Tomorrow is Father’s Day. If you are blessed enough to still have your own father around please take some time out of your day to call or visit and tell him you love him. I don’t have any children myself (that I know of), but I’d like to think that I would have been a pretty good father just by following the examples of my own Dad and his father, my Papaw Jim. At any rate, I thought today might be a good time to take a look at some fun examples of fatherhood as presented to us thru the prism of literature, movies, & television. So it is with deep admiration & respect to all good fathers out there that I present…..
from the home office in Worth County, Iowa, which contains the cities of Manly & Fertile…Worth County, where Manly men meet Fertile women…..
The (Supersized) Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads:
7 Sam Baldwin (Sleepless in Seattle) & Danny Tanner (Full House)
Two widower Dads. 1989’s Sleepless in Seattle ranks 45th of my 100 Favorite Movies, and even though it is a rom-com there are no shortage of scenes showing Tom Hanks’ Sam interacting with his young son. The sting of the death of the wife/mother is addressed and it is touching how father & son are getting thru the loss together. Okay sure…Sam loses points for his kid hopping onto a plane for a cross country trek to The Big Apple by himself, but all is forgiven when he chases after the boy and lovingly embraces him after he finds him at the Empire State Building. Bob Saget’s Danny Tanner may be the most unrealistically sweet father in TV history and he too loses points for needing his brother-in-law Uncle Jessie and best friend Joey to move in and help raise three young girls, but who the heck wouldn’t want such a nice guy for a Dad??
6 Daniel Hillard (Mrs. Doubtfire) & Mike Brady (The Brady Bunch)
A divorcee & and the patriarch of one of entertainment’s first blended families. All that needs to be said about Robin Williams’ eponymous character in 1993’s Mrs. Doubtfire (43rd on my list) is that the dude is willing to dress up like an old woman in order to spend time with his children. That’s devotion. I like the fact that Mrs. Doubtfire addresses divorce realistically. The parents don’t magically get back together, but they do find a way to focus on the children and do what is best for them. One thing that always struck me about The Brady Bunch was how the boys called Carol Brady Mom (she was their stepmother) and the girls called Mr. Brady Dad (he was their stepfather). Blending families is rarely that easy in the real world, but in the 60’s, 70’s, & 80’s the powers-that-be understood that folks watch television to escape from reality…a fact that seems to have been all but forgotten these days. I was dumbfounded when as an adult I learned that Robert Reed was a) gay and b) hated his role as Mr. Brady.
5 Bob Cratchit (A Christmas Carol)
Cratchit is mostly known as grumpy old miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s underpaid & overworked clerk in Dickens’ tale, but he is also shown to be a dedicated husband and father to six children. One of those children is Tiny Tim who is what we might call a “special needs child” in modern parlance. It is never explicitly stated what Tiny Tim suffers from, although it is likely to have been rickets, kidney disease, or tuberculosis. The problem is that Bob only makes about $2 per week and can barely afford to feed his family let alone pay for the medical care his son needs. Despite these struggles Bob Cratchit keeps a smile on his face and forges ahead, doing what must be done to provide a decent & happy life for his children. He reminds me just a bit of my own father, who had a demanding job that paid the bills but certainly never allowed us to be wealthy, and also had to spend a disproportionate amount of time, energy, & resources on me because of my disability.
4 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series) & Howard Cunningham…aka “Mr. C.” (Happy Days)
Yes Clark Griswold is a dufus. And yes he had a weird flirtation with a nameless babe in a convertible. But when you watch the Vacation movies one thing that is very clear is that Clark loves his children and is devoted to his family. That’s nice to see, especially these days. Howard Cunningham forgot that his eldest son Chuck even existed, but otherwise he is the quintessential sitcom Dad. He was always around to give sage advice to Richie & Joanie, put up with Richie’s goofy friends Ralph Malph & Potsie, and even became a father figure to Fonzie. And let’s not overlook the fact that Mr. C was a business owner as well. Role models rock.
3 Cliff Huxtable (The Cosby Show) & Vito Corleone (The Godfather)
Speaking of role models, I have commented previously about the interesting way that the Huxtable family was presented on The Cosby Show. No housing projects or blue collar jobs for this upwardly mobile & well educated black family. Mom was an attorney and Dad was a doctor. As a father Heathcliff was patient & funny, and even when he became exasperated by the trials & tribulations of raising five children he exhibited an enviable level of composure & mercy. Now I know that mob boss Don Corleone seems like an odd choice (especially paired alongside Dr. Huxtable), but though his…imperfections…are far different from those of the aforementioned Clark Griswold I think there is a lot of similarity in the love & devotion they show their family. When eldest son Santino is gunned down and Vito sees the body in the funeral parlor he completely breaks down, distraught over “what they did to my boy”. He is clearly unhappy about Michael becoming involved in “the business” because he had higher hopes for his youngest son. Don Vito opines that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”, and I think he’s pretty spot on.
2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
What can I say about Atticus Finch that hasn’t already been echoed by a plethora of fans of both the Pulitzer Prize winning novel and the Academy Award nominated film?? Atticus is kind, patient, wise, intelligent, honorable, & decent. He has been hailed as a hero by some…maybe the only time in history that lawyer & hero have intersected. His two children, Scout & Jem, love and respect the man to the moon & back. The entire town of Maycomb, AL admires him. Author Harper Lee based Atticus on her own father, and I have to say that if he was half the man that Atticus is shown to be then Ms. Lee was a lucky girl indeed. Gregory Peck brought Atticus to life in the 1962 movie, and his portrayal is a nearly perfect reflection of the man we see in the book. However I would strongly urge anyone who has seen the film but not read the book to go out right now and buy the book!! As good as the movie is the book is 10x better. And if you have not partaken of either then you need to do so ASAP. The subject matter is far from pleasant, but it is presented in such an accessible way by Harper Lee that anyone who enjoys reading even just a little bit will breeze right through it in a few days. Heck I think I might just have to read the book again myself.
1 Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show)
No one knows exactly what Heaven is like, but I’d like to think that somewhere up there a TV room exists where The Andy Griffith Show plays on an endless…dare I say eternal…loop. Sheriff Taylor is a widower with one child, 6 year old Opie. Opie’s mother is never named and barely mentioned. We only know that she died when Opie was a baby. The relationship between Andy & Opie is probably one of the purest, most accurate, & honest father/son interactions we have ever seen in television, books, or movies. I say that because Andy isn’t always saccharine sweet with Opie and he doesn’t treat his son like he’s a perfect angel. Opie gets into mischief occasionally, and when that happens his father exhibits slight anger & disappointment. However Andy isn’t mean. He is always fair with Opie and desires for his son to learn from mistakes. There are times when Andy jumps to the wrong conclusion and discovers that though Opie may have technically done the wrong thing he did it for the right reasons. Sure Aunt Bea moves in to do the cooking & cleaning and to manage the household, but Andy never dodges his responsibility to raise his son. He spends time with Opie, whether it is fishing at Myers Lake, chillin’ on the front porch, or just hanging out at the courthouse on a slow day in Mayberry (which is pretty much every day in Mayberry…a huge part of its charm). He disciplines Opie, but he also talks to him, providing valuable lessons about honor, integrity, love, respect, friendship, accountability, & courage. As a matter of fact Sheriff Taylor seemingly teaches those lessons to the entire town of Mayberry. He doesn’t scream, shout, show off, or crave the spotlight…he just leads by example and does what’s right.