2015 made us all dumber. I don’t think that needs to be explained. But hey, it wasn’t all bad! Several marginalized groups really started getting some positive forward motion this year. Sure, a lot of them got shot and beat up, but there was also a lot of good attention. We saw huge strides taken in LGBTQ equality (did I include enough letters?) and women entertainers and female characters had some big moments, too.
A marginalized group that never gets the attention it deserves is one I belong to: Single Dads. Yes, many of us are white guys so that automatically means that we run everything and have all the money and can locate Area 51 on a map, but hear me out. Single Dads often have it rougher than we let on, and society and the government do not care about us.
When it comes to single parenting the public eye is eternally focused on moms. Single dads are often portrayed as either dumb idiots who can’t change a diaper or evil monsters who abandon their families. In reality, a lot of us are just as capable and nurturing as a mother when it comes to child care. Plenty of married dads are better than they are portrayed as well, but us single fellas sure do have a lot of stigma heaped on us. If I was running around drinking and chasing women the way a lot of society thinks I do, my kid would be homeless.
Luckily, Pop Culture in 2015 seemed to shed light on single fathers in a big way. Maybe I’m just seeing that stuff in everything since I am a single dad, but it sure seems like I saw a lot of TV and movies and played a lot of video games that were about men raising and/or caring for children. Some of these things did it directly and others in more of an esoteric and metaphorical sense, but either way I really connected to some stories and characters in a big way. 2015 was the first year since my divorce in which I felt like society might actually understand my plight. Here are some of my favorite examples.
Justified Season 6
I have a man crush on Timothy Olyphant, and that is 100% from his character on Justified. I mean, I liked him on Deadwood too but the weird way he held his arms when he walked was a real turn-off. Anyways, in Season 6 Olyphant’s character Raylan Givens finally started getting involved in his baby daughter’s life.
There’s a charming scene where he holds her while she screams and then takes her to the Marshal’s office to meet his team. Then the series ends a few years into the future with Raylan taking his daughter to the beach for ice cream, and then tracking down a lead. See? You can take care of your kid and still do your job. You just have to balance. A lot of times when media portrays this kind of situation they make the dad look like a career-obsessed jerk, but not with Justified.
No one rolled their eyes at him for having to go to work again and he didn’t ditch his daughter mid-ice cream. He’s just doing what a dad needs to do. And really filling out those jeans.
Mad Max: Fury Road
This is a great story for women taking care of themselves but Max also has an interesting paternal struggle throughout the film. He has always been kind of a selfish character simply because survival dictated it, but it is hinted that every time he cares for someone else he fails them and so now he keeps to himself even more than he did before.
His experience with Furiosa and the Brides slowly cracks that veneer throughout the film and it is so fun to watch. When he rides that bike up to them on the salt flats and lays out his plan, Max has finally allowed himself to care about helping others. There’s nothing sexual or romantic about this relationship, just love, respect, care and teamwork, which is fatherhood in a nutshell. Max is also older and more world-weary than the others, even Furiosa, and this gives him kind of a dad-like quality.
Something about this crazy bitter person opening up his heart to help women in a very paternal way really hit old Timmy’s heart strings. If my daughter ever surpasses my sniping skills I will definitely shed a tear (she probably already has).
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
A grizzled and horny man at the top of his game spends a long long long long long long time searching for a female protege that he raised as his own daughter. I identify with that instinctual drive to help a girl you’ve raised, even though you want her to learn how to take care of herself.
When I got divorced I moved to South Dakota to raise my daughter, so I kind of had to leave comedy. I have a normal job now too, but I still do comedy and write things when I can. Sometimes I just want to be “normal” full-time but the comedy gigs that do come up pay so well! When I do a show I miss hours at my real job, miss my kid, and generally suspend my life to go on the road.
Even though doing shows can goof up everything else for the few days surrounding them I still find myself dipping back into that life, because it helps me be a good dad in the end. I’m not turning back to a life of crime so I can steal a shrinking suit and become a superhero, but I can still relate. And this is the first superhero movie that made me cry. That I’ll admit to anyways.
I have been a major Fallout fan for a long time. I would have found something to relate to in this new game anyways, but then it turned out to be about a single parent! Fallout 4 is about a parent that leaves suspended animation to find their child. The connection is pretty simple. Dig deeper? Well, look at it this way: you can do the same stuff in L.A. or New York City every day for 40 years if you want, but when you raise a kid your life is moving forward every minute.
When I left the big cities to come to South Dakota and raise my daughter, that was me leaving the comfort of suspended animation and entering a world I was not familiar with - parenting. Beyond that, this is also a story of a parent trying to care about their kid while getting distracted by shiny things, and I deal with that every day. Damned smartphones.
Lastly, the thought of your child growing up without you and developing a worldview that you find evil and wrong is a very real fear for a single parent. There are forces out there that could take them away from you, be it the other parents, the government, or an underground android laboratory, and I worry about that every day.
These weren’t the only examples that stirred up my fatherly emotions. You had Bruce and Jim’s search for Oracle in Arkham Knight, and a little girl’s breakdown in Inside Out. It also appears I can revisit this topic in 2017 since Star Wars Episode 8 looks like it'll contain some good scenes of a grizzled depressed man guiding a young woman.
I relate more to depressed dads than happy dads. In 2015 I saw some personal victories but was more often bummed out. This life is rough, but it is so worth it too, and it was great to see some characters this year that reflect what is really going on with all of us fathers out there who are too cool to be married.