Father’s Day can cause a lot of mixed feelings, because fathers, and family in general, can elicit a slew of mixed feelings. But for all of their complications, there are just as many versions of dads on screen. Today we asked our Shelfers:
Which on-screen dad reminds you of your off-screen dad?
Jefferson Davis: Into the Spider-Verse
Jefferson Davis (Brian Tyree Henry) from Into the Spider-Verse is the most recent example of an on screen dad who reminds me of my own father. Jefferson and Miles‘ relationship really worked for me because I find that it’s not until I know that my father believes I can do something that I truly think I can do it too. All throughout the film Miles gets in his own way and isn’t quite at the level of the other spider characters. I like to think that part of that was because he knew his dad didn’t approve. Miles doesn’t truly become Spider-Man until Jefferson verbally confirms he believes in him. – Daniel Grant
Clark Griswold: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
This probably sounds like a backhanded compliment but I think it has to be Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. It’s a universal rule that dads are embarrassing and nobody embodies this sentiment better than Clark. My dad can be dorky, but always with the best intentions for his family in true Griswoldian fashion. He’s always been there for us, and the holidays for him are more about the gathering of loved ones than material things. And, like Clark, he’s a saint for tolerating his in-laws when duty calls. (We have a few “Shitter was full!” types.) I’m pretty sure he also fantasized about the salesgirl the first and only time we went Christmas shopping together—although she was selling fruity soap at The Body Shop and not lacey panties that don’t leave a line. – Pat Mullen
Stuart Mackenzie: So I Married An Axe Murderer
Now I’m not saying my father is a dead ringer for Charlie’s opinionated, instantly quotable, and overly-loud pop—my da is a blond Italian who is only a wee bit Scottish on his mum’s side—but if he could belt out Rod Stewart while be-kilted and accompanied by a piper, by god he would. It’s frankly a miracle he hasn’t also started his very own Scottish Wall of Fame where he, like Stuart, could pay tribute to the likes of Rod, Sean Connery, Jackie Stewart, Robert Carlyle, Shirley Henderson, Billy Connolly, and their many compatriots. For now though, he’s happy with his dram of Glenfiddich and his dreams of haggis and Scotland. Slàinte Mhath, Dad! Thanks for never commenting on my sizeable noggin. – Emma Badame
Captain Benjamin Sisko: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Father’s Day is a particularly tough occasion for those who’ve lost their fathers. The day is less of a celebration and more of a reminder that your old man is no longer around. He’s not there to give you advice or to deliver a groan-worthy dad joke. He’s not there to get into an argument over matters both trivial and serious, to play a round of golf with, or to sit down and watch an episode of Star Trek with. He’s just not there anymore, but he was. It’s a fact that you are constantly reminded of not just by an annual celebration of paternal bonds, but pretty much every time you see an on-screen father figure.
There’s no shortage of these movie and television dads to remind you (trust me), but the on-screen dad that reminds me of my dad the most is Avery Brooks’ Captain Benjamin Sisko from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Sisko is a stern, serious guy with a soulful side and sense of humour that he only really showed to those he loved; a loyal friend, a great boss, and a master in the kitchen, but someone who’s work often kept him away from his family for long stretches at a time. He made up for it when he was there though and always challenged and encouraged his son to pursue their passion, no matter the strange places it took them.
All of the above could easily describe both my dad or Ben Sisko pretty accurately – they were also both bald and could be kinda scary at times! But while the former may have lacked the latter’s starship and space station (not to mention the whole “Space Jesus saves the galaxy” schtick), Sisko and crew’s adventures on the final frontier served to bring me and my old man closer together during those oh-so-rocky teenage years. And in the years since his passing, those same adventures have served as a bittersweet reminder of what you leave behind. – Will Perkins
Ron Swanson: Parks and Recreation
My sister and I both gave a lot of thought to this question, as our dad isn’t especially cinematic. He is quiet and kind, and only really gets excited when he tries a new beer or has a great family meal. He’s got strong opinions, but tends to keep them to himself. There is, however, one trait of our father’s that is found in none other than the best on-screen example of non-toxic masculinity, Ron Swanson: Our dad is handy as hell. Just as Ron builds canoes and cabins and enjoys the quiet of a good lake, our dad builds workshops and bookcases, and airplanes and guitars (no joke). After retirement my old man went back to school to become and airplane mechanic, and for the past few years he has taken to building guitars from scratch and hanging out with fellow luthiers. And after those long days of creation, he likes to relax on the porch with a beer and a good book. If that isn’t Swanson-esque, what is? –Deirdre Crimmins