What Captain America Taught Me About Fatherhood

It should surprise just about no one when I say that I saw Captain America: The First Avenger on Saturday.

I dug it. It’s one of the better movies I’ve seen this summer and definitely one of the better superhero movies I’ve seen in a while.

What I really appreciated, though, was something beyond the super heroics.

There wasn’t a daddy issue in sight.

I’m not sure when it was decided that all male movie heroes had to be saddled with some kind of issue caused directly by their fathers.

But some of the greatest, most popular heroes have the absolute crappiest fathers imaginable. I think there is a certain generation of men that deals with dads being absent or disinterested. But that pales in comparison to what some of these guys had to deal with.

Luke Skywalker: Father cuts off hand, wears fetish gear, commits planetary genocide and crashes dinner at Cloud City without invitation.

Superman: Father lectures constantly from beyond grave. Says he has to let his girlfriend die.

Thor: Father kicks him out of kingdom and exiles him to Earth, right after calling him an arrogant jack ass in front of said kingdom.

Iron-Man: Father is brilliant, absent, dismissive and a drunk.

Indiana Jones: Father inexplicably Scottish. Also a bit of a prick who continually makes fun of Alex Trebek on Jeopardy.

So the message is this: the only sure fire way to become a hero, aside from being near radioactivity, is to be raised by the worst father available.

Real nice, Hollywood.

There is a lot of conversation going on about the state of American fatherhood. About how fathers are getting more involved with raising their kids. Opening up about how they feel about being fathers.

That’s good. We’re not the most emotionally revealing gender.

But it does make me wonder what the state of fatherhood has been — or is perceived to have been — that so many writers, producers and directors have been compelled to let some kind of feeling come out in their work.

Working it out didn’t seem to be the case with Captain America.

Steve Rogers is a good man.

His choices are his own. He is concerned with larger issues — about doing what is right in that bigger, grander sense of the word that made him feel like a refreshing, timely throwback in an era of burst bubbles and internet bitching and governmental bickering.

Maybe his father influenced him. Maybe he didn’t.

We don’t know. Steve never mentions his dad. Not once that I can remember.

And that is the mark of a truly outstanding father, I think.

That someday, the kids grow up to make good, fine decisions and lead good, fine lives without us hovering like ghosts in the background.

Alternatively, they grow up to make bad, unhealthy decisions and lead bad, unhealthy lives while we sit on their shoulders and whisper inadequacies.

I hope to become forgotten and unrecognized.

To teach and guide my kids to make their own way in the world so that they are the heroes of their own stories, not mine.

If only there were a Super Soldier Serum for that.

  12 comments for “What Captain America Taught Me About Fatherhood

  1. July 27, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    On a serious note – most comics are created are pretty dysfunctional dudes/chicks who projects their issues onto the page.

    The guy who created Superman – dad was shot. The guy who created Batman – dad was absent, later died. Stan Lee came from a dysfunctional home.

    My girls already forget and don’t recognize much of what I do. But how they conduct themselves in public and in private speak to how their mom and I are kicking more ass as parents than the Hulk does when the military comes after him when he’s really green.

    For an example go check out http://www.sluiternation.com today. The featured blogger is some goof you may know.

    You ‘re good man and good dad, Alan. That makes you an Avenger.
    Lance recently posted..Cuts You Up

  2. July 27, 2011 at 10:19 pm

    Totally with you on how good the movie was. The boys and I enjoyed it thoroughly, so much so the Captain now represents a memory for us.

    Your thoughts are right on the money. The characters that leave the biggest impressions on me are the ones that make me want to be a better person, man, father, husband when I walk out of the theater.

    Funny you mention the Hollywood daddy issue connection. I remember thinking part way through, “Hmmm, no daddy issues? Weird.”
    Clark Kent’s Lunchbox recently posted..Chicks Love Tetris

  3. July 30, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    It’s a relief when a story is told on its own terms, without the gratuitous injection of the dysfunction of the week. It’s unfortunately rare in a culture where everything, including suffering, is a commodity.

    Can’t wait to see this movie.
    Wolf Pascoe recently posted..What is it, exactly, about the F word?

  4. August 14, 2011 at 10:22 am

    I came here from Lance’s blog, and I’m glad I did. I, too, really enjoyed Captain America. He just make sound decisions, had morals and honor and kindness in him. He was able to have a true friendship with another man, without being afraid to let that guy know he did care. He was respectful of the woman he loved, and wasn’t crude about his feelings. And is wasn’t all “despite” something or another his parents did.

    I don’t think men (or women) have to be all mushy gushy la la la to be good parents or to express love. I think they need to cut through the I Can’t Show Emotion bullshit, but just enough to recognize how much it means to hold hands.

    I knew there was more to why I enjoyed this superhero/comic movie than some of the others. Thanks for helping me see why.
    Kim at Let Me Start By Saying recently posted..Proverbial Lemons Are Not Yellow

    • August 16, 2011 at 1:41 pm

      Thanks so much for stopping by.

      It’s hard to find role models, especially as boys. Super heroes used to be different. If Jack ends up being half the guy that Steve Rogers was, I figure we did a pretty good job.

      Although I hope he doesn’t feel compelled to juice up to be his best self.

  5. hannamay
    August 16, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    I really do love Captain America, he has a good character with moral and kindness in him…
    hannamay recently posted..Trying To Get Pregnant Tips

    • August 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

      Sadly, that too often reads as “square” or “uninteresting.”

      I was so pleased with Marvel’s ability to stick true to the character, instead of making him all grim and gritty. America is grim enough right now.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Maxine
    August 26, 2011 at 12:27 am

    Why do we always blame it to our father? No one ever blame it to their mother? Mother is always the good person while daddy who is always away has something to hide inside their closet?
    Maxine recently posted..angry birds for pc

    • August 31, 2011 at 6:46 am

      I think in these kind of movies, Daddy issues are very much at play.

      But mothers certainly haven’t escaped unscathed. Psycho. Ordinary People. Mommie Dearest. There are some iconic, terrible Moms out there, too.

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    March 15, 2012 at 4:07 am

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  8. Roland Musquiz
    May 5, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Whether you’re expecting your first child or your kids are grown and on their own, being a dad is a new experience. When my wife was pregnant, we decided to have a homebirth. We hired a doula and two midwives. I won’t tell you how much it cost. According to them and other experts, labor was going to last 10-12 hours. My son had other plans. My wife’s labor was so short that the only other person in the room when he was born was – guess who? – me. After nine months of preparing to support my wife in the birth of my first child, there I was, with no medical training, serving as midwife, doula, and doctor. I fought off the strong desire to run out of the room as fast as possible. When I caught Joaquin, I experienced pure exhilaration and love. `”

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