8.06.2014

"Daddy Issues"


In preparation for going to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the cinema, and doing the podcast we'll put up next week, I've done a fair bit of comic reading (with thanks to my friend Stephen who gave me his collection to guard while he's out of the country), and I've noticed that a recurring theme in Marvel comics is dysfunctional relationships with fathers.

Just a few examples:

Peter Quill/Star Lord (Guardians of the Galaxy) - never knew his dad growing up, and the guy is a major jerk, much of what Quill does is to defy him
Gamora (also Guardians) - her dad is "the mad titan" Thanos, who she hates, and who she wants to kill him
Sam Alexander/Nova (Nova) -  His dad is an absentee drunk growing up, then disappears
Cyclops (X-Men) - parents died in a plane crash orphaning him when he was very young

... Actually, a great many superhero characters are orphans. I am not a huge comics fan, but those who have existing positive relationship with his/her father are few and far between. I suppose Bruce Wayne/Batman had a positive relationship before his parents were murdered.

Clearly this trope resonates with young people who read these comics, for it to be such an enduring theme. And it's a sad commentary on our society that whole generations of children have grown up alienated from their fathers. No doubt the explosion of divorce since the 1960s has played a role where many young people have been separated from one parent, usually their fathers. I believe another factor is the low value placed on the responsibilities of fatherhood in today's society, and the prolonged adolescence that is constantly complained of but rarely remedied.

Some may argue that this has always been the case, but I tend to doubt that. Looking at literature from the past one tends not to see this level of alienation. One also sees numerous accounts praising the great devotion and attention that certain fathers paid to their children, as recounted in, for example, the life of Charlemagne by Einhard, the life of St. Louis IX by Joinville, and various lives of St. Thomas More to name a few that I've read.

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