Which father figure are you?
Whether they are traditional, supportive, imaginative, or abusive, father figures have the ability to affect the well-being of their children. Which father figure are you?
Chris Gardner’s famous quote to his son in the film is, “You got a dream. You gotta protect it. People can't do somethin' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want somethin', go get it.” This inspiring and feel-good movie pays homage to the American Dream in which upward social mobility is possible as soon as you are willing to work hard enough for it. Different countries have a range of myths and foundational values that promote cohesiveness in society; however, these myths can also lead to reductionistic simplifications of more complex processes. Muccino’s Pursuit of Happyness stands up for the myth of the American Dream: Work hard to get what you want and be happy. In the film, Chris Gardner embraces the American Dream while trying hard to be a good role model for his son.
Vito Corleone represents the traditional fatherhood model: The cold, distant, disciplinarian and breadwinner type, loosely involved with his children’s upbringing, and highly respected. Meanwhile, women in this model stayed at home to raise their children. This view of fatherhood is now considered conservative and traditional. Today, we live in a society that demands a more emotionally available, stay home, and warm fathering type. Many believe that this modern style will help us develop more meaningful and healthy attachments with our children. However, it is important to observe, that contrary to many people’s beliefs, prior to the industrial revolution, fathers were intimately involved with their children’s upbringing. It was with the industrial revolution and the demands of the new jobs that the traditional fathering style emerged. History tells us that we often reinvent the wheel when trying to make changes in society.
Frustrated with his lack of involvement with the family and his obsession with work, Joanna decides to leave her husband Ted. In addition, she leaves their son Billy with him too. Soon, a father-son tension arises. Ted is frustrated that he cannot cope with his workload because his son is at home, and Billy struggles with missing his mother and the lack of attention from his father. Ted has to learn how to be a present and effective father.
Chiron is a bullied child with no role models. He lives with his single mother who suffers from severe stimulant use disorder and is abusive, neglectful and emotionally unavailable. One day Chiron will meet Juan, who is a drug dealer, but he seems psychologically well adjusted. Juan soon becomes the parental figure that Chiron needs to overcome trauma, develop a cohesive self, and succeed. In addition to our biological parents, in life we encounter other parental figures that can make a positive impact in our personal development and careers.
Murph’s hero in this film is her dad and former NASA pilot Joseph Cooper. After her mother died, Cooper had to move to a farm to raise his children with the help of his father-in-law. Soon after, a dust storm threatens the Earth. NASA’s Professor Brand wants their best pilot to lead the expedition that may save humanity, and Captain Cooper is tricked by the professor into this mission. Cooper will have to go through an odyssey to save humanity and reunite with his daughter. At first sight, one may think that the hero of the film is Captain Cooper, who saves humanity while keeping moral integrity. However, when analyzed through a more philosophical manner, one realizes that the true hero in this film is Professor Brand, who has to make the most difficult decision and a conscious sacrifice to save humanity. Professor Brand is the hidden but true hero that a mature society may need.
Simba experienced the tragic loss of his father Mufasa at an early age. Worse, he was made to believe that he caused his father’s death, and he self-exiles from the kingdom. Survivor guilt can be experienced when losing a loved one. Simba had to survive on his own, with the help of 2 outcasts, Timon and Pumbaa. Here, we see a good example of resilience and the ability to overcome trauma. When he is ready, Simba returns to his lost kingdom and restores justice, stepping into his father’s role. The story is based on the traditional Egyptian myth of King Osiris, who was assassinated by his jealous brother Set. Osiris’ son, Horus, became the king of Egypt. The myth of Osiris has been portrayed in many other fables and tales throughout history, such as in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. One thing that seems to be more genuine of Simba is his ability to hold onto the value of mercy.
Jack Torrance had an alcohol use disorder. One night while drinking, he dislocated his son’s shoulder. Due to that, the son, Danny, deals with trauma-related symptoms and sees a therapist. After recovering from the alcohol use disorder, Jack accepts a new job as a caretaker of the Overlook Hotel for the winter season, and he moves there with his family with the idea of finishing his novel. In the midst of his stay at the Overlook, he relapses on alcohol and experiences a mental breakdown. He becomes paranoid and attempts to hurt his family once again. Danny will begin to re-experience a number of symptoms that can be happen in trauma such as anxiety, dissociation, dyslexia, seizures, and functional neurological symptoms.
Troy Maxon was a talented baseball player, but he never made it to the Major Leagues because African Americans were barred. Decades later, his son will have an opportunity to become a professional football player. However, Troy will try to prevent his son to pursue his athletic career because he wants to protect him from the disappointment he experienced as a youngster. Troy fails to understand that times have changed. The motion picture reflects on intergenerational conflict. Parents often advise their children based on their own experiences, but sometimes their advice is not useful for the present times.
Will had a great admiration for his father Edward when he was a child. His dad was a great storyteller and shared all kinds of amazing stories about witches, giants, and other mythological figures. As a young boy, Will was fascinated by his father, but as he grew older, he became disappointed to learn the stories were not real. Thus, their relationship became very cold and they communicated only through Will’s mother. As an adult, Will receives a phone call from mom that his dad is dying. The son and the father will now have one more chance to reconcile.
Anthony has progressive and deteriorating major neurocognitive disorder. His daughter Anne is his only remaining family and main caretaker. He has memory loss, space and time disorientation, and apraxia. As a result, he cannot care for himself. Anne is very distressed because Anthony lacks insight into his illness and fires the caretaker. Anne struggles with caregiver burnout, and her marriage is threatened by this situation. The film portrays the patient and caregiver difficulties that arise as a result of Alzheimer disease and other types of dementia.
Dr Forcen is founder of The Journal of Humanistic Psychiatry. For more information, see Dr Forcen’s book, Monsters, Demons and Psychopaths: Psychiatry and Horror Film. Podcast: El ÚltimoHumanista: https://elultimohumanista.libsyn.com. Also see his discussion on mothers in film, 17 Films About the Horrors of Motherhood.