It set me thinking, looking at this list. What do these father's have in common that make them so great? I came up with a few manly virtues that these father's have in common:
1. They don't compromise on what is right
Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird) and Chris Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness) are both faced with tough life decisions - to defend an accused black man, and to build for his son a better life than they have now, respectively. There were easy answers to these questions. For Atticus, he could have turned down the case and let someone who wouldn't fight for a black man defend him. And for Chris, he could have given up my son (abandoned him as his mother had done) or perhaps, even settled for a minimum wage job and taught him that that was all there was to expect out of life. But both men felt that they not only owed it to themselves, but they owed it to their children, to side with the greater cause. Atticus tells his daughter that he has to defend Tom "for a number of reasons...The main one is, if I didn’t I couldn’t hold up my head in town, I couldn’t represent this county in the legislature, I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do something again." Atticus knows his integrity as a father goes beyond what his children can see right now - it goes into whether or not he has taught them to believe in what is right, and to be willing to risk everything to defend it.
2. They cultivate their children's imaginations in the midst of hardship
Chris Gardner and Guido Orefice (Life is Beautiful) demonstrate this concept in their films. There is a heartbreaking scene in Pursuit of Happyness where Chris has just lost his home and has nowhere to take his son to sleep that night. He locks them in a bathroom at the subway station and paints a picture in his five-year-old son's mind that they are in a dinosaur cave. They have to hide there, or they will be caught by the dinosaurs. He successfully lures his son to sleep while he stays awake all night, ignoring the janitors who are trying to beat their way inside, weeping all the while. Weeks later, his son asks if they could go back to the dinosaur cave, completely oblivious to how horrible of an experience it had truly been.
Guido does this with his son as well while the two of them are trying to survive in a concentration camp. He goofs off and pretends it's all a big game so his son seems to think this world of death and starvation is nothing more than a stage-setting, and his father is the main comedian. It is a story of pathos and humor, and while the son thinks it's funny, all you want to do it weep, for you feel the effort it takes for his father to carefully protect his son's mind. Even when Guido hides his son in a barrel and is being marched away to be executed, he tells him they are playing hide and seek, and then struts and makes faces, convulsing his son in silent giggles.
These men protect their children's minds not by lying to them, but by turning their attention to how Life is Beautiful, and how, even in hardship, we can all pursue Happyness.
3. They put their family first
Yours, Mine & Ours, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Cinderella Man jump out at me for this one. Talk about fathers who are willing to dream big and fight hard for their families! And yet all three of them do it in such very different ways. Frank Beardsley has 18 children, and man, what a household! Yet he consistently puts family time first and creatively finds ways to feed, clothe, and spiritually nourish his children. Even, in one memorable scene, instructing his daughter on boys and dating while escorting his in-labor wife to the car. In Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Caractacus Potts has a dream - to finally make one of his inventions commercially successful! But he does not allow his work or dreams to interfere with his children - rather, he consistently invites them into his imagination and is willing to put everything in his life on hold to care for them, and listen to their little stories, joys, and trials. Finally, Cinderella Man. I can't say enough, and I fear I can say too little. It's been awhile since I watched this film, yet the practical starvation, the despair, the struggle, and the hope that he insists upon even as his wife threatens to leave him and take the children with her so they can have a better life, is heart-rending. It was the Depression, and work was scarce. James J. Braddock did anything and everything he could to find work, showing up at the docks everyday because his true source of income, his skills as a boxer, did him no good. But Cinderella Man is not primarily a boxing movie - it is a father movie. It is about a father who humbles himself to beg for money to buy his children milk, and a father who firmly and lovingly lectures his son when the boy steals sausages to try to feed their family.
Thank you to all the fathers out there who, like St. Joseph, never compromise on what is right, cultivate your children's imaginations, and put your family first. If you've never seen any of these movies, I highly, highly recommend!
A few call-outs from myself to fathers in TV and Film:
John Smith from Lost in Space (2018)
Jim Halpert from The Office (American)
Keith Mars from Veronica Mars (2004)
Benjamin Martin from The Patriot (2000)
George Bailey and his father from It's a Wonderful Life
Tony Stark from Marvel's Engame
Do you have a favorite father in moves? Please comment below!