So it’s Fathers Day. A time when we as dads hopefully get to sit back and reap the rewards of another 364 days of exemplary parenting. Failing that, we get a cracking new mug and a trip to the carvery. It’s a good time to be a male parent and I’ve found that as a father of three, the joy is only amplified by having three little sets of feet stamping on me while I’m still asleep. I’m not so much a fan of the 3x increased chance of being elbow-dropped in the crotch but it comes with the territory.
Now, my relationship with my own father is somewhat patchy. He didn’t seem a terrible guy when he was around, he just wasn’t really around. Before my parents broke up he worked a lot as a chef so my good memories are mostly of being brought cheese souffles in bed or eating leftover yorkshire puddings. The rest of my memories from that time are mostly of shouting and the throwing of vinyl LPs at the living room wall (another thing the internet has ruined for us). He left our household when I was still very young and although he was still around from time to time, I spent a lot of my formative years looking for role models elsewhere.
So I spent my spare time playing videogames, reading books and watching tv. While I did so I absorbed all those situations I saw in all that media, especially those that seemed to be missing in my own life. I sat there, an only child of a single parent sitting in a house in the back end of nowhere, I saw a lot of different families on tv that were totally different. They were mostly much more exciting than my own and they almost always had a dad that lived in the house.
So, gleaned mostly from those formative years and in no particular order, here are my top ten fictional fathers.
Wayne Szalinski (Honey I Shrunk The Kids)
That’s right. The first on the list is the dad from Honey I Shrunk the Kids! What better role model could you hope for than a father that goes on a rescue mission to find the kids he nigh-obliterated and shrunk to the size of atoms when a scientific experiment goes haywire. I think it says a lot about the lengths we’ll go to for our children but also that we sometimes mess up but always work our butts off to fix it when we do. It doesn’t usually involve fighting giant ants and riding cheerios though.
Charlie Burrows (The Upper Hand)
This one was a big favourite of mine. The Upper Hand showed a family that sort of had a mum and a dad but it was just unorthodox enough to appeal to the single-parent child. This resonated pretty closely with me at the time. I think it may also have given me some rather complex feelings about Diana Weston. Following a lot of this I remember asking a great deal of questions about why nanna didn’t live in our house.
Tim ‘The Tool-Man’ Taylor (Home Improvement)
Home Improvement was one of the big US family comedy shows that actually made it across to us in the UK. I remember thinking how awesome it must be to have a dad who was on TV, how massive their house was and how mysterious it must be to form a friendship with a neighbour who’s just a hat.
Kevin Webster (Coronation Street)
Kevin seemed a lot more like the other dads that I saw picking up my mates from school. He wasn’t part of some unrealistic setup (at least to my child brain) and instead he seemed to do the same amount of pointing and shouting that the other kids’ dads did. He also wore some very similar polyester jackets. Kevin seemed like a good dad even if he sometimes got a bit crazy. Here’s a clip of Kevin’s fathering skills.
Clark Griswald (National Lampoons Family Vacation)
Clark is the quintessential try-hard dad. He just always wants everything to be perfect but ends up in terrible, awkward situations. I like to think that at my worst, most-frustrating moments I can call on the patience of Clark Griswald to see me through. I also think that he represents the fact that we all mean well even if it ends up getting all messed up in the end.
The Dads from My Two Dads
I remember almost nothing about the one that isn’t Paul Reiser but I do remember being totally fascinated about the idea of having two dads. As someone who had about half a dad I thought it would be kinda cool to have two whole ones. Little did I know that my dad would eventually leave my mum and enter into a same-sex relationship so ultimately it kinda came true! My mum failed to see the funny side at the time. Also she didn’t watch My Two Dads so the parallel was lost on her.
Homer Simpson and Ned Flanders (The Simpsons)
I know these are technically two dads but they always struck me as two sides of the same fatherly coin. One was hapless and lazy but fun-loving, the other very straight-laced. It seemed they represented some of the best qualities of fatherhood and also some of the worst. Both seemed to have a good time so it showed me you could be a dad in more than one way and that dads could be very different. I also took solace in the fact I hadn’t ever had to deal with being strangled although one time I did throw a lunchbox at his head.
Admiral James T Kirk (Star Trek III: The Search for Spock)
This was a tough watch as a kid. Knowing that Kirk didn’t really know his kid (parallels, parallels) it was a shock when he was killed. I got to see how a movie dad reacted to the death of his son, which is a lot for a kid to wrap their mind around. It showed how important a son could be to someone. It also gave me a life-long distrust of Klingons and 80s hair but gave me the phrase “Khaaaaaaaaaaan!”
Mufasa in The Lion King
Muphasa was always an incredible icon of strength in that movie so it was hard to see him taken down. Without getting any psychologists over-excited, I think The Lion King spoke to me about how a child can feel to blame for serious life-changing events. It was around the same time that my parents got divorced so I could empathise with the guilt Simba felt for the death of his father. The realisation, as it is in real life too, is that it’s never the kids fault. I also really liked the idea of a warthog that made friends with a meerkat.
The Dad from Home Alone
Seriously, what did he do for a living that he could afford to take 30 people to Paris and own that massive house? My guess has always been money laundering or some other kind of organised crime but whatever it is, all those plane tickets were bought with dirty money.