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It’s Father’s Day, that one day out of the entire year where we stop and appreciate the men who very literally made us who we are today. Thankfully, cinema is filled with paternal role models – Here are five of our favorites, accompanied with the varied lessons they can teach you.
Marlin (Finding Nemo)
On the face of it, Marlin is a great father – Loving, kind and willing to do whatever it takes to protect his child. But, as anyone who’s seen the start of the movie knows, he’s also overprotective and smothering, which leads to Nemo acting out in dangerous ways, and angry – His argument with Nemo before Nemo is captured is what drives his guilt throughout the start of the film. Clearly, then, Marlin is a warning of the dangers of being too attentive a parent, and the ways in which that can harbor resentment in children… resentment that can lead to fishnappings and extraordinary adventures that involve Ellen Degeneres. And who, really, wants that?
Jor-El, also, has a reputation for being a loving father who sacrificed everything for his child. But think about the origin of Superman for a second: I don’t care how great of a scientist Jor-El was, he put his only child in an untried rocket and sent him out into the great unknown. Does that really sound like the actions of a reasonable man, never mind a good parent? I have no doubt that Jor-El had good intentions, but clearly, he needed someone to tell him when something is okay, and when something is as ludicrous as shooting your baby off into space and hoping that everything turns out okay. Consider Jor-El as the sci-fi version of Phil from Modern Family, and proceed from that point on, I think.
Henry Jones, Sr. (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
I think everyone would agree that having Sean Connery as your father would be kind of cool. Having Connery as Henry Jones, Sr., however… Maybe not so much. Emotionally distant, frequently entirely absent from his son’s life, Henry Jones was not the kind of man likely to play catch with his kids – Well, unless the object to be caught happened to be an artifact of major historical significance, of course – but was, however, the kind of man who would happily ask his son (or any other friends who happened to get themselves involved) to save him from Nazis if the situation demanded it. Yes, he may have been stylish, and yes, he may have realized that family is more important than the Holy Grail in the end, but still: Henry Jones is a pretty good example of the father that you should really try not to be.
For a mythological being (or, if you must, an ancient alien who just so happens to have inspired a human belief system in the past, because, of course, we can’t have Thor and Odin be the actual Norse gods for some reason), Odin is remarkably similar to the stereotypical cranky sitcom dad: He’s huffy, plays favorites with his children, and really just wants a good night’s sleep. If you look at Thor that way, the whole “banishing to Earth” thing seems a little less dramatic – Just think of it as Odin throwing Thor and his rowdy friends out so he can take a nice nap. Suddenly, Odin seems less scary and/or impressive, and more like a cantankerous neighbor that you can’t help but like. As a model for parenting, you could do worse – as long as you maybe cut back on the sleeping.
Darth Vader (Star Wars)
The story of Dad Vader is a tragic one – Yes, he was an absent father, but that’s because he didn’t even know his children were alive until they were grown, at which point they’d already been taught to hate him. He reached out to them – think of the tenderness in his voice as he tells Luke that he’s his father! – but was rebuffed not just with words, but with lightsabers and X-Wing Fighters. Even an invitation to join the family business went horribly, horribly wrong, with his son literally cutting off his hand instead of responding favorably. Is there really a lesson for fathers to learn from Darth’s plight? Definitely: Tread softly when approaching emotionally distant children, and if they seem angry, try to get them to channel that anger into less violent, more productive ways of resolution.