Last time, we observed Mother’s Day by taking a gander at 12 underrated fictional mothers. And since this is the month of Father’s Day, it only seems fair that we give 12 underrated fictional fathers the same treatment. Let’s not waste any time and dive right in.
#12: Grandpa Joe from Willy Wonka
This guy has gotten a lot of hate over the years. And to be fair, it’s not altogether unwarranted. He spends twenty years in bed until his grandson finds a golden ticket, throws childlike insults around about the other kids, encourages Charlie to steal, and has his own outburst after Wonka has a vocal seizure. But he’s still earned a spot on this list, and here’s why:
- Charlie’s father is dead in the 1971 movie, which means Grandpa Joe has stepped in to be Charlie’s father figure
- He resolves to stop using tobacco once he sees that a loaf of bread is the equivalent of a banquet for the family
- He believes in Charlie throughout the contest despite the impossible odds, tries constantly to keep Charlie’s hopes for a better future alive. “Kid’s gotta have something to hope for” is his excuse.
- He recognizes that the way the other parents raised their kids wasn’t right
- He’s the one who warned Charlie about Slugworth, which ultimately led to Charlie passing the test in the end
#11: Cameron and Mitchell from Modern Family
…honestly, these guys are here mainly because they’re so entertaining. Not only do they navigate life’s ups and downs as a gay couple raising a Vietnamese girl, but it’s also fun watching them do it.
#10: Richard Castle from Castle
Castle has the maturity level of a child. He touches everything in sight, he makes faces at a school kid who gives him hell, and he compares his first ex-wife to a deep-fried Twinkie. But when he sees a child in jeopardy, there’s nothing joking or playful about his demeanor. When his daughter is abducted, he literally flies to France to find her and bring her home. When a nine-year-old is held hostage, he negotiates for the release of her and her mother before anyone else. When it’s revealed that a child might’ve witnessed a murder, he interacts with the kids to find the possible witness, and along the way helps them open up about their fears and insecurities.
#9: Fa Zhou from Mulan/James from Princess and the Frog
Two fascinating father figures in Disney are Fa Zhou and James. They were both teacher figures who believe in their daughters, but not to the point where they coddled them. They were both tired to the bone sometimes, but they still summoned enough energy to provide for the girls. And for much of their respective movies, Mulan’s and Tiana’s motivations revolved around their fathers. Much like Kala and Jumbo, the two fathers’ differences are fun to compare too. Fa Zhou was more stern and stone-faced, while James radiated warmth and passion. Mulan was concerned about keeping her father alive, while Tiana’s goal was living the dream her father never made a reality.
#8: Stoick the Vast from How to Train Your Dragon
The relationship between Hiccup and Stoick isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. They have different opinions on how to solve an issue, Hiccup wants Stoick’s approval, Stoick wants Hiccup to be different, you know it and so do I. Two interesting factors help this relationship stand out. One, the writers and animators for the movie know how to bring this relationship to life. From the expressions to the conversations to the actions, everything feels genuine. You know how much Stoick gets annoyed with Hiccup, but you also know how much he cares about his son. You see how much Hiccup looks up to Stoick, but you also see him trying to do what’s right for the dragons. The second factor is how the relationship develops in the TV series and the sequel. It’s awkward at first, but both parties are making the effort to communicate and compromise with each other. And by the time we get to the sequel, we get a glimpse of a healed relationship.
#7: Hector from The Vile Village
From a cowardly grammar fanatic to a Trump-esque vice principal to a financial advisor with the humility of a peacock, Lemony Snicket seems determined to make the Baudelaires as miserable as humanly possible. The Baudelaires’ best legal guardians is an eccentric herpetologist, and he dies. But Hector is second best for a few reasons:
- Though timid, he doesn’t try to bribe his way out of trouble by handing the Baudelaires over to Olaf
- Even though it’s breaking the village rules, he provides ways that the Baudelaires can scratch their reading, inventing, and biting itches
- He visits the Baudelaires in jail and gives them the final clue they need to find their friends
- He builds an air mobile that gets the Quagmires out of Olaf’s reach
- He looks an entire village straight in the face and pretty much says “F*ck your rules, I’m done with this shit.”
#6: Long John Silver from Treasure Planet
In the original book as well as nearly every adaptation, Silver takes on the role of mentor and father for Jim Hawkins. Even Tim Curry understood this while scaring little girls in Muppet Treasure Island. So what makes this animated Long John Silver stand out above the rest? To put it simply: the attached clip from the movie.
#5: Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice
Honestly, the only thing that makes this guy worth mentioning is that he’d fit right in with a modern-day stand-up comedian. In a weird family where each character has her own illogical form of logic, Mr. Bennet is one of the few voices of reason. That and his witty comebacks are a riot.
#4: Ross Geller from Friends
He may be phenomenally stupid, but give him credit for wanting to be there when two of his ex-wives bear his offspring. And he also wanted to send his daughter to a science camp, so that’s a bonus.
#3: Burt Hummel from Glee
Up until around the time Glee started airing, men and women had their own set of expectations to fulfill. Because of this, Burt admits that he doesn’t know how to be a father to a gay son. While he accepts Kurt for who he is, the two don’t have a lot of common ground to build a connection on. One likes fishing and sports, the other likes Broadway and clothes. This becomes especially problematic when Burt starts bonding with his new girlfriend’s son Finn, and Kurt becomes jealous. Thus, Kurt tries to act like the stereotypical man to gain his father’s approval. This relationship has all the traits of the relationship between Hiccup and Stoick, except Kurt always had Burt’s approval.
#2: Bert from Mary Poppins
Mary Poppins and Bert have always offered a different view of parenthood that we don’t always talk about. She’s the strict and stern guardian, he’s the one having a blast. She’s the one with insane self-control, he’s the first one to join Uncle Albert on the ceiling. But even when you don’t have Mary Poppins there, Bert has fulfilled fatherly duties in ways that Mr. Banks never did. When the kids run away from the bank scared out of their minds, he’s the one who comforts them, teaches them empathy, and brings them home safely. When the kids don’t have a babysitter, he keeps them company. And when Mr. Banks wants to blame Mary Poppins for his problems, Bert gently offers him a different viewpoint. “Get to know your kids now; there might not be another time.”
#1: Iroh from Avatar
It’s hard to tell the story of Iroh and Zuko without giving anything away. So I’ll let the YouTube clip do the talking.