Fathers Day is upon us… And let’s be fair, it’s hard enough in real life to be a father; imagine being a father of a fictional world’s hero! Ohhh you’re gonna be one of two possible things: a great mentor who dies to further the plot, or a “flawed and imperfect” man who wasn’t exactly the best at being what his kids needed… That’s what this is all about: two such characters who were imperfect fathers but somehow came through in the end. But let’s have a little fun examining them on Father’s Day!
(1.) Anakin Skywalker (aka “Darth Vader”)
As fathers go, this is one bad mother! Let’s just say Anakin’s approach to parenting his son, Luke Skywalker, was a bit on the dark side.
But it’s not like he was above talking things out! Albeit trying to sway his son from good to evil… But still, as Vader he tried to “reason” things out with his words and not go laying the smackdown on his boy. That said, his method of taking away Luke’s toys (his lightsaber) — literally disarming the lad — and all the above considered tells us one thing.
Anakin Skywalker had a heck of a hill to climb before he could be considered a good father, let alone a good man. And seeing those flaws serves to remind us that no father is perfect. Some are calm and composed mentors; some are strict disciplinarians who force choke their subordinates. I can see it now, an exchange between father and son in Luke’s teenage years:
VADER: “Luke, have you done as I requested and taken the garbage to the proper receptacle?”
LUKE: “Aw jeez, dad! I’m right in the middle of a game with Biggs! Just gimme five more minutes.”
[Vader’s lightsaber ignites and slashes through Luke’s TV and game system; angry sparks fly in the air and Luke looks shockingly from the mess to his father.]
VADER: “Don’t fail me again…”
But in the end, Anakin (no longer Darth Vader) rises from the ashes and risks his own life to save that of his son. He could have kept out of harm’s way and let Luke fry to a golden crisp. But Luke was right about something no-one else except his own mother could see: there was still goodness inside Anakin.
As Vader, he did many horrible things because he truly believed that not only could power achieve more than love but also that he was beyond redemption. Luke proved him wrong simply by believing in him and in the path of the light enough to risk the former’s own death… The latter of which Anakin could not allow.
(2.) Prof. Henry Jones, Sr.
Not exactly the Holy Grail of father figures, this one. While never once a mean or cruel man by any sense, Prof. Henry Jones, Sr. wasn’t exactly there for his son: Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr. For so much of his life, the elder Prof. Jones obsessed over one thing: the study of and search for the Holy Grail. Jones, Sr.’s story in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) asks what his quest for the Grail was for: Glory? Or perhaps some other form of “illumination”? Whatever it was, it kept him from seeing to much of the goings-on of young Indy most of the latter’s life; something which Indy took to heart.
Consider the exchange between father and son aboard the zeppelin. Prof. Jones, obsessed with the Grail (while also in a race to defeat evil forces) and therefore oblivious to his son’s anguish, puts up a wall between them insisting he was “a wonderful father”. His reasoning: because he didn’t spend time lecturing Indy giving him even the most basic instructions any parent gives their child; teaching him “self-reliance”. Then he dares to say to his own son “you left just when you were becoming interesting” after Indy declares his resentment that apparently he wasn’t as important to his father as people who had been dead for hundreds of years.
It’s fair to say Prof. Jones’ heavy interest in the Grail blinded him from seeing what was truly important: that is, until death comes to visit both Jones men. The first is when Indy seemingly dies and Prof. Jones, overcome with grief, immediately embraces Indy upon seeing he’s still alive. The second time is when, upon being healed by the Grail and finally gazing upon it, Prof. Jones is able to let go of his obsession once he sees he really could lose his son for real this time as the latter risks his life to reclaim his father’s “prize”.
By the end, when Prof. Jones says to Indy that he found illumination it’s very much to do with his sense of what is important: his son.
Father’s Day celebrates fathers who in some way were there for their kids; Anakin/Vader and Prof. Henry Jones, Sr. had to really prove their worthiness as fathers. But they did it; even if the acts seem small, they speak loudest of all previous actions. They sacrificed their own egos and obsessions when one thing above all called them to action: saving their kids. I think this makes their stories as fathers redeemable and therefore we should wish them a Happy Father’s Day! And the same goes to all you awesome dads out there!