With Father’s Day just around the corner, it’s the perfect time to celebrate some positive father figures in pop culture!
I have a confession to make. The previous article, 5 Bad Fathers In Pop Culture, could have been three times longer. I had no trouble thinking of 15 terrible fathers in pop culture, and I’m sure I could have thought of more.
But do you think I was able to come up with 15 great fathers in pop culture? I don’t know if that says anything about the media I watch, or about the media that’s available.
That’s why I treasure the role models of positive masculinity below so much.
Join me, won’t you?
Tim Lockwood (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs)
Tim Lockwood is the father of Flint Lockwood, the protagonist of the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs film series. He’s not a very emotive man, possibly due to the death of his wife.
He also hates technology. This is something I can relate to, as I trust smart phones about as far as I can kick them (by which I mean ‘roughly 10-15 metres’).
Unfortunately for Tim, his son Flint is practically obsessed with technology, which is what causes most of the events in both the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs films to happen.
This creates, shall we say, ‘a bit of a barrier’ between Tim and Flint. They even have a major falling out, and Flint finds himself forging his own path without his father’s help.
But Tim’s love for Flint helps him to overcome his technophobia, and he becomes a member of Team Flint just in time to help save the day.
Burt Hummel (Glee)
Burt Hummel is a lot like Tim Lockwood. Both of them are widowed single fathers who don’t understand their sons, even though they love them dearly.
You see, Burt’s son Kurt is a fabulously gay lad – flamboyant, even. Every time Burt tries to explain to Kurt why it’s so hard to get his head around his ‘choice’ to be gay, he trips over his words and Kurt takes it the wrong way because it isn’t a choice, it’s literally just who he is.
Anyone who watches Glee will be able to feel the tension in the air anytime these two are onscreen in the first two seasons of the show.
But Burt’s love for his son inspires him to change his views, which in turn allows him to change his behaviour and become a truly great supporter of his son.
At one point, Burt falls into a coma and Kurt, his gay son, sings the famous Beatles love song ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ to him because Glee is literally just the fucking worst.
But even the shows problematic song choices and proven theft of other people’s music can’t change what a great dad Burt is.
Greg Universe (Steven Universe)
I’ve got to be honest: Greg Universe almost didn’t make the list.
See, Greg Universe isn’t a very good father. He’s withheld the truth from his son, Steven, on multiple occasions, such as not telling him that he had family in other parts of America, or that their family name was originally DeMayo and not Universe.
He is, however, a fantastic dad. His love for Steven takes precedence over nearly everything else in his life and he would happily die for Steven. With very few exceptions, he always makes himself available for Steven whenever his son needs him. He’s the one in the show who most often reminds Steven that self-care isn’t selfish and that it’s okay to be imperfect.
While he has withheld the truth from Steven at times, I can’t remember him ever actually lying to him. Instead of pretending he knows the answer to something he doesn’t, he’ll say something like ‘I don’t know, let’s find out together!’ because he knows – like all the best dads do – that every waking moment is an opportunity to learn.
Iroh (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
If you’ve seen the Avatar: The Last Airbender TV series (or read the previous article) then you’ll know that Prince Zuko of the Fire Nation was permanently maimed by his father and then banished, with his only hope of returning being the capture of the Avatar.
Iroh, his uncle, travelled with Zuko during this time.
Iroh was once a great general of the Fire Nation and almost captured a distant fortress-city known as Ba Sing Se, but he came home in grief when the war took his only son from him. Perhaps that’s why Iroh travels with Zuko: So he can redeem himself by making sure Zuko doesn’t end up in the same situation.
But that idea seems almost mercenary when compared to Iroh’s actions. He’ll share a tea with anyone, even members of the Avatar’s group. He’s very forgiving as well: When Zuko yells at him and says some very hurtful things, Iroh still follows his nephew to make sure he doesn’t get kidnapped.
Although he’s a very powerful firebender who could easily defeat most of his foes, he’d rather avoid violence and talk things out. He tries to encourage the same behaviour of Zuko by simply being a good example to follow, but sadly his nephew is too hot-headed (GET IT?) to see the wisdom of Iroh’s simple and wholesome ways.
Mark Meltzer (Bioshock 2)
This character is pretty obscure, but Mark – the main character of an alternate reality game designed to promote Bioshock 2 – definitely deserves a place on this list.
Shortly after the secret underwater city of Rapture (the gamespace of Bioshock 1 and 2) was built, young girls were disappearing from towns and cities along the European coastline. Being a father himself, Mark felt driven to investigate this and eventually discovered that all the kidnapped girls shared certain physical qualities (being of a certain age etc).
Eventually, his own daughter Cindy was also kidnapped.
At this point, Mark’s drive turned into full-fledged obsession. His wife eventually left him because she felt that he’d lost all reason.
With nothing left to lose, he eventually made it to Rapture, and discovered that Cindy had become a Little Sister – a grotesquely mutated caricature of a child, with large bulbous glowing eyes and a sea slug in her stomach. While trying to find a cure for her, he was captured.
During his capture, the ecology of Rapture was explained to him: Little Sisters drank the genetic material of corpses, which the sea slug in their stomachs would turn into a substance called Adam. The Little Sisters could then be harvested for their Adam in a non-lethal procedure, at which point the Little Sisters would return to the streets of Rapture to begin the process all over again.
So that the Little Sisters weren’t attacked (Adam was a valuable resource), they’d each be paired and bonded with a hulking armoured cyborg called a Big Daddy (not to be confused with Damon Macready from Kick-Ass).
Mark was given a choice: He could either be killed, or be turned into a Big Daddy and pair-bonded to Cindy, who sadly didn’t even remember him by this point.
He chooses to become a cybernetic monstrosity so that he can protect his now-zombified daughter.
But the player in Bioshock 2 doesn’t know any of this. To them, Mark is just another Big Daddy to be fought and killed – at least until the player loots his corpse and finds an audio diary from him, giving a basic outline to his history. He’s the only Big Daddy in the entire series to carry an audio diary, and you can completely miss it if you’re not in the habit of looting enemy corpses.
Mark might not be the first good father in pop culture to spring to mind, but he made me think twice about killing Big Daddies.
The previous Father’s Day article started with a Big Daddy, and this one finished with one. Thematics are awesome, don’t you think? Do you know what else is awesome? Remembering your dad (or dads) on Father’s Day. If you’ve only got a mom (or moms), remember – that counts too!
Oh, and just in case my father is reading this – I love you, Dad!