I get sick of seeing the lists that come out every year about “great TV” dads or “WORST TV DADS” (the capital letters say that this is both funny and original). I’m a man who likes moral ambiguity, who enjoys the fact that no one lives in absolutes. I also abhor really dull lists. Hopefully, this isn’t one of them.
1. John Marston – “Red Dead Redemption”
Rockstar finally created their best game and one of the best games of this console generation with Red Dead Redemption and wrote their most well developed character with father, rancher and bounty hunter John Marston. The former outlaw turned government blackmailed killer is a complex man looking for redemption but the amount of blood on his hands is ultimately what damns him to his fate. John’s not a good man, just one trying to do his best.
2. Walter White – “Breaking Bad”
The great debate that will rage years after Breaking Bad goes off the air will be what Walt’s motive was by the time the show entered its third and fourth season. Was Walt motivated by continually protecting his family and providing for his daughter or was his moral corruption all in the name of giving himself even more control and power in a life where he once thought he had none?
3. Wayne Malloy – “The Riches”
Eddie Izzard’s fast talking, sarcastic ass kicker was the driving force of the somewhat hit-and-miss FX comedy-drama “The Riches” and his motivation to have his own life constantly puts his own goals before the best of his family. He steals, fights, lies and gambles, solely to escape the fate he thinks has been decreed for him yet the feelings he has for his children and wife are the only bit of earnestness and truth he ever shows.
4. Reed Richards – Fantastic Four and FF
Reed and Sue Richards may be some of the most respected scientists and heroes of the Marvel Universe but great parents they are not. Whether its accidentally letting a witch babysit their Omega-level son, abandoning Franklin to deal with Norman Osbourne and Venom during Dark Reign or just sort of letting The Thing deal with their kid rather than parent him, Reed Richards might be a great scientist but he may be the epitome of the absentee parent.
5. Admiral James T. Kirk – “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”
Speaking of absentee fathers, Kirk isn’t exactly the worst. It appears that he didn’t exactly know about his son but in the race to hold onto genesis and fight off his archenemy, Kirk finds out that he still has value both as a man, a soldier, a friend and a father.
6. Captain Walker – The Who’s “Tommy”
The father of the album’s eponymous messianic figure, the Captain returns home only to murder his wife’s lover and cause his son’s deafness, dumbness and blindness. Making matters worse, he leaves his son to be bullied by his cousin and molested by his uncle. The captain disappears from the record after “Tommy, Can You Hear Me” so the best we can really say about him is that he’s not quite as awful as Uncle Ernie.
7-12. The dads of the Pride – Runaways
Whether they’re homicidal mob bosses, turn of the century time travelers turned gang leaders, alien traitors, black magicians, child abusing inventors or telepathic mind-meddling mutants, the fathers of the children who would become the Runaways were willing to kill billions in order to save their children. The twist that concludes Brian Vaughn’s first run of Runaways finally gives the Pride the characterization that deeply enriches the characters and makes the villains just as sympathetic as their heroic children.
13. The protagonist – Cursive’s “The Ugly Organ”
Admittedly, the way that Cursive presents the protagonist from their landmark album “The Ugly Organ” marks him as a man who is a victim of the infidelities and minor tragedies that people inflict on him. That being said, there’s a sense of self pity, a sense that he knows that somewhere in the past, he knows he may be serving pittance for his crimes. On “Sierra,” he faces the life that another man has in his place, taking care of a daughter that doesn’t even know who her father is. Things might be looking up by the end, where he does step away from the edge rather than end it all.
14. Darth Vader – Star Wars
He’s a dark lord of the Sith who has tried off and on to kill or corrupt his son and ignore his daughter. He does have his moment of redemption a second too late to save his own life and succumbs to his injuries in his sons arms but ultimately, he’s another absentee dad who killed probably a few too many younglings.
15. Cancer Man – “The X-Files”
Let’s run down some of Cancer Man’s crimes real quick: killing JFK, killing MLK, fixing the NBA finals, ordering the kill on the first EBE the world comes in contact with, ordering the hit on Mulder’s father, ordering the hit on X, ordering the hit on Deep Throat, using the alien rebels to kill off the rest of the Syndicate, attempting to kill both of his sons on multiple occasions, attempting to kill Krycek on about 45 different occasions, blackmailing Scully, blackmailing Skinner, controlling AD Kersh, surrendering the planet to the Aliens and writing really bad novels. That being said, he thinks he’s helping to save the human race, helps save Scully’s life and gives the best speech about boxes of chocolates ever. Cancer Man is an appallingly bad father but as a man, he’s wonderfully focused on the greater good and he’s so broken and personally ruined that its hard not to sympathize with him.
16-35. Every Disney Father
Everyone of these guys are near incompetent single fathers who are alternatively unable to control their children or offer them any usable advice. Its not so much that they’re irresponsible, its just that they’re barely functional as people, much less ones who should be raising others, yet they’re heaped with praise and unearned affection by their children.