In some popular media fatherhood is depicted as less than masculine; a father is displayed as an ineffective backup mother, auxiliary, in the way, and vestigial. However, the last four or so films I have watched have had strong themes of fatherhood.
In Gifted, Chris Evans plays a single father—later revealed to be in reality an uncle—trying to save his prodigious ward from becoming the emotionally handicapped wreck his genius sister, her mother, had become. Along the way he makes a bevy of mistakes, but his worst—real spoilers now—is when he agrees to give up custody. The world tells him he is wrong for the child, and he lets her go. His redemption comes when he realizes that, for better or worse, he is her father.
Logan: a gritty swan song for Hugh Jackman’s portrayal as the gruff Canadian Logan, AKA The Wolverine. This movie strongly touches upon the question of what is fatherhood. Logan, confronted by his genetic daughter created without his consent by an evil scientist, finds himself begrudgingly her caretaker.
He does everything to avoid this sudden responsibility, but with the prodding of his own father figure, Professor Xavier, and his natural instinct to protect others, Logan is forced to play this role. He is not a great father. He swears, he is mean, he flies into rages, but in the end he is what his daughter needs, and, in a wonderful scene, the roles are reversed as Logan, passed out from pure exhaustion, is driven by his daughter to Eden where he begins to remember his true self.
Eventually he faces off with an evil clone, the scientist’s perverted version of Logan. It is only through his daughter’s aid that he destroys this killing machine, symbolically destroying the abusive father, which has been chasing the heroes. This movie deserves its own post.
The Case for Christ is the exception to Christian themed movies’ often deserved reputation for sappiness. It follows a young father, Lee Strobel, as his world is turned up-side-down by his wife’s conversion to Christianity. After treating her to a beautiful romantic night he tells his wife subtly that if this Christian thing doesn’t resolve he will leave.
It is after Lee emotionally reconciles with his dead father that his heart begins to soften. Only then does he truly question his own assumptions and realizes the truth; A story he wrote excoriating a young man was wrong, and nearly costs the young man his life. Faced with the discovery that even he, a renowned journalist, could let his own bias pervert the truth, Lee gives Christ a chance and is enabled to become the father and husband he wanted to be.
The latest one was Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. Having just seen it my thoughts on its plot are still forming, however it strongly touches upon fathers. The main character, Peter Quill, is saved early in the movie by a deus ex machina that turns out to literally be a god, and Peter’s father.
Being a marvel movie things get a little complicated, and this god, named Ego, turns out to be the creep Yondu described him as in the first movie. Eventually it is Yondu who rescues Peter at the climax of the film. Now Yondu, for anyone wondering, was the adoptive father of Peter. Originally hired to bring the orphaned Peter to Ego, Yondu, after learning the fate of the other children, keeps the ‘brat.’
During Yondu’s eulogy Peter explains how in hindsight his adoptive father was really the dream father, one described throughout the movie, he had always pretended he had. And, in a final vindication of his father, Peter, during a humorous scene involving a teenage Groot, exclaims, “Now I know how Yondu felt.”
There is a beautiful image that my mind needs to mull over before I really get. The evil father figure, Ego, destroys the Walkman that Peter has kept as a memory of his mother. Later, the true father, Yondu, gives, postmortem, an upgrade to Peter, an iPod like device.
At my High School there were only three or four students in my class who had both a father and a mother at home. It is extraordinarily good to see the culture, through the cinema, work to redeem the image of fatherhood. Who knows, maybe our culture, like Lee Strobel, will find truth its bias once despised.
Before I posted this my father and I went to see a remake of an old classic, Going in Style. It was pretty good and also fit into this theme. There is a wonderful scene, I can’t do it verbatim, but it went something like this:
The dead beat father is forced by his daughter’s grandfather to take care of the girl for one afternoon. He, sobering up, gains some idea of what the grandfather intends to do. The grandfather tells him that he might not be able to stand in for him any more, and he will have to play the man. “Even if you don’t know how, just fake it.”
Enjoy the movies.