What is a father? Beyond the biological definition of playing the male role in creating a baby, being a father means a lot of different things to different people. When we think of a father in the traditional sense, it usually means he is the provider, the breadwinner, going back to the hunter, gatherer days, the one whose job it is to provide both food and shelter for his family. Beyond that, he is also often thought of like the one that provides spiritual guidance and as such is the designated leader of the family and sometimes the tribe, guiding those that follow his lead.
The father is also expected to be a symbol of strength. Physically, intellectually, spiritually or in some other way, I may have overlooked. As such the father fills the role of both protector and the one who metes out punishment, He is the two-edged sword of toughness and compassion that while embodying strength, is also capable of wisdom, his unique brand of love, and tenderness. He is the teacher and sometimes prophet. Going deeper into the Judeo/Christian traditions of a father’s role, he is also the creator or by extension, the builder and doer of things, that by imposing his will on his surroundings, for better or worse, creates a new world for those he has under his sway.
He is the teller of bad jokes, the king of his castle, and the rock of dependability that those around him cling to in troubled times, but mostly he’s good old dad, and the lives of those around him and the world would be much poorer in his absence.
There’s a lot of examples of fathers in science fiction and fantasy, both good and bad. The following is a list of my favorite science fiction and fantasy dads that best embody the qualities I have discussed here.
Arthur Weasley – Harry Potter FranchiseArthur Weasley is certainly quirky, and occasionally seems a little clueless, but he’s a great dad. He’s 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. His disheveled appearance belies his inner strength, His greatest gift to those around his is his boundless love he feels for them.
Jor-El – SupermanJor-El knows that he and virtually every other inhabitant of his planet are going to die imminently. When he realizes that any chance of hope has passed, 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 child’s education to some degree, making sure that in spite of Krypton’s destruction, Kal-El would have some idea of his history.
Jonathan Kent – Superman
Jonathan 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.
Mr. Incredible/Bob Parr – The IncrediblesBob Parr doesn’t start out the movie as a terrific 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, you know, it has to be kind of cool for a kid, knowing for an absolute fact that your dad can beat up, well, pretty much any other dad out there, right?
Benjamen Sisko – Deep Space NineIt 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, all during an interstellar war. 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.
Dr. John Robinson – Lost In SpaceJohn is an expedition commander, a pilot, and the father of the Robinson children. He is an astrophysicist who also specializes in applied planetary geology. As leader of the expedition, he also has to play double duty as a dad, and deal with the plethora of unpleasant surprises that appear in the path of himself and those he cares for and loves. He is the embodiment of the definition of a great dad.
Walter Bishop – FringeThe phrase ‘I would shake heaven and earth’ comes to mind when thinking of Walter Bishop, he crossed over to another universe because the loss of his son was so unbearable. The act caused him damage and left him insane for awhile, but he never regretted the sacrifice he made out of love for his son. He is a tormented soul who is very aware that what he has done may destroy the universe but still considers it worth it to save Peter even if the Peter he saves is not his own.
Data – Star Trek: The Next GenerationData is one of the most unusual dads on our list. Since he is not human, does he qualify to be here? I respond with a resounding yes. As any fan knows, Data’s pursuit of understanding humanity was often demonstrated to be ironic by his choices and behavior which made it clear he was sometimes more human than actual people. But all that aside: Data is a great dad! First, he names her “Lal” which means “darling” in Hindi, allows her to choose her race and gender from several thousand examples he prepares for her, and supports her final choice to be a human female. He sends her to school to socialize with other children, and when that doesn’t go well, let’s her have a job in Ten Forward, where Guinan can keep an eye on her. He provides for her in every way, and every choice he makes on her behalf is designed to optimize her existence as a sentient living being. He makes none of the selfish choices or has any of the shortcomings a human parent might have.
Jean-Luc Picard – Star Trek: The Next GenerationJean-Luc is the ultimate father figure, and although he’s not his biological father, Jean-Luc does sometimes serve as a surrogate father to Wesley Crusher. In fact, he’s the surrogate father of his entire crew. The character is designed to be somewhat of an archetypical figure, and as the ‘great white father’ Picard sometimes seems more symbolic and perfect than any real father could hope to be. Jean-Luc is nearly perfect in being an all around person well suited for his station in life, As Captain Picard, he always puts the welfare of his crew and ship ahead of his own. He’s less impulsive than another starship captain I could name and considers his options before making a decision. He is wise, capable, intelligent, robust and brave; all of the qualities we all believe our fathers possess as children when we still worship them as being without flaws.
Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker – Star Wars Darth is an example of what can happen when someone who has not gained the maturity to deal with life responsibly. It’s simply more than he can handle. Darth/Anakin is also an example of what can happen when religious fanaticism overrides common decency and sense. He is an icon of poor decision making, and when he realizes he screwed up, he whines about it instead of taking responsibility for his mistakes. His fall to the dark side represents his desire to make his mistakes disappear somehow magically. Another wrong choice. By the time he realizes he’s a dad his first instinct is to attempt to exploit it, and if that fails to kill his son. He’s almost beyond redemption, In the end, his only salvation is the love of his son who unfortunately doesn’t arrive in time to maybe help him not become such a drama queen.
So there you have it. What science fiction and fantasy dads would you add to the list? I was thinking of adding Jango Fett who wasn’t a dad since his ‘son’ was a clone of himself which makes him more of a narcissist than a father. So to all of you real world fathers out there Happy Father’s Day!