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Happy Father’s Day!

June 20, 2010

damn it, I want this family to love me.

Cinematic explorations of fatherhood seem more interested in father figures than fathers themselves. Chalk it up to “daddy” issues or the inability to find compelling ways to present fathers who don’t subject their families to disastrous vacations. On film, fathers aren’t often presented as complex, intriguing beings unless their families are in peril or – you know – already dead. In comedies, you can’t swing a cheesy necktie without hitting tropelicious depictions of ineptitude, gendered framing of parenting and dudes feeding their babies chili.

Here are some good dads from cinema!

Danny Glover as Sgt. Roger Murtaugh in Lethal Weapon

1. Sgt. Roger Murtaugh from Lethal Weapon

Roger Murtaugh is a well loved father as evident by his inability to even take a quiet bath! Those kids can’t be away from him for even one second, bringing his birthday cake right into the bathroom! He is warm, engaged in parenting and loving – making “family” wherever he goes! He’s funny too! When his partner Martin Riggs says something snarky about Trish Murtaugh’s cooking, which is consistently terrible, Roger says, “It’s remarks like those won’t get you invited to Christmas dinner!” But Riggs then says quite poignantly, “You have a really nice family, Roger.” and goes on to assist Roger in protecting them as though they were his own and ultimately the Murtaughs do become Riggs’ family, as Roger becomes Martin’s brother. Where do you find one of the most complex, refreshing and enduring examples of black male parenting in cinematic history? In a Joel Silver action film. Thanks, Joel! Much love! People, this is why I love me an action film. Good luck trying to nice black intact families elsewhere. Trust me, I’ve done the legwork.

Harrison Ford defending his family and the free world in Air Force One

2. President James Marshall in Air Force One

President Marshall is a decent enough president of indeterminate political party affiliation, but then Gary Oldman hijacks Air Force One – with the Marshalls and tons of character actors on it – and the Prez has a job to do: take down them hijackers and keep Jürgen Prochnow from escape from Russian custody. Anyway, even after a long day stumping his policies and cultivating loyalty from senior staffers (I see you, Paul “Jim Brass” Guilfoyle), Marshall has time to talk “the human condition” with his tween daughter, who actually does look like she could be the offspring of Ford and Wendy Crewson. When the plane is jacked, Marshall doesn’t scoot into the escape pod, which apparently he’s required to do. In his defense, I saw that thing and well, I would have stayed on the plane too. It looked like the kind of thing kids playing “NASA” construct out of fridge boxes, glitter and duct tape. Throughout the movie, Marshall’s battle cry is, “NOT WITHOUT MY FAMILY!” Grace and Alice are like his thing and he’s not leaving them on a janky ass plane or negotiating with Gary Oldman, except when Oldman goes too far and makes Marshall cry! THE ASSCLOWN. I am not even that big a fan of Ford and definitely a bigger fan of Oldman, but even I was like, “Sir, have you no honor? No code!” until someone sitting next to me told me to STFU. But it’s okay, because when Marshall delivers his don’t-make-me-turn-this-car-around-alicious, “GET OFF MY PLANE!”, he wasn’t even talking to me and I wasn’t even on a plane, but I was willing to get off one, to avoid being grounded or having my phone privileges restricted.

Rocky and his family, Steps and Robert Balboa Jr.

Robert Balboa Sr.
Rocky Balboa has had a very rough life – hard scrabble upbringing, lost his fortune, his health and beloved wife – yet, he keeps trying to make lemonade out of lemons. He’s not perfect, but he’s very loving, loyal, accepting and kind to those people who for the most part aren’t very kind to him. He tends to love when there’s no reason to love and that’s pretty wonderful. He’s generous to a fault and does try to find the good in most people. Yet, is saddled with an ungrateful and entitled whiny offspring, who seems to blame Rocky for just about everything! Whatever perceived lack of sophistication, book learning or nuanced language choices, Balboa makes up with more heart than most people. There’s really no conceivable reason for him to turn bitter rivals into family (Little mouthy Marie!!!) or take all the shit people toss on him, but he does and quite graciously.

In honor of my own dad, who’s chilling in Vegas (baby!) with La Mommie who is the embodiment of acceptance, encouragement, unconditional love – Happy Father’s Day, Doc! I love you!

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 20, 2010 4:47 pm

    Ah, I love this entry! Murtaugh is totally in my Top 10 Awesome Dads Of All Time.

    I’m a sucker for any movie that has a loveable father figure, even if he’s kinda doofusy.

    I love Colm Meaney as Jimmy Rabbitte, Sr. In The Commitments. Come on, all he wants to do is sing some Elvis!

  2. June 20, 2010 6:01 pm

    To celebrate Father’s Day, I took my kids to see Toy Story 3. And sprung for the 3D, which I haven’t done before (not even for Avatar). I think this will be the last time I do a 3D though; as others have said, I don’t see that it did anything to make the movie more enjoyable. The animation and gags (great send-up of prison escape movies) were plenty. Though I did think the complete absence of fathers or any adult males (not counting off-to-college Andy here) was kinda creepy.

  3. June 20, 2010 6:35 pm

    Let’s hear it for the dads! Murtaugh is the best, I agree.

    I tear up every damn time Ben Stiller says, “It’s been a rough year, Dad…” in Tenenbaums. Just thinking about it is making me all weepy.

  4. June 20, 2010 7:48 pm

    I tear up every damn time Ben Stiller says, “It’s been a rough year, Dad…” in Tenenbaums. Just thinking about it is making me all weepy.

    Oh my god, me too. The lilt in his voice kills me.

  5. chava22 permalink
    June 20, 2010 9:32 pm

    MURTAUGH!!!!
    I watched the Lethal Weapon VHS tapes so many times as a kid, I wore them out, no kidding.

    I always remember the scene with his son when he is showing him how to shave…so poignant.

    Although, I usually remember that AFTER I remember the bomb under the TOILET!!!!!

    I heart action movies so fucking hard.

  6. June 23, 2010 1:07 am

    Omg. I always felt bad for Murtaugh, between the toilet thing and the stripping down to his chonies/squawking like a chicken thing, he was the butt of many unfortunate jokes.

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