There's A Lot Of Ugly Things In This World, Son. I Wish I Could Keep 'Em All Away From You: Which Movie Dad Do You Want To Be?
Several weeks ago, I was lying in bed, watching the Red Sox tenuously hold on to a 2-1 lead over the Yankees in the fifth inning. I was having the sort of casual, lazy conversation with the missus that one has when the hour is late and you’re gradually decompressing from the days events as you get ready to drift off to sleep. It had been a hell of a day, and riveting as the game was, my chances of remaining awake for it were doubtful. Mrs. TK curled up closer to me and put her hand on my arm.
“So, guess what?” she asked.
“Mmm…?” I dozily replied.
There was a deafening noise in my head, like a record scratch amplified by a million crossed with an F1 car crash. Possibly combined with a meteor striking an explosives depot.
“You said that.”
I turned the game off, threw the remote on the floor, turned and gathered her in my arms. I tried to get my brain to work with me, to switch gears and react like a goddamn grownup.
“Wow.” (so much for that idea)
“Like… pregnant pregnant? With a baby?”
Mrs. TK, being the smart one in the relationship, did the gear switching instead. She changed over to that tone that she uses when she understands that I’m having some cognitive issues, a patient, gently eye-rolling tone.
“Yes, sweetie. Pregnant pregnant. With a baby. Well, it’s more a cluster of cells right now. About the size of a poppy seed, in fact.”
“A poppy seed? That’s gonna become a baby?”
“Yes, honey. A baby.”
Obviously, I’ve had some time to contemplate this more. The terror has slightly decreased, the excitement has substantially increased, to the point where I’m basically a baby-centric babbling fucking lunatic. I’ve been thinking in overdrive, and because I’m me, I start to think about movies. What kind of father will I be? Jesus, how the hell am I going to manage this? I can’t make it through a meal without getting it on my shirt, I can’t walk down the street without stumbling, and I’m supposed to teach some tiny amalgamation of my wife and me to survive? I don’t have any idea how that’s going to work.
My top candidate for the father I’d like to emulate is, quite frankly, my own. But this is a movie site, so let’s look at a few of the fathers who have some of the traits I admire most, for better or for worse.
Clark Griswold (Vacation) seems the likeliest candidate. He’s goofy, awkward, borderline incompetent at times, but he loves his family dearly, to the point that he endangers himself on more than one occasion just so that he can get them the fun he feels they deserve. He’s a father with a plan, but rarely the wherewithal to competently execute those plans.
Furious Styles (Boyz In Da Hood) wins points firstly for being named Furious, but also for being a smart, dedicated, tough-loving man who does his best to raise his kids right and keep them safe in the harshest of circumstances: Plus, “Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.” I love that.
Damon MacReady (Kick Ass) is a father who can more than competently execute a plan. He’s a kindly sweetheart of a man who’s determined to make the world a better place for his adorable, plucky daughter. Of course, he does that with extreme prejudice, mowing down evildoers relentlessly and violently. To further complicate things, he uses his daughter as his instrument. On the one hand, I applaud him for teaching her to defend herself and not stand on the sidelines; on the other hand, I don’t know that I want a daughter (or son, believe me) who’s quite that handy with a knife. Or gun. Or sword. Or… you get the point.
Atticus Finch (To Kill A Mockingbird) is of course the gold standard of father for many generations. He’s kind, noble, daring, brave, intelligent, gentle, but devoted to his convictions and unafraid to stand up for what he believes in. I’ve probably got a couple of those qualities rattling around somewhere, but let’s be honest — there are few fathers who can hold a candle to the remarkable Mr. Finch.
Jack Torrance (The Shining) is basically the opposite of Mr. Finch. Malleable, manipulative, psychotic and deadly, yet he also loves his family. Unfortunately, he also wants to put an ax through their brains, and I don’t think that’s the foot I want to get off on with my new tyke. So yeah, let’s disregard this one.
Richard Hoover (Little Miss Sunshine) is a well-meaning fellow, but prone to massively poor decision making, personally and professionally, which is something I can definitely empathize with. On the other hand, everything he does, he does for his family — the parallels between him and Griswald are actually quite striking. He’s not a bad guy to model yourself over, if you discount the dead body in the van. That said, I’d be shit as a motivational speaker and the chances of me getting up and dancing in public are slim to none.
Marlin (Finding Nemo) is desperate, lonely, neurotic, and clingy. Of course, I haven’t lost my wife (nor do I plan to), an event that brought on many of his less admirable traits. However, he did travel across an ocean to find his son, traversing all manner of very real danger, and even though my kid is still the size of a walnut, I’d basically do all of that and more if need be. I don’t see myself getting swallowed by a whale anytime soon, though as we all know, the possibility of a faceoff with a shark is a very real one.
Mac Maguff (Juno) is one of my favorite fathers. He’s gruff, blunt, and an absolute softie when it comes to his wife and kid, even when his kid makes some poor decisions with some unfortunate consequences. He’ll go to bat for her no matter what, and do whatever he can to help her get through her tribulations. He’s maybe not the sharpest bulb in the sky, but the man tries. Mac Magruff and I have a great deal in common, although I wouldn’t know how to fix an HVAC system if you pointed a gun at my head.
Mr. Dunphy (Outside Providence) is a man who really has no idea what he’s doing, in life or with his wayward son. His advice is… questionable, but he means well. He’s baffled by his gay friend, but he ultimately accepts him. He’s not expecting his son to be a superstar — he’d just like him to be less of a fuckup. Basically, he’s trying to get him to avoid the same mistakes he made, through a combination of tough love and drunken Jedi motivation. I love Mr. Dunphy, and like him I enjoy sitting around with no pants on, but I’m going to try to avoid heading down his road.
Chris Gardner (The Pursuit Of Happyness) may be stuck in an overly sentimental, treacly movie with a title that makes me cringe, but… you can’t deny the man’s love of his child and his dedication to do anything he can to give him a better world. Living in difficult circumstances, and dedicating yourself to make your kid’s life better, well, I can’t come down too hard on the movie. Wait. Yes I can. Good dad, though.
Clifford Worley (True Romance) is even more of a fuckup than his cocaine-stealing, pimp-killing son. But damn if the man doesn’t stare trouble in the eye and tell it to go fuck itself, even at the risk of his own life. Clifford lives in a trailer and doesn’t have a whole hell of a lot going for himself, but he’ll dive headfirst into the fires of hell before he’ll sell out his son, and he’ll do it with one of the best monologues ever — even if it’s a little racially twisted. But he does it for his son, he does it because he knows what will come of it. He does it because he knows that he’ll serve his son better by dying than by living to tell. That’s a trait worth having.
Dill (Easy A) is another father the likes of which are rarely seen, the type of father that’s really only produced in movies. He’s smart, funny, affectionate, acerbic, clever and charming. In short, it’s unlikely that I’ll have much in common with Dill, except that I’m hoping to have the same patience and understanding. That’d be nice, even when (god forbid) my daughter (god help me) begins dressing like Olive did when she went on her quest for infamy. Dill’s good people, though.
Roger Murtaugh (Lethal Weapon) is a neurotic mess who stammers too much, gets pushed around by his family, and is too old for this shit. He also will absolutely destroy you if you mess with his family. He hates his daughter’s boyfriends on sight, dotes on his wife, and takes care of his friends. Wow. That’s alarmingly accurate for me.
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