As a child of divorce, and of a man who spoke very limited, and broken English, it’s safe to say that I have some daddy issues. Nothing to mull over on a chaise lounge in front of a shrink or anything, but it goes with and without saying that my upbringing didn’t match the norm… At least not the norm that has been spoon-fed to us through popular culture. In reality, divorce is a really common thing.
Since my mother worked quite a bit to pay the bills, I spent a lot of time around my grandfather and various uncles, learning all there is to know about being a dude. I also learned that every person is inherently flawed, and nobody will necessarily fully embody all of your ideals. These “father figures” I had were good men for the most part, but nobody is without faults. These guys were no exception.
Anyway, I felt like I admired older, seemingly wiser men in entertainment when I was growing up. I attribute this a lot to the fact that my dad has been hugely absent in my life. I’m not trying to write a sob story or anything, because I don’t really know the guy. It’s not like I can really miss something that wasn’t there, so I don’t think I’m any worse for wear. I’m probably better off, because his absence instilled in me a desire not to be that kind of person to my own children, who know without doubt that I will always be there to watch over them — Mufasa style.
SPEAKING OF MUFASA, I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorite on-screen fathers. A top 10 if you will. A list to end all lists…of fictional dudes I wish were my dad. So in honor of Father’s Day, let’s do this thing! (These are in no particular order).
(1) Mufasa — The Lion King
What a movie. Sure, it’s a shameless re-telling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet for a younger audience. Who cares? The Lion King was a tumultuous, redemption-filled thrill ride. It makes you feel every emotion on the scale of emotions.
Mufasa is the dude that everybody wants to be. He’s tough, but gentle. He’s wise and pragmatic, but playful at heart. He’ll drop life bombs on your ass all god damn day, and will still have time to wrestle some hyenas and protect the Pridelands.
This guy teaches young Simba so many things before his abrupt and world-shattering demise. He teaches the cub that being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble, but to stand up for what is right and good. He teaches him about duty and responsibility, and not to run away from your fears. He’s also not afraid to get goofy with his kid at the end of the day. It sounds silly, but I model most of my entire life as a parent around this fucking cartoon lion. Deal with it.
(2) Atticus Finch — To Kill a Mockingbird
Atticus “Pimp Specs” Finch, as he is known, is a man from a different time. Atticus was one of few men who would stand up for the African American people when they had very little rights of their own. Atticus risks life and limb to defend a black man he believes to be innocent of raping a young white lady. This takes place during a time in the South when it wasn’t safe to support any black person, let alone defend them against the word of a caucasian. Still, Atticus did, because he is a man of integrity.
Atticus is a simple man, with simple values. Do no harm to others, and do what you say you’re going to do. These simple values are the driving force behind Atticus that people resonate with.
This is a guy that got spit in the face by some greasy piece of shit, and turned the other cheek. Not because he was frightened — Atticus was a big, lean dude, and clearly would’ve beat the piss out of Mr. Ewell — but because he wasn’t going to sink to the dude’s level. Few people would be able to shrug off somebody hocking a phlegm wad in their face, but Atticus did it with poise.
(3) Gandalf — The Lord of The Rings
Oh, Gandalf. The friendly, fun-loving, weed smoking wizard of Middle Earth. This dude just oozed nigh-omniscient wisdom. We can ignore the fact that Gandalf could have used his stupid eagles to solve the ring problem from the start.
Gandalf held the respect of most of the races of Middle Earth. When the dude needed to make a point, everyone would pipe down and listen. If somebody did happen to disrespect him, best believe they would hear about it!
Some of his advice may have been kind of confusing at times, but he certainly sounded like he knew what was going on. Even when he didn’t, he’d always have time to smile it off and help his crew out. That’s a pretty admirable trait for a pappy, if I do say so myself.
(4) Clark Griswold — National Lampoon’s Vacation Series
All Clark ever wanted was to enjoy some time with his loved ones. He’s a man of family values, and I respect that. He is often misguided, and even more often foolhardy, but he always means well.
Some may scoff at him now. He did get a hopeless crush on another woman on their way to Wally World, but he always stayed faithful. It’s not like Ellen wasn’t ready and willing to throw her entire vagina at Wayne Netwon in Vegas Vacation…So, nobody is prefect.
(5) Morgan Freeman — Pretty much anything
This guy could read a Paula Deen cookbook and make it sound like words chiseled on stone by some higher power. Starting his acting career as a kids’ show DJ, and later a dangerous pimp, somebody somewhere in Hollywood eventually got the notion that he should play the wise and experienced father-like figure to supporting casts.
He first exemplified these traits in the classic Lean on Me, and then later in Glory. He always had a nugget of simple wisdom for the other characters to chew on, and he would deliver his line with cool gravitas.
If that man lectured me about doing the dishes, I’d do the damn dishes. He’s played the President, Nelson Mandella, and even GOD. Dude’s a beast!
(6) Eddard “Drop Dead Ned” Stark — A Game of Thrones (ASOIAF)
On second thought, maybe he isn’t the best father figure to wish for. He ultimately abandons his children to a hostile world where everyone wants them dead…
That’s not totally HIS FAULT, though! Ned, above all else, exemplifies honor, loyalty, and duty. He believes in fair claims, and justice, and serving out justice with his own hands. He is essentially Mufasa, but George R.R. Martin’s version. Ironically, both of them end up dead.
Ned just gets in over his head. He has good ideals, unfortunately almost nobody in Westeros shares them. Not even his best friend of decades, Robert Baratheon could stomach his presence for long without getting irritated at his entirely black and white nature.
I respect him, though. He stood for justice, even though the claim to the Iron Throne is always dubious and suspect from the start. Robert Baratheon did “Usurp” the position from somebody else, after all. Still, Ned was cool. He had a big ass Valyrian Steel sword, and he slapped Cersei in her stupid face (in the book.) Those two things are worthy enough to me to land him on this list.
(7) Dan Conner — Roseanne
John Goodman was a big part of my childhood, and was pretty much there along the way for the rest of my life up until now. as well. He was the voice of several kids movie characters, like Rex in We’re Back, or later as Sully in Monster’s Inc. He also played epic parts later in the some of the Coen Brothers’ best films, movies that remain persistent contenders for my favorite movies of all time.
Dan Conner was my first introduction to John Goodman (I had yet to see Revenge of the Nerds at that point). My mom was in love with Roseanne, and we watched it on syndication nearly every night for a long time. Dan was a loving, humble, friendly, and protective member of the Conner family. He was kind enough to allow his daughter’s boyfriends to lodge at their place while going through difficult times, but he also wasn’t afraid to put the fear of God into them either.
That show totally went off the deep end in it’s final seasons, but most of the time I was always able to rely on Dan to give a good laugh and weather through hard situations with a positive outlook.
(8) Harry Tasker — True Lies
I feel for little Eliza Dushku. It isn’t every day you are kidnapped by the Crimson Jihad, get shot at, almost plummet to your doom, and THEN are forced to come to terms with the fact that your gigantically buff dad isn’t a salesman after all…He’s a bonafide killing machine super spy. Still, if it had been anybody else’s child, like the incompetent Albert Gibson (Tom Arnold), it’s likely that she would have ended up little more than applesauce on the pavement below.
I’ve got to admit something — I’m a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger fan. At least when it comes to his movies. Admittedly, I don’t know very much about his old governing policies. When it comes to neck breaking, comical one-liner delivering action, though…few can compare.
True Lies was an exceptional and unique action movie at the time. Mostly because it was as funny as it was exciting. Like Lethal Weapon, it was entertaining and action packed when it had to be, but was a still a light-hearted comedy at heart.
It would just be cool to have a super spy as a dad, even if he used unexplained broken English. Dude could defend the shit out of your house, and snap guys’ necks like they were pencils. Seriously, he breaks an uncommon amount of necks in that movie.
(9) Ron Swanson — Parks and Recreation
Ron Swanson is more than a person, he is a way of life. The mustachioed director of the Pawnee Parks department has little desire for the trivial things in life, like government, conformity, or vegetables.
He lives the life of a masculine, no-nonsense everyman. He believes a man’s word is his bond, is terrified of being connected to the grid, and enjoys a hard days work in labor fields like carpentry. He’s also a lounge act smooth jazz saxophonist known as Duke Silver by night. He truly is the whole package.
As a father, Ron could teach you about the important things in life. Working with your hands, loving your friends and family, and the necessary foods to sustain oneself. He would also to raise you to people to defend your self, and to be able to handle a sizable amount of booze.
(10) Liam Neeson — Pretty much anything
Liam Neeson just has one of those voices, man. He can be equal parts warm, inviting, and intimidating. He has played mentor to legendary characters like Batman, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader. He’s portrayed Zeus AND Aslan. He’s fought wolves and the entire country of France. Add to that, he was your father in Fallout 3. Even if his performance was a little underwhelming, it only helped to cement that wizened father figure image for me.
Like Harry Tasker, it would be really useful to have Qui Gon Jinn, or Ra’s Al Ghul, or Bryan Mills, or any of the dudes he’s played to come to your aid if you were “taken” by terrorists. He’ll judo chop, throat punch, and horse kick his way all the way to your safety.
Well, there you have it. Have you ever admired somebody so much you wish they were your parents? Share your personal list with us below, and as a father, let me give you some advice. Call your father this weekend. He doesn’t want some silly gift, or toolset, or gift card somewhere. Just call your father, tell him Happy Father’s Day, and that you appreciate what he does for you. If you have a dad who you know cares, don’t squander that. Thanks for reading!