Rachel Strange

Dads, it’s your weekend, and I hope you feel appreciated, honored, and loved. You all frequently get a little bit of a bad rap in pop culture, getting portrayed as clueless, aloof, or just plain rude. Maybe sometimes those stereotypes are based on the unfortunate experiences of the writers. But you, Dad who is reading this right now, I bet you aren’t like that. So this week I honor you by pointing to the fictional fathers who I’m sure you most resemble.

As easily the greatest fictional father of my generation’s childhood, The Lion King’s Mufasa starts this list. Not only does this King of the Pridelands have literally the most regal, fatherlike voice possible, but he also embodies that excellent balance between fatherly expectations and grace that I’m sure all great fathers hope to achieve. When Simba needed him he was there, even in death. It’s pretty impressive.

It was tough to pick my favorite “Father Figure” type for this list, as frankly, there are a ton more great father figures in pop culture than actual fathers. Do I pick Alfred Pennyworth? Captain Holt from Brooklynn 99? Every mentor type from almost every show? In the end, I settled on Rupert Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer because I love the way it doesn’t start in any fatherly way at all. He’s not looking to replace her absent dad. He’s just her Watcher aka her handler. He’s supposed to train her, not get attached to her. In the end his attachment gets him fired from his job as her Watcher, but that doesn’t stop him from figuring out the best ways to help Buffy succeed, even if that sometimes means letting her figure it out on her own. He’s not perfect, and they get in serious conflicts throughout the series. But he’s also as present as he can be. An aspiration any parent should shoot for.

The last parent on the list is probably the most obviously flawed at first, but his arc in incredibly redemptive in the end. I’m talking about Scott Long aka the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Ant-man. Yes, we first see him getting out of prison. He’s not always made the best choices for his daughter. But he genuinely desires to make up for it, even though superhero-ing gets in the way sometimes. He’s the kind of dad who’s always down for the weirdest fun and who never thinks he’s too important for whatever interests his kid. And the moment between he and his daughter in Endgame was an underrated moment in the movie. But it’s his fun spirit that I would bet most Dad’s reading this would love to tap into more often.

As good as these fictional dads are, I bet you, dad reading this, are even better. Go have some expectations with some grace. Don’t forget to be present. And don’t forget to have fun. Happy Father’s Day.

Strange Perspective is a unique weekly look into today's pop culture by Progress columnist Rachel Strange.