Dads in the Boat, too.

Over the New Year’s Weekend, Rita and I saw The Boys in the Boat. A fine movie. Patriotic and inspirational, just as expected. You won’t be surprised to hear it hit on every cliché from every sports movie you’ve seen. The scriptwriter also got lazy recycling dialogue you’ve heard before.

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”
“I don’t believe what I’m seeing.”
“Do it for all the people who never believed in you.”
“There are some moments in life you never forget.”
“For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you boys.”

Still I recommend the film. Even though viewers know the historic outcome, the racing scenes are wonderfully compelling. Also, the 1936 Olympics need to be remembered for a slew of reasons.

Beyond that, the movie reminded me of an amazing truth I came to realize long ago. Father wounds and challenging father/child relationships are pervasive in life and in the movies.

Stay with me. Most people think Hollywood is in the entertainment business. But that’s just not true. Hollywood is in the money-making business. And the way to make money is to make movies that resonate with as many people as possible.  

Studios invest a lot of time and effort researching the best way to emotionally connect with their audience. That’s why, by my estimation, 75% of movies are literally about fatherhood.  

The Boys in the Boat is a perfect example. The turning point in the film is when the main character lets go of the need for his father’s approval. (The father who abandoned him when he was 14.)

Another example is a movie we saw on Amazon Prime over the weekend, Finestkindwith Tommy Lee Jones. (Spoiler alert) Set in a New England fishing village, that dying father kills two bad dudes and gets taken to prison so his son can chase his dream. I recommend it. (The movie, not the murders.)

In addition, if you spend a moment pondering those Christmas movies you watched, you’ll realize that It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and Elf are all about fathers and sons.

Up until the final scene, George Bailey hated the idea of repeating his father’s wonderful life. In another final scene, the shovel slayer who lives next door to Kevin reunites with his son. Donner is ashamed of his son’s shiny nose and covers it with mud. And remember why Buddy the Elf went to Manhattan!

I hope this revelation inspires a few fathers to realize how important you are. You matter, Dad. Your gut says so. God says so. Statistics say so. And, yes, Hollywood says so.

To prove my point, here are a few more movies in which the major conflict or turning point relates to fathers and their children.

Star Wars. Spiderman. Superman. Mary Poppins. Mrs. Doubtfire. Forrest Gump. Life is Beautiful. Seabiscuit. Matchstick Men. Rain Man. Top Gun. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The Natural. Hook. Tommy Boy. The Descendants. The Sound of Music. Prisoners. The Judge. Now You See Me. War of the Worlds. Noah. Big Daddy. Top Gun. Breaking Away. Friday Night Lights. The Lion King. Stand By Me. Legends of the Fall. Paper Moon. Traffic. City Slickers. Barry Lyndon. The Champ. Ordinary People. About Schmidt. Armageddon. Austin Powers. A River Runs Through It. Over the Top. Footloose. Houseboat. Sleepless in Seattle. Field of Dreams. Princess Diaries. Little Mermaid. October Sky. The Santa Clause. Raising Arizona. National Lampoon’s Vacation. Mr. Mom. Three Men and a Baby. Parenthood. A Goofy Movie. Jack Frost. The Great Santini. Analyze This. Back to the Future. Dead Poets Society. Father of the Bride. Meet the Parents. The Road to Perdition. Minority Report. Signs. Taken. Sixteen Candles. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Zoolander. Draft Day. Aladdin. The Rookie. Kramer vs. Kramer. About a Boy. The Shining. Catch Me If You Can. Rebel Without a Cause. We Were Soldiers. Hulk. Finding Nemo. After Earth. Silver Linings Playbook. The Incredibles. Courageous. Trouble with the Curve. Ransom. Jaws. Paper Moon. Prisoners. Million Dollar Baby. Cheaper by the Dozen. Nebraska. Boyhood. How to Train Your Dragon. Mystic River. Frequency. Along Came Polly. Shark Tale. Godzilla. Simon Birch. Night at the Museum. The Italian Job. Chasing Liberty. Big Fish. The Pursuit of Happyness. Godfather.

In some films, it’s more obvious than others. But once you start looking for father/child relationships that need healing, you’ll see them in more than half of all Hollywood releases.  

As a matter of fact, in my talk for dads given to men’s groups around the country, I literally play scenes from four of the above films to make this point. It’s powerful.

Try this test dad. Do a brief analysis of the next ten movies you see. Consider which character changes the most. Don’t be surprised if eight of those films have a major plot development about fatherhood. You may not even see that father — as in Top Gun, Ferris Bueller, or Rain Man – but like all dads, our presence or lack of presence is clearly felt. I’d love to hear your findings.

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