By Duin, Julia
Insight on the News , Vol. 15, No. 6
`In a time when four of every 10 children do not live with their biological fathers, we cannot afford as a culture to have no portrayals of positive fatherhood,' says Wade Horn, president of the National Fatherhood institute. Among role models in films: Spencer Tracy and Steve Martin, both in `Father of the Bride.'
To Kill a Mockingbird, Mrs. Doubtfire and Three Men and a Baby have one major trait in common, according to the National Fatherhood Institute, or NFI. They're all positive portrayals of fatherhood, which qualifies them for a spot on NFI's list of top 10 movies.
"Our society desperately needs more positive portrayals of fathers as heroic and persons of character," says NFI President Wade Horn, a child psychologist.
To Kill a Mockingbird, starring Gregory Peck, tells the tale of a country lawyer who defends a black man wrongly accused of rape. The real story isn't the trial, Horn says, but the daughter's discovery of her father's character. Without being preachy, says Horn, the movie shows fathers as competent, caring and knowledgeable.
"Movies tend to portray fathers as absent, incompetent or dangerous," Horn argues. "We wanted to highlight a list of movies that a family could rent that would show an inspiring portrayal of a father. Unfortunately, such films are all too rare."
The Little Princess also earns kudos. In the film, the daughter of an Army captain is transformed from riches to rags following news of her father's supposed death. The father, who has suffered a memory loss, eventually reclaims his daughter, but not before the daughter gallantly struggles against an ogrelike headmistress to maintain her dignity. Shirley Temple starred in the original 1939 movie, and a remake was released in 1995.
"One of the things a father can contribute to a child is an inner strength" Horn says. "The girl could withstand all her difficulties because the father used to tell her how wonderful she was; that she was his little princess."
Two films about divorced dads -- Mrs. Doubtfire and Bye Bye Love -- made the list because they show men undertaking heroic measures to stay connected to their children. The NFI praises Robin Williams' performance as Mrs. Doubtfire but advises viewers to "just ignore Williams' sappy and politically correct monologue at the end of the film in which he proclaims, `It really doesn't matter if your parents are divorced.'"
It's a Wonderful Life was honored because it describes a father sacrificing for the needs of his family. Father of the Bride, both the Spencer Tracy original and the Steve Martin remake, is praised for showing a father helping his children's transition into adulthood. …