The other day, I looked at some pretty awful fathers that litter pop culture. However, TV, film, and books have yielded some excellent examples of what a good father can be. In honor of Father’s Day, let’s take a gander at just a few of pop culture’s awesome dads.
John Custer (Preacher)
Although Jesse Custer didn’t have much time with his father John before he was cruelly murdered before little Jesse’s eyes, John did impart on Jesse all the wisdom his young son would need to be a good person in an often unfair and mean world:
An’ you be a good guy, Jesse. You don’t take no shit off fools, an’ you judge a person by what’s in ‘em, not how they look. An’ you do the right thing.
You gotta be one of the good guys, son: ‘cause there’s way too many of the bad.
Jesse carried those words with him into adulthood, holding onto them like a lifeline that would comfort him in even his most trying of times and make him assured he was doing the right thing, even if that thing meant confronting God Almighty himself. As much as Jesse’s awful childhood experiences shaped his outlook on the world, John’s words and love created a man who could move beyond adversities that might otherwise break a person.
Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Atticus Finch is the platonic ideal of fathers. He treats his children with respect and gives them their moral agency, using his example to guide his children to be good, decent people. In defending Tom Robinson against rape charges, an African American the townspeople had already written off as guilty, Atticus showed his children that every man deserves the benefit of the doubt and that kindness, courage, and compassion are not always easy, but absolutely vital if the world is to be a better place.
Alfred Pennyworth (Batman)
While a young Bruce Wayne might have had his parents wrested from his life at an early age, gunned down before his eyes, Bruce was not alone. Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family butler, grounds caretaker, and friend, took guardianship of Bruce after his parents’ deaths and acted as his de facto father. While Bruce’s experiences did much to harden the young boy and threatened to take all sense and light from the world, Alfred guided the young man and kept him from a path of despair. If not for Alfred, Bruce might have succumbed to the darkness and instead of wielding that pain into a positive. Even to this day, Alfred helps to mend Bruce’s wounds and dispense advice in the young Wayne’s role as Batman. It’s safe to say that without Alfred, there would be no Batman. Without Batman, there would be no Bruce.
Ben Parker (Spider-Man)
It’s not difficult to imagine what life would be for Peter Parker if he never had his Uncle Ben. Peter was a brilliant kid who suffered bullying on a regular basis. He could have easily turned down a path that would transform him into a bitter, angry young man. However, he was fortunate enough to have an Uncle Ben. After his parents were killed, Peter was raised by Ben and his Aunt May, both of whom showered the young man with love and reminded Peter of his worth and place in the world. Although Peter was indirectly responsible for Ben’s death, Peter has continued to use Ben’s advice “With great power must come great responsibility” to mold the kind of person he wants to be as the superhero Spider-Man. Spurred on by Ben’s memory, Peter refuses to give up and tries his best to do right by the world.
Louis C.K. has been very forthright about his parenting philosophy both in his comedy acts and on his FX series Louie, which follows a part autobiographical, part fictionalized version of his life. While on the surface Louie seems to be an unconventional dad, we’re shown time and again how much he adores his kids and how seriously he takes his responsibility to be their shepherds on the path to adulthood. Whether it’s in dispensing lessons on how unfair the world can be or what responsibility we have to one another, Louie is, by and far, one of the best fathers in all of pop culture.
Honorable mention: Batman
I think it’s safe to say that Batman’s parenting has been something of a mixed bag. Part of that comes from his brooding, driven personality. However, the other part lies in what his actual role is to his partners and adopted sons. Is he their father? An older brother? Mentor? Boss? The lines can become blurred. However, regardless of how strained things might become between himself and his charges, there’s no question that Batman loves each and every one of them and has done his best to prepare them to confront a sometimes-terrible world and become the men they want to be.