Sunday, June 15, 2014

Fathers Day

A Speculative Story
 In honor of Father’s Day, I examine the surprising rise in father related story elements in films and television: the addition of the father as a story twist. My brother and I were talking about how some of the main modern films are using the acts of the father to carry over to the lives of the kids. The Amazing Spider-Man is the movie that started us off. The additions of the story element of that Peter’s parents were spies or in some part created the events that would change his son. The only reference I can find that might lend itself to this is a miss printed cover of an untold tales of Spider-man that has them working for S.H.I.E.L.D.

We all know that Sony had to make a new Spider-Man movie or lose their rights. I was not a fan of the idea but they did a good job of redoing the series especially after the horrible catastrophe known as Spider-Man 3. With this new movie they erase all of that awkwardness but they lay down a new story thread

Peter’s father was into something and had to flee and was killed that’s why Peter is living with his aunt and uncle. This feels like a sin of the father trope, where the father’s actions affect the children. We learn in the second installment that Peter’s father uses his own DNA to lock the secrets of the genetically enhanced spiders. Thus Spider-man had the inside track to becoming a hero.

If you remember The Hulk directed by Ang Lee, Bruce’s father also had a hand in his creation. He was doing scientific experiments on himself and passed his mutation down to his son. My wife believes that this movie never happened. You know what; I think she may be right. I am going to stop here because I feel icky just thinking about how horrible that movie was.

The point being is that this story element is picking up traction. The new TMNT movie also hints in the trailer that April O’Neil’s father was involved in the creation of the turtles. The examples I have provided are all comic books, so retroactive continuity (retcon) of stories is par for the course. Retcon is a way that new artist and story tellers can make a comic their own.

Our conversation then took a look at fathers in moves overall, Iron Man came up, and he is not in the same category as the other films, His father’s influence was felt more in 2 when he had a new power source that as it turns out is better for Tony to use and will not poison him. This is more of an example of the legacy of the father is shown in the son. The father and the son are both super rich and super smart but the actions of the father do not come back to exact revenge on the son. There is no burden Tony has to carry that was created by his dad.

This is even showing up in TV, the CW has two series out now that fit nicely into this category, Arrow and The Tomorrow People. Both of them have a heavy "father was doing something" vibe and now the children have to suffer for it. The show Heroes was very big on this story device. So from 2006 till now it seems to be more popular.

Stay out of my movie dad
A year earlier on the big screen was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka is best left a mystery, he is not the main focus of the story, Charlie is. The poor attempt at a backstory Wonka by saying his father was a dentist and a cruel man made no difference to the story. Charlie has a line that goes “Candy doesn’t need a reason”. He was so very right, and like Candy Mr. Wonka did not need to be explained: he just is. That entire film is a cautionary tale of how poor parents make poor children.

I guess that you could go all the way back to The Empire Strikes Back. The "I am your father" is a completely different trope but I wonder if that influenced a generation of storytellers that weaved its way into the narrative of stories they are telling today. George Lucas said that that story is the redemption of the father through the son.

My brother believes that this is a way of demystifying the wonders of the stories we grew up on. The whole "force is not something that with training and dedication you can achieve you have to have the right bio chemistry to become a Jedi." This was particularly jarring for me, because I was really in love with the idea that anyone could become a Jedi. In the Peter Parker example we see that it was not by chance that he lucked out and was transformed into Spider-Man, he was destined to be Spider-Man because his father coded them that way.

In the movie “The Way” there is a line “Our children are the best and worst of us” I think that sums up more of what’s going on in stories. It makes people feel more attached to their own linage and their own history. Instead of our stories focusing only on one generation we are including more of the family because their actions do have an influence on whom we are.

The last point I want to make is that as a father I see some of the best things in my wife and I in our children. If anything these stories keep the thought in my mind that the choices that we make are not just affecting us, but they affect us in generations after generation. When you become a father your focus shifts. These moves help me to keep the important things in focus.

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