I completely forgot about Father's Day this weekend. Whoops, silly me! To me it was just another Sunday, and I ended up doing the usual Sunday things I do. Writing, playing video games (Assassin's Creed 2), running 4 miles, and eventually settling down at night to watch tv with the wife. You know, your average restful Sunday.
I've always been ambivalent about Father's Day. On the one hand, I've never had what one would call a "father." My real father was never around, and my stepdad ended up taking our mother from us at an early age. On the other hand, for when it mattered most, I only had the women of my mother's family to raise me. They made me who I am, without any influence from a real male authoritative figure in my life. So I celebrate these women on Mother's Day -- but Father's Day is a complete non-issue in my household. My wife doesn't have any connection with her father, either. Never has. So you can see now why the day is so easily forgotten in our house. It really is!
Yet in the spirit of things I want to dredge up from the early days of this blog a post I'd written once about the only father figures I've ever really known -- and all of them from television! So below, reposted in its full form in honor of Father's Day, is the blog post titled: "My Three Dads." Some of you may remember this one. Okay, maybe only one or two of you. This was almost four years ago, after all. Many of you didn't even know me then! But still . . .
MY THREE DADS. (Originally posted: 9/2/08.)
Okay, I know it sounds silly, but I have a confession to make: I was raised by television.
Of course in actuality I was raised first by my mother, and then by my maternal grandmother and aunt, but television always played an integral role in my childhood. So much so that I have nothing but fond affection for the "boob tube" today. And, you know, there was never that male adult figure in my life to teach me the things that many little boys learn from their fathers: specifically, how to be a man. I was surrounded by women growing up, after all. And while it's true that I learned a great deal from these strong, independent female family members, I had to turn to tv in order to get the paternal influence that was missing from my existence. In essence, I had to learn how to become an honest man, a fighter, a good husband and/or father, and how to treat a woman the way a good man should -- all from the tube!
Now, I'm only being half serious here. Because, of course, I didn't need tv to teach me right from wrong, or honesty from dishonesty. I'm my own keeper. It's been that way ever since my parents left me alone in this world. Still, I consider the following three television characters to have had the most profound influence on shaping my teenage personality, leading to the adult I am now. The essences of these three fictional characters reside within me even to this day, and those who know me really well can easily discern the part and parcel characteristics I've borrowed from these figures to make my own.
JEAN LUC PICARD
Yes, to no surprise, my latching on to tv role models began at the age of 12. I'm sure there are studies out there that correlate a boy's self-identity with the time he enters puberty. So it's no surprise that my subconscious effort to find a father figure who would teach me what I needed to know to be a man would start around this time. I'd just started junior high school, and Star Trek: The Next Generation had premiered the year before. I'd grown up watching the original 60s show with William Shatner as the young, cocksure Captain Kirk. So I naturally took a disliking to this new show and its new Captain, which were nothing like the original. However, over time the show started to grow on me, to the point that it soon surpassed my love of the original. Now after all these years, ST:TNG is the quintessential Star Trek for me. Nothing before or after it tops this show. And this character was one with which I had a strong attachment as a young boy.
Captain Jean Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) was in many ways the thinking man's captain. Picard very much preferred to use his wits and diplomacy to defuse a dangerous situation, rather than his fists. He was a refined gentleman, well-read in various scholarly pursuits (notably music, botany, and archaeology), yet he was stern under pressure and no-nonsense when it came to saving the lives of his crew. He commanded great respect for his ability to keep his emotions in control under tense situations. All these aspects endeared me to the character, and slowly during the course of the show I found myself imitating Picard's demeanor in real life.
KWAI CHANG CAINE
In January 1993, a spin-off to the 70s show, Kung Fu, premiered on what was then called the: "Prime Time Entertainment Network." The show was called Kung Fu: The Legend Continues, once again starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine -- though now the grandson of the original Kwai Chang. I credit this show--and the character of Caine in particular--with awakening the fire in me to learn everything I could about Chinese culture and language, as well as cultivating my interest in gong-fu.
Kwai Chang Caine, like Jean Luc Picard, was refined and wise. He was someone who could obviously carry himself in a fight, but whom--more often than not--sought the peaceful solution to a conflict. This was who I wanted to be like. I was always a quiet and observant child by nature, and by 1993 I had grown into one of those intense, focused teenagers. The type of person who other kids in high school had no idea how to deal with, and would generally leave alone for fear of what he might do in reprisal. But the values that Caine stood for were my values as well, and so it was easy to see why I would latch on to this character as my role model.
Finally we come to the last of my three dads, Duncan MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. This figure appeared in Highlander: The Series as the titular character, portrayed by one Adrian Paul. While premiering before Kung Fu: The Legend Continues in the Fall of 1992, I wasn't introduced to the show until shortly after I had already been addicted to KFtLC for a couple of months. But when my best friend, Tarrell, finally convinced me to check it out, I was hooked from the get-go!
Duncan MacLeod was a 400-year old Immortal, master swordsman, and martial artist. However, I found myself more drawn to the deep pathos that arose from the character's long life than the action-y elements (although those aspects were a nice bonus on the show). How it was that, despite never being able to die, his life was far from a happy one. For in those 400 years Mac, as he was known to his friends, has had to deal with the deaths of countless loved ones, all the while remaining alive and struggling to make it through another year without those he cherished. As someone who had lost his mother at an early age, this pathos resonated deeply with me. I actually *felt* the heart-wrenching pain of this character's loss, and I was never the same again.
Duncan MacLeod, more than any character on any other show, has defined who I am as an adult man dealing with a monstrous past. The strength to face the world and the demons it holds, I drew from this character most of all. Highlander has had the most profound influence on the young man I was becoming and would remain even to this day.
And there you have it! These are the three biggest TV influences to shape my personality in those turbulent teenage years when I struggled to find myself. I'm not any one of these characters, nor am I the sum of these men. I've taken only certain facets from all three--aspects which I suspect I already exhibited naturally on my own. But the influence is there nonetheless.
So, do any of you have tv or film characters who have inspired you in life? If so, please sound off in the comments section below.
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