I've just finished watching Taken 2 and I feel I have to comment on a disturbing trend in movies. Taken, Taken 2, Live Free or Die Hard. It's been growing every year. A subtle, insidious cancer, designed to break family bonds, sow discontent between father and child, and ruin the the traditional family unit. I'm talking about ultra violent super dads.
Now, I love my kids. I do. Right now they're sleeping quietly in another room and I love 'em even more than I did when they were right here with me. Jumping, yelling, screaming, and sassing me. Much like the Dads in the movie (and to paraphrase Meatloaf; the singer, not the food) I would do anything for them. But I won't do that.
Dads have had a rough go of it. From emotionally absent workaholic fathers who never saw their daughter grow up, to authoritarian beaters, to divorced child support skipping deadbeats, dads have never had much luck in movies. And I'm fine with that. I applaud that. In comparison, I come out looking like Bill freakin' Cosby. I can spend 2 hours at a movie straight from work, be completely absent from their lives all day, and still walk out feeling like father of the year. I taught my daughter to ride a bike. I'm their goto parent for owie kissing, sadness soothing, bad joke making, and kickass playtime imagining. I'm sure I'm more present than my Dad was, and than his Dad was with him. I am the embodiment of the constant evolution of fatherhood.
But then these movies started cropping up. Men, dads, who go to extreme lengths to save their daughters. They wipe out entire crime syndicates with unerring precision. They blow up city blocks, destroy embassies, all without losing focus. Taken 2 upped the anti even further, having the bad guy be a dad out for revenge for the son Liam took out in the first one protecting his daughter! Two Dads going to extreme, improbable, expensive and definitely illegal lengths to protect, or exact vengeance for, their kids. To all of them, I say: Screw you.
I love my kids, I do. If you're reading this, I would go to great lengths for you. But I will never drive a taxi backwards through the streets of Istanbul while simultaneously eliminating my pursuers and dialing a phone. If you get in that kind of trouble, I can promise you that I will feel bad, and I will call the authorities, the newspaper, the embassy, anyone I can think of. I can probably even manage a flight over there to be, y'know, in the area should they find you. I will even write a scathing blog about the ineptitude of the police. It will be poignant, heartfelt, and moving. People will weep uncontrollably when they read it. But that's about as far as I'll go. Hell, I can't even teach you to parallel park, which Liam did so beautifully.
My, point, I suppose, is twofold:
First, to Hollywood: Stop making me feel bad. I'm a good Dad. I don't need to feel like an inadequate wuss (That's what wives are for. Ba dum dum). How about a movie where the daughter can't find her way home from the mall on a Sunday after 6 when the buses have stopped running? I am all over that. Just dial it back a notch, to eighties level Dad heroics. Dabney Coleman, in Cloak and Dagger. Dress up in a flight suit and pretend to be a pilot to a two fingered old lady so they release you? Done. Pretty sure I would die when the bomb went off, but still - the heroic part would have been achieved. Refuse to sign a deed after my Goonie kids have found pirate treasure and a loveable adult whose mother horribly injured him as a child, then left him untreated until adulthood? Done. I'm even willing to compromise and jump forward a decade or two to Armageddon. Assuming I had the skillset to stop the life destroying meteorite hurtling to earth, I could totally shove my daughter's future husband into the ship and sacrifice myself. Well, I probably could. 60% sure. Not sure I could rip the patch off the spacesuit, though...are those things double stitched? Whatever. I'm getting off track. Point is, I can see myself staying behind on the meteorite to save the world and I can even reasonably fool myself into believing I wouldn't be blubbering like a baby while wetting myself. Work with me, Hollywood. Lift me up, don't beat me down.
Secondly, to my children: Movies lie. Don't listen to them. If ever you see a heroic Dad scoff derisively, say something like "but can he sneeze a song out of his head?" and walk out. I love you. I will do everything I can for you. I will support you unconditionally. You will know you are loved, and you will know you always have a safe haven. I will teach you how to build a fence, how to maintain a house, how to google (that's a search engine popular at this point in the century). Juggling, stilt walking, done. I will embarrass you in front of your friends, but I will hopefully also make you proud. I'd say it's a 10/90 split right now, tipping to 80/20 in your teen years, and then settling into 30/70 in adulthood. Hopefully that's enough.