter's struggles with a manual can opener, and the internet dished up plenty of opinions.

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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  • Co-author of two Gen X pop-culture encyclopedia for Penguin Books. Won "Headline Writer of the Year"​ award for 2017, 2014 and 2013 from the American Copy Editors Society. Won first place in headline writing from the 2013 Society for Features Journalism.
Gael Cooper
3 min read
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Manual can openers aren't exactly intuitive. Over the New Year's weekend, Seattle musician and podcaster John Roderick discovered this when the gadget stumped his 9-year-old daughter. Roderick, founder of The Long Winters and one-time candidate for Seattle City Council, explained the events in a Twitter thread that has sparked plenty of online debate, and earned the singer the nicknames "Bean Dad" and "Can Opener Dad." 

Roderick did not immediately respond to a request for comment. His Twitter account was deleted on Sunday afternoon after the internet furor had been raging for a full day.

"So, yesterday my daughter was hungry and I was doing a jigsaw puzzle so I said over my shoulder, 'Make some baked beans,'" Roderick wrote in the first tweet of the thread. "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?"

The thread goes on to explain how Roderick told his daughter to "study the parts, study the can, figure out what the can opener inventor was thinking when they tried to solve this problem." 

While his daughter figured out part of how the can opener worked, its clamping mechanism perplexed her, leading Roderick to say, "Sweetheart, neither of us will eat another bite today until we get into this can of beans."

Long story short: Roderick's daughter tries for "six hours on and off," at one point telling her dad she hates him, but eventually figures out how to successfully clamp on the opener and remove the lid. 

But what might have stayed just a private family story turned into a much-shared and commented-on social-media parenting drama, with thousands of people retweeting and commenting on Roderick's thread. 

Although take note -- many people wrongly are claiming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, but that tweet came from a parody account. Singer Dionne Warwick, on the other hand, tweeted that while she hadn't read it all, the Bean Dad thread "looks like nonsense."

Many couldn't understand why Roderick didn't teach his daughter how to use the can opener.

"I've got 3 young daughters sitting around not making me trend (ungrateful)," wrote one Twitter user. "So let's test their problem solving by locking them in a room w/ a fire extinguisher bolted to the vaulted ceiling & setting a controlled burn."

Said another, "The bean dad story just reminds me of a middle school math class where they tried to teach us the Pythagorean Theorem by showing us the measurements of a bunch of triangles and saying 'notice anything?', like excuse me for not being Pythagoras myself at eleven years old."

Roderick did have some defenders. "I love this," wrote one Twitter user, "I've been a children's therapist for 14 yrs. This is a story about love. The ppl saying it's abusive don't have context re JR/kid so it looks bad to them and they're projecting their experience w shitty fathers."

And Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, who co-hosts the podcast Omnibus with Roderick, also spoke up. "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 tweeted. "(Twitter) is so dumb."

Roderick later tweeted that he was being called a child abuser for making his daughter wait six hours to eat.

"The best part about being ratio'd by these parenting concern-trolls is that they keep harping on how depriving my kid of baked beans for SIX HOURS is child abuse," Roderick wrote. "Six hours is the length of time between meals. Lunch at noon, dinner at six. They're literally saying CHILD ABUSE."

On Sunday, Roderick tweeted about his sudden viral fame, writing, "Somebody had to start the year off with a bang!"

But not everyone was a fan of that tweet, either. "Sorry you can't tweet anymore until you learn how to assemble a phone and or computer," wrote one Twitter user.

As of Sunday afternoon before the account was deleted, Roderick's original tweet kicking off the Bean Dad saga had been quote-tweeted more than 14,300 times, and was still climbing.