Thursday, August 20, 2009

Danny's Dad

A friend is Chief Executive of the Fatherhood Institute, a UK think-tank devoted to issues of fatherhood and parenting. They have been looking at representations of fathers, particularly in popular dramas, and how they might project or reflect particular expectations and conceptions of the role. We ended up talking recently about the portrayals of fathers in the children's books we are both currently reading to our respective kids. A lot of the time, particularly in more modern picture books, there aren't many fathers shown at all.

Perhaps the authors are concerned to move beyond the kind of family you see in something like The tiger who came to tea, a kindly enough Dad who comes in from work and sorts out the problem of having no food left in the cupboard -- the tiger has eaten it; he has also drunk 'all Daddy's beer' -- by taking the family out for a meal. Or perhaps it is just a general aversion to portraying a mother + father + children kind of family in case it simply does not match the reality of much of their hoped-for readership.

Whatever the reason, we found it a bit tricky to come up with some great Dads. The best I could manage is Danny's Dad in Roald Dahl's Danny, the champion of the world: he's loving but still very paternal and blokey, even dangerously so. (The picture above shows Jeremy Irons and his sone Samuel who played Danny and his Dad in the film.) But even there there is the thought that he has acquired this role because of the loss of Danny's Mum. Can anyone help out with some others, preferably Dads who are still part of a more or less complete family unit but are not absent, uninterested, made to appear like idiots, too stern, or in some other way not very positively described?


RJR said...

How about Cornelia Funke's "Inkheart"? The dad was played by Brendan Fraser in the film, which I quite liked. I haven't actually read the book, I'm afraid, but it got good reviews, and I enjoyed "The Thief Lord" by the same author. But I've just realised that all my favourite children's books are about orphans, which is a disturbing.

james said...

There is always the surreal eulogising of My Dad (Anthony Brown). But my favourite Daddy figure is in Sleepy Me (Marni McGee) where, without fanfare or any indication that the situation is an unusual one, the father plays an integral role in his son's bed-time routine (mind you, since the book always works a treat getting my toddler down, I wouldn't care even if it was rampantly misandrous (mispatrous?)).