Atticus Finch never did anything wrong as a father. Or at least it seems that way. It would be nice if every father made the right decision 95 percent of the time like Atticus, but real life isn't exactly like "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Lord knows imperfect fathers populate Hollywood's cinematic creations with all the omnipresence of overweight white men at the Republican National Convention, but for every Jack Torrance who never seems to come around to getting it right, there is a flawed dad who finds his Nemo in the end.
Homer Simpson: "The Simpsons Movie"
For all the discourse about what a bad dad Homer Simpson is, the truth is that not only is he funnier than that rip-off guy with the family, but he's an infinitely more appealing father figure. Homer Simpson's trip to the big screen left his flaws intact to the point where his imperfections as a father lead son Bart to actively seek the company of Ned Flanders.
The thing to keep in mind about Homer come Father's Day, though, is that while he is self-involved and oblivious 95 percent of the time, he is usually a redemptive figure who metaphorically on his TV show and quite literally in "The Simpsons Movie" becomes a figure of positive rebellion against the imposition of conformity.
Ted Kramer: "Kramer vs. Kramer"
Dustin Hoffman's character is a real jerk at the beginning of "Kramer vs. Kramer." That may be so, but 30 years down the road and I still prefer to wear buttoned shirts than sport mandarin collars like I saw for the first time in this movie. That may seem like a peculiarly self-aware digression, but the fact that Ted Kramer took a fashion risk in the buttoned-down world of 1970s business hints at his own immersion in the Self.
Only when Ted is forcefully ripped out of his business-oriented masculine world does he come to view the imperfections in his personality as flaws. "Kramer v. Kramer" is all about the redemption of a father who never even took the time to imagine how close he could ever come to losing his son.
Thomas Dunson: "Red River"
"Red River" is so ideologically complex that without a grasp of history and the socio-politics of not just America in the post-WWII era but the specific history of how acting changed in the 1950s, you may think it's just another western. Space constraints disallow me from giving the kind of overview that is necessary for a full enjoyment, so instead I simply urge you to view Thomas Dunson's relationship with his adopted son Matthew Garth as something far richer and more resonant than a simple story of a flawed dad coming to grips with the fact he represents the past and his song the future.
Get to know the difference between John Wayne and Montgomery Clift, between movie star and Method Actor, between tyranny and democracy.
For more from Timothy Sexton, Yahoo!'s first Writer of the Year and never Dad of the Year, check out:
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