Today is Father’s Day, where we show love to all the father’s out there. I myself have a lot to thank my father for personally as it was because of him that I got into writing in the first place. Where it not for him reading me C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl to me when I was younger, I never would have picked up the imagination that I have now. So Dad, thanks for the inspiration and support over the years. Love you loads pops! :)
So in honour of this day, I decided to show some respect to Fatherhood by doing a Top Five list of the Fantastic Father characters. In these examples, I look at five characters that for me, really capture the spirit of fatherhood – and what a great father should be. Some of these examples may not necessarily be father’s in their own right – but they do become fathers by proxy and therefore I believe they also can be honoured in this list.
As always, this list is in no particular order and purely based on my own opinion. Also, just a warning – there may be spoilers ahead, so read at your own risk.
So here we go, this is my list for the Top Five Fantastic Fathers.
1. Harry Mason from Silent Hill
You know what it’s like guys – one minute you’re just driving around with your daughter towards a mysterious, fog filled town. Next thing, your car crashes, your daughter is missing and you being attacked by all manner of horrific monsters – all the time shifting between the “real” world and the Otherworld. Then you discover your daughter (who actually isn’t your real daughter BTW) is actually part of a girl called Aleyssa, who some evil cult burned to bring back a demonic God. Aleyssa broke her spirit off in two and that created Cheryl, and now they have to come together to bring this monster back to Earth to bring about a new paradise.
Wow – being a father in a Japanese horror game really does suck!
This is the dilemma that Harry finds himself in the first Silent Hill game. Bet he never thought that when his girl asked him “Daddy, what will I be when I grow up”, he answered “Oh, you’ll be the one that brings the God back to Earth and destroys all humanity.”
But in all seriousness, the fact that Harry is prepared to go through this hell, fighting all kinds of monsters (from giant moths to childlike monstrosities) and facing stuff that would drive a normal person insane to rescue his daughter really shows the strength of his character. Let’s face it, what parent wouldn’t go through hell to save their child? Harry could just turn and run, but no – he fights on, hoping he can rescue Cheryl and bring her home. Fair play to the guy!
Harry is such an important character that in Silent Hill 3, Heather (his daughter, now under a new name to protect her identity) has to go through this same hell – eventually having to avenge her dad when he dies. Harry is a strong, protective dad and the parent that Cheryl (or Aleyssa) deserved in the first place. Harry is one of those tough, action dads that is ready to kick ass and take names! You go Harry, my son!
2. Gru from Despicable Me
The supervillain turned doting father was a surprise for me. Prior to seeing Despicable Me, I had no idea of the story – other than it had the minions. So when the plot with Gru and the girls from the orphanage was introduced, I thought it added a lot of pathos and catharsis (get me with the big words!) to what could have been a fairly bland family movie.
Gru obviously isn’t a father himself, but becomes one through circumstance. When Vector, a rival villain steals a shrink ray that he needs to steal the moon, and failing to break into his base to get it back, Gru has to resort to subtle measures to get it back. He adopts three girls from an orphanage, with the idea that they sell cookies that are secretly robots to break into Vector’s base to steal the ray. What can go wrong, right?
Well, it doesn’t quite go that way for Gru. Though he finds the girls annoying and too needy at first, they do eventually grow on him. And through no fault of his own, he does actually become a great father – even blowing up a carnival stand to win a unicorn for Agnes (arguably the sweetest kid ever put on film). Even when they are sent back to the orphanage (by Gru’s assistant) so that he can concentrate on their villainous plot, he still tries to get back to their dance recital – only to find that they have been captured by Vector. And so Gru has to fight to save them!
Ok, so the last bit is kinda the typical “Damsel in Distress” trope that I often find myself moaning about, but the film more than makes up for it with the relationship between Gru and the girls. It adds a real human element to Gru’s character and turns him from a villain to a devoted father. And that last scene where he reads the kids a bedtime story is actually really touching and heartwarming – and although many won’t admit to it, I’m sure that scene brings a few tears out.
Despicable Me is a great film not just for the minions – but for Gru’s character development. He shows that even the hardest of hearts can be great fathers. This follows onto Despicable Me 2 where he has become fully devoted to his children and will do what he can to protect them. Despicable Me is a much stronger film because of this.
3. Lee Everett from The Walking Dead Video Game Season 1
I debated whether to have Rick Grimes from the TV series on this list, but in the end I went for Lee Everett from The Walking Dead video game. Simply because of the strong emotions that he brings out from the player.
At the start of The Walking Dead, Lee is on his way to prison, but then the Walkers start coming out and Lee is forced to fend for himself. That is until he finds Clementine, a young girl who has become separated from her parents (who were in Savannah when all this went down). Lee takes Clem under his wing to try and get her back to her parents safely, thus beginning one of the best partnerships in video game history in my opinion.
Now how Lee treats Clem is entirely down to the player – and their relationship ultimately changes depending on how you act around her. However there is one constant that never changes no matter how much of a jerk you make Lee – he will do anything to protect Clem. In fact, being around her brings out powerful instincts and he becomes a heroic father and protector to her.
Much like Harry Mason, Lee has to also go through hell to rescue Clementine at one point. Remember how I said earlier that spoilers were ahead? This is a pretty BIG one so cut to the next candidate if you don’t wanna know what happens.
Near the end of Season 1, he is bitten by a Walker and his health deteriorates quickly. But Clem is captured by a madman and he has to fight through an army of Walkers to get to him, in one of the best scenes of the whole game. But even though he rescues Clem, his condition is too far gone and it’s up to Clem how he meets his fate. However it happens, very few video games have such a heart wrenching ending as The Walking Dead, because usually a video game is supposed to have a happy ending and reward you for all your efforts. This ending is a real downer and the fact that Lee and Clem are going to be torn apart makes the ending that much sadder, after all they have been through.
But even though he doesn’t make it, Lee’s advice lives on in Clementine, who becomes the protagonist of Season 2. Everything that Lee taught her is carried across to this game and Clem’s character changed slightly, depending on what she learned. This makes Lee a very important character in Lee’s life, as his life lessons carry onto her – much like the advice of our own father’s carry with us for the rest of our lives.
For me, Lee represents how the actions of the parents will affect their children and makes us wonder, how do we want our children to turn out? But with Lee guiding her, I think Clementine will be ok. Hopefully.
4. Ted Kramer from Kramer vs. Kramer
I only saw this film for the first time last year – and boy was it amazing! I believe that, along with Rain Man, this is Dustin Hoffman’s best role, because the character arc that he goes through is just perfect.
Ted is a workaholic father that puts his career before his family. When Joanna, his wife leaves him, he is stuck with their son Billy and has now balance his working life with being a single father. At first he is utterly terrible at it, coming to arguments with his son more than once (especially during a scene where he tries, and fails, to make French toast), but gradually he settles into the role and, in many ways, becomes a better father than Joanna was a mother. For me the defining moment is when Billy is injured during an accident and he carries him as he runs to the hospital – even being with Billy when he has to have stitches. Ironically, though he becomes a fantastic father, his career suffers because of it. He doesn’t care though, he’s happy spending more time with his son and just earning enough to get by.
When Joanna returns, a legal battle begins where she tries to get Billy. Even though he loses, even Joanna is amazed at the change that Ted has gone through – Billy seems to have brought out the best in him. Ted has a chance to try to appeal against this decision, but decides not to do it as it would involve putting his son on the stand. He won’t do that, knowing the trauma that this trial is putting Billy through already. This is a really unselfish action on his part and one that shows what a great parent he has become, as he is putting his child before himself. For me, that is what a great parent is.
Kramer vs. Kramer is a fantastic film with great performances all around – but Dustin Hoffman’s character development is one of the best that I have seen in a while. He goes from a totally unlikeable jerk to a devoted father and we follow him every step of the way. Joanna is by no means the villain, but Ted and Billy’s bonding is the true heart of the story. Ted shows that anyone can be a fantastic father as long as they follow this one simple rule – do what’s right for your children.
5. Homer Simpson – that is all!
I once used Marge Simpson on a Mother’s Day special to demonstrate empowering women, so why not use Homer Simpson to show a great father.
Well, ok, maybe great is not the word. Because, let’s be honest, Homer is in most cases a pretty terrible father. He’s reckless, selfish and even downright insensitive. He’s often lamenting about his life, cursing his family for holding him back and angry that he isn’t able to get the things he wants. Often, he will forget about important things like anniversaries, birthday parties and other stuff in favour of his own activities. For example, one time he brought Marge a bowling ball for an anniversary present (which almost threw her in the arms of another man), and that’s just ONE example of the downright selfish and horrible things he has done.
So why am I including him in this list of great fathers? Why not?
Actually, there is a good reason – because despite all the crap he puts his family through, despite all the nasty things he does to them, Homer does always come through for his family in the end. Homer knows that without his family, he is nothing. His family are what keep him together and show him that sometimes, the best things in life are right in front of you. And there have been a few times where he has come close to losing his family, but he will always do the right thing where needed.
We love Homer for his antics, but what makes him truly special is the fact that we know that he loves Marge, Lisa, Maggie and (though he won’t admit it) Bart. Homer maybe a knob sometimes, but he’s not a monster. His family are what keep him grounded and that will always be the case.
Maybe one day the time will come when the Simpson family get so tired of his antics and tell him to sling his hook, but with 25 Seasons (and counting) in them, let’s hope there is still some forgiveness in them yet.
What are you favourite father characters? Please let me know on Facebook or Twitter, or in the comments below.
Happy Fathers Day to all the great fathers out there. Keep being as fantastic as you are!