This Sunday is Father’s Day … a day that promises to be filled with bacon, power tools and fishing gear.
As I look through pop culture for examples of dads, I find that it’s an uphill battle. Homer Simpson seems to set the standard. Just watch a little Family Guy, Modern Family or Last Man Standing and you see bumbling cliques. Not really something to aspire to.
Recently I found a list of better role models found in Geek Literature. (Not Greek. Geek. I studied Greek. I live Geek.) They wrote:
It really is kind of amazing how few good dads there are in geek fiction. In so many stories fathers are absent for one reason or another (death being fairly common), and in so many others the fathers are so emotionally distant they might as well not be there. And occasionally there are the stories where the father turns out to be one of the villains.
So where are the Cliff Huxtables of science fiction and fantasy? The Atticus Finches? You do happen upon dads of those stripes, or roughly equivalent ones, every now and then. Here’s our list of the top 10. (Warning: Possible spoilers ahead!)
10. Kyle Reese — A strange case, to be sure: He only knows his son, John Connor, as an adult, and at that time has no idea that Connor is his son. Despite not ever having the chance to be a real dad during his son’s life, he nonetheless earns his place on the list for literally giving his life to allow his son to be born.
9. Jor-El — He knows that he and pretty much every other inhabitant of his planet is going to die imminently. When he realizes that hope is pretty much lost, he puts all of his efforts into making sure his son survives the cataclysm. He even manages (depending on which version of the origin story you believe) to provide for his son’s education to some degree, making sure that in spite of Krypton’s destruction, Kal-El would have some idea of where he came from.
8. Bill Adama — He’s not the most conventional of parents, to be sure, and we never see what kind of dad he was when Zak and Lee were kids. But we see his anguish over Zak’s death, which he knows was in large part caused by Zak’s desire to follow in his dad’s footsteps. And, though we see his unhappiness with many of Lee’s choices (such as supporting Baltar during the trial), we can still see his pride in Lee’s accomplishments. And the way he becomes a surrogate father to Starbuck shows the tender side of his personality.
7. Mr. Incredible / Bob Parr — He doesn’t start out the movie as a very good dad, to be sure, but he figures it out along the way. By the time the movie ends, the Parrs are a happy family that fights crime together. Plus, y’know, it has to be pretty cool for a kid, knowing for an absolute fact that your dad can beat up, well, pretty much any other dad out there, right?
6. Ray Kinsella — Before anyone starts to claim that Field of Dreams doesn’t qualify for this list, let us just remind you that the story is about dead baseball players coming back to some form of life on an ex-corn field in Iowa — sounds like fantasy to us. You could argue that Ray isn’t the greatest dad in the world, seeing as how he spends a lot of the movie away from home, but the time he spends with his daughter makes it clear how much he loves her and wants to share the things he loves with her. And, given the guaranteed-to-make-grown-men-weepy ending, we had to put this on the list.
5. Arthur Weasley — He’s certainly quirky, and occasionally seems a little clueless, but he’s really a great dad. He’s absolutely loyal and supportive of his sizable family, including continuing to try to redeem his estranged son Percy even when he seems completely lost. Without the benefit of wealth, he and Molly still manage to keep their family going strong even in the face of Death Eaters.
4. Jonathan Kent — He and Martha instill the sense of justice that makes their adopted son into a superhero. Consider the kind of villain Clark might have become if they’d been lousy parents. It has to be a pretty big blow to any guy’s masculinity when your son can pick you up before he’s even out of diapers. Instead of being resentful, though, Jonathan encourages his son to develop his powers, while making sure he’s careful about how he uses them.
3. Sam Vimes — He’s the Commander of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch (found in Terry Pratchett’s fiction), with a huge list of responsibilities to take care of and (often) fights to fight. Yet, once Young Sam is born he instantly puts reading a bedtime story to him atop his list of priorities, realizing that if he compromises as a dad he might compromise in other parts of his life, as well. If that isn’t being a good dad, we don’t know what is.
2. Ben Sisko (Commander of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine)— It has to be pretty tough to be a single parent when you have to run a space station and be the Bajoran Emissary of the Prophets at the same time. Nonetheless, Sisko does a pretty credible job of it, raising Jake to be a smart, confident, independent young man. He does end up (literally) vanishing in the end, but since the reason for his disappearance is that he’d just saved the entire Alpha Quadrant (including his unborn second child and Jake) from the Pah-wraiths, that seems forgivable.
1. Geppetto — Without having the slightest intention of becoming a dad, he’s dropped into the job by a magic block of wood. And he certainly rises to the occasion: Despite being broke, he manages to provide for Pinocchio, and he travels all around the world to rescue him. And that’s all while Pinocchio’s still made out of wood.
Also check out Geek Dad’s list of the Top 10 Mothers in Science Fiction and Fantasy,which I posted a year ago on Mother’s Day
Note: This article was originally published on GeekDad on June 18, 2010.