Top 10 Tuesdays is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish
Father’s Day has not been a holiday I’ve put much thought into in quite a long time. My father passed away close to 10 years ago unexpectedly. When I saw this week’s topic, my first instinct was to somehow connect it to my top book-related memories of my dad, but I wasn’t sure I would be able to come up with a list of 10.
As I think I mentioned in a past post, my parents realized I had learned to read when I was 3 years old, sitting on my dad’s lap at the kitchen table. I read out the headline and asked what a word in it meant. My dad used to go on a lot of business trips, and he always brought me back books. The best were books like Little Critter or The Lion King which had buttons to press that played a noise at various places in the story. When my dad came home from work during the week and was too tired to read to me, I’d sit on his bed and read books to him instead while he rested. I read at least two of the Harry Potter series to him, and some of the Wayside School books also. One of my favourite non-book-related thing I used to do with my dad is have “daddy-daughter” days, where we would go out to see the latest Disney movie and then go to McDonalds for a treat. I was hoping I’d be able to remember a list of 10 books I could relate to my dad in some way, but unfortunately I couldn’t remember specifically which books came from him.
Instead, I decided to break down my top 10 this week into two sections. The first five are the top fictional fathers or father figures from books, and the second half are the top fictional fathers or father figures that are not from books. I guess a case could be made for those in the second half since they probably all show up in a book at some point, but they originated somewhere else. To be completely honest, I was a lot more interested by most of the characters on the second half of my list, but that may be because the movies and TV shows they come from are many of my all-time favourites. Here are my top 10 fictional fathers:
1) Arthur Weasley (Harry Potter)
For me, part of the appeal of the Weasley family is just how normal they are. Despite growing up entirely in a magical world, their family dynamics are just like any other family – and arguably more normal than the so-called “normal” Dursleys. Arthur Weasley is an excellent father for a variety of reasons. He always puts his family first. When he wins some money in the lottery, the first thing he chooses to use it for is to take the entire family to visit Bill. It may not have been the most economical use of the money, but it was probably the only way to afford bringing everyone. He is general a laid-back, kind of bumbling character, but knows how to pull it together and be serious when it is needed, especially to protect his family. He also sets a great example for his children by showing them that there is more to life than money, and to stand up for what you believe in. He sticks with a job that he has a genuine passion for, even though it means a lower paycheck, and actively refuses to discriminate against Muggles and Muggle-borns. And of course, he quickly took in Harry and treated him from the start as one of his own. In fact, he was open and accepting of everyone his children chose to associate with, even when others in the family were not so happy about it (Fleur Delacour, for example). He’s the kind of dad I think anyone would be lucky to have.
2) Mr. Bennett (Pride & Prejudice)
I wouldn’t necessarily say that Mr. Bennett is a great father to all of his children, but he is a memorable fictional father. It’s actually a little ironic because when I first read this book, I thought he was a great parent, but when you look closer, he’s in a bit more of a gray area. He is a very intelligent man who has a close relationship with Elizabeth, and he brings some great insights into his conversations with her. It is clear that he really cares for Elizabeth, viewing her as his equal, and wants to ensure that she has a good life and a partner who is a good match for her, although that seems to be because he resents his own choice of a wife. He warns Elizabeth about the importance of marrying someone that she truly cares for and respects. Some people seem to interpret his character as lazy and preferring to withdraw from his family life rather than participate with them, and he is often seen mocking his wife. When I first read the book, I saw it as friendly banter but it could also be seen as pure exasperation. Mr. Bennett probably is not a great father figure overall, but if you look specifically at him with Elizabeth, there is quite a great relationship there.
3) Vicente (The Inexplicable Logic of My Life)
If I’m honest, I’m not sure Vicente would be on this list if I hadn’t read the book quite recently. That is not to say that Vicente isn’t a great father figure, because he is, but I’m not sure how memorable of a character he would be. Vicente is a gay man who is raising his adopted son, Sal, as a single parent. He has a great relationship with his son, and is even good with his son’s best friends. He makes himself accessible to them whenever they need help without question or judgment, even taking them in when needed. Vicente also puts Sal first and prioritizes him over everything else, even his own relationships. He makes sure potential partners know that Sal is part of the deal. Another thing I found interesting is how Vicente shared his culture with Sal and raised his son to identify with Vicente’s Mexican roots, regardless of Sal’s skin colour. I also appreciated how the book occasionally mentioned the Vicente taught Sal that there was nothing wrong with showing his emotions, among other important lessons. He is open and honest with his son, and it is clear that they respect and truly love each other.
I’m sure this is a little more on the controversial side given Go Set a Watchman. When I first read To Kill A Mockingbird in high school, we were assigned an essay to argue whether or not Atticus was a hero. My best friend at the time got a C on her essay because our teacher disagreed with her opinion – that Atticus wasn’t really a hero, he was just a regular person who happened to be behaving better than those around him at the time. To me, Scout’s relationship with her father across both books reflects a very real process – we have to remember that in To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout was only a child who naturally idolized her father. As she grew up, she began to see him for who he really was: a real, flawed individual and a person just like everyone else. It is because of this process that I would still count Atticus as one of the most memorable fictional fathers. Atticus raised Scout to stand up for her beliefs, to think for herself, and to challenge those who she disagrees with even when those are the people closest to her. His own attitudes toward race aside, I would still see him as a good and memorable father.
5) Carlisle Cullen (Twilight)
It’s no secret by now that I am no Twilight fan. I thought the story had a lot of potential, but I didn’t like the way it was executed, especially the final showdown. For me, one of the most interesting characters has always been Carlisle Cullen, the adoptive father of Edward and other vampires who live together in a family-type home, where they survive by drinking animal blood instead of humans. Carlisle learned to resist human blood, even studying to become a doctor. Carlisle is another “gray area” kind of character, creating his family by personally turning each of them into vampires although he turned people who were already dying, although it can be debatable whether he saved them or cursed them. Carlisle is a very compassionate person who uses his abilities to help people instead of killing. He loves his “children” and is accepting of others as long as they do no harm. His family is very important to him and he goes to great lengths to protect them.
6) Rupert Giles (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)
Although Giles is not Buffy’s real father, there is no denying that he is much more of a parent to her than her real father ever was. From very early on, Buffy and Giles established a clear parent-child relationship, to the point where Giles’ superiors question his ability to act as her Watcher because he is so blinded by his affection for her. He even gets along generally well with Buffy’s mother, and I’m sure many of us secretly hoped Giles and Joyce would get together at some point in the series. Giles is protective and caring, but also pushes Buffy to rely on her own strength and forces her to grow up when she needs that extra push. Giles goes out of his way to keep Buffy safe and prepare her as best as he can for whatever she might face, both supernatural and not. They wind each other up, banter and drive each other insane as only family can do.
7) Gomez Addams (The Addams Family)
The Addams Family has always been one of my obsessions. I’ve always been fascinated by a family that was so bizarre and yet so normal. In fact, I would say the family dynamics go beyond normal and approach ideal. Here is a family who genuinely love to spend time together, accept each other for who they are, and always put their family first. Gomez Addams, the patriarch, is a very strong father who is passionately in love with his wife and devoted to his children. He, along with the rest of the family, are willing to take in and help any relatives who need them. He loves spending time with his wife and spends hours each day in her company. Gomez is also a great parent to Wednesday and Pugsley, showing unconditional love, teaching them lessons, and supporting them in everything they do. He also seems like he’d be quite a fun parent since he is impulsive, and in certain versions, a little on the childish side himself although he can quickly switch to being serious when needed. In all incarnations of the family, Gomez’s devotion to his family is one of the most consistent, enduring traits. Even in the Broadway musical, Gomez’s main storyline centers around his feelings about Wednesday growing up and falling in love, and he more than anyone else in the family accepts Wednesday’s “normal” fiancée almost immediately.
8) Mufasa (The Lion King)
Mufasa’s death in the Lion King was by far one of the most traumatic movie scenes of my childhood, and I am not ashamed to admit it is one that still makes me cry. The main reason I chose Mufasa as one of my top fictional parents is because of his willingness to be honest with Simba and address difficult topics with him at an appropriate level. Mufasa is not afraid to tell Simba that he might not be around forever, and to teach Simba what it takes to be a good king even though Simba is not ready for those lessons at the time. He has a great relationship with Simba, but isn’t afraid to discipline him and set limits, making sure Simba not only understands the rule but also why it is so important. Mufasa protects his son and puts Simba’s safety ahead of his own, fearlessly diving into a stampeded to rescue Simba. I think it says a lot about their relationship that the idea that Mufasa is disappointed in him, even years after his death, is enough to motivate Simba to finally take action.
9) Marlin (Finding Nemo)
Marlin is a character that really comes into his own as a parent throughout the movie. In the beginning, he is (justifiably) fearful after losing his wife and majority of their eggs to an attack, leaving him extremely overprotective of their remaining son, Nemo. Marlin’s constant anxiety and hovering over his son causes Nemo to push back in attempt to get a bit of freedom. I think part of the strength of this story is how relatable it can be to children who are in Nemo’s position. There are many parents out there who think it’s best to shelter their children in attempt to keep them safe. Marlin quickly has to face every fear he has to try and get Nemo back, literally crossing the ocean and using his wits and other skills to get through each challenge he faces. However, the real strength of Marlin’s story as a father is in the ultimate lesson: that sometimes you have to loosen the reigns a little to let your child grow. Marlin evolves from a nervous helicopter parent who won’t let Nemo leave his side, to a parent who gains confidence in his son’s abilities and learns to show that he has faith in Nemo to manage more on his own as he gets older.
10) Goofy (A Goofy Movie)
This is an extremely underrated Disney movie, and one that needs to be watched several times at different ages. Watching it as a kid, you’ll probably just laugh at Goofy’s antics and slapstick comedy. As a teenager, you cringe along with Max as his dad butts into his life and gets in his way of hanging out with his friends and asking out his crush. As an adult, even an adult without kids, you can’t help but feel bad for Goofy as he desperately tries to reconnect with a son who seems to want nothing to do with him. Given that it’s Goofy, there is no denying that he can sometimes be an embarrassing and frustrating parent to have, but he is also a devoted single father who is doing his best to be there for his son. The strength of this movie is how it manages to simultaneously show the father-son story from both sides, reminding even the most rebellious teen to keep their parents in mind and involved in their lives, even as they grow up. This may be one of the most heartbreaking exchanges in any Disney movie:
Max: I’m not your little boy anymore, Dad. I’ve grown up! I’ve got my own life now.
Goofy: I know that. I just wanted to be part of it.