One of a child’s first challenges is to understand his or her own world. For Gay Dads this presents its own set of issues since much of the material we use with our kids basically ignores our very existence. Kid’s programming, books and toy sets all reflect the Mommy/Daddy standard. That is not likely to change, that standard being the majority, and LGBT families find ways to cope.
I was constantly editing as I read my boys “good night” books changing the word “Mommy” to “Papa” so they heard a story about a world they found instantly recognizable.
Gay dads don’t get many advantages in the parenting landscape these days what with cantankerous celebrities and bogus “studies” bashing us at every turn. The one area that CAN be our friend is the local DVD outlet however. For whatever reason due to a patriarchal Hollywood complex or just mere coincidence, there is a full treasure trove of great gay father lead family material available.
I truly wish that I could be writing this article and calling out all great LGBT family material available, but sadly THAT is simply not the case. The horrifying fact is….. it SUCKS to be a Mom in animated movies. Being a birth mother is tantamount to being victim of some horrible mysogystic plague …if you are one, the likelihood is that in these movies, you are…. dead (Snow White, Cinderella, Beauty in the Beast, Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hoodwinked and more) or absent/abandoning (Sleeping Beauty, Shrek, Tangled). If you are a second Mom, it is worse… you are just plain evil (Snow White, Cinderella, Tangled). Even in the latest offering, Brave , the mother/daughter dynamic was less than ideal .
So, Lesbian Moms, I offer up this “Ten Best Gay Dad-Friendly Movies for Kids” with a little bit of guilt. I wish there were similar offerings for YOUR families. There should be. Whenever you are ready to go picket Disney, DreamWorks, Pixar and others…. I will march with you.
In the meantime… here is my list, from the good to the best. I hope you agree:
10. Despicable Me (2010) Gru, is despicable and inept at his profession of being a villain. In the end, he demonstrates what it takes to be a good father, putting his kids first.
9. Cars (2006) Lightening McQueen has all the testosterone of a teen-aged kid. He is finally tamed by the sage gnarly tough love of a surrogate dad, Doc Hudson (Paul Newman) and due to that influence, grows up.
8. Lion King (1994) I am sure the question is not why this is on the list, since it has the theme of fatherhood all over it, but why it is not higher. Simba’s guilt over his father’s death, the saint hood ideal of his father and the cavalier silliness of his two surrogate dads may be a bit much for kids in gay dad households to handle. It’s still good, though, but requires some dad hugs and statements like “Don’t worry…I am not going ANYWHERE.”
7. Pinocchio (1940) This movie is filled with Gay Dad heart, even if it is a little dated. A man denied fatherhood creates a son in the only way he can at his disposal, and through the help of another surrogate dad, who happens to be a cricket, and rites of passage… the created son becomes a real one.
6. Toy Story I (1995) A bit of a flip flop in terms of the dad and child dynamic on this one since the two “dads” are owned by the child. Well, maybe that is not so much a flip flop as it is a deeply accurate perspective. Not only do Woody and Buzz strive to hold the child Andy as the core of their lives, they also father the band of various toys in the nursery. One of the great themes for gay dads… can I be as good as my hype? What happens when my kid finds out that I can’t really fly? The answer? He or she won’t care…in their eyes… you can.
5. Ice Age I (2002) < http://www.themoviedb.org/movie/425-ice-age > A family is formed when two surrogate dad types, a Mammoth named Manny and a Saber tooth Tiger named Diego come together with a goofy uncle type Sloth named Sid. The bond is sealed when they put all their priorities around the love and welfare of a human child, much to the disapproval of their outside kin.
4. Monsters Inc. (2001) Unlike the guys in Ice Age, the surrogate dad types in Monsters Inc, Sully and Mike, already have kind of a bromance going sans child. When the human child enters their life, there is a sense of taboo, and an element of “us against the outside world” that they experience. Ultimately, they show that they are willing to sacrifice everything for the sake of and love for the child in their lives.
3. The Incredibles (2004) This movie does not have the male parental dominance as the other movies on the list, but the pair of opposite gender parents are fully actualized empowered (literally) people who can save the day on their own. The elements that appeal for a Gay Dad household is the sense that “our family is special, but not all outsiders will understand” and normal family squabbles do not supersede the fact that we are there for each other at the end of the day. The movie also features the androgynousish “E” Mode, super hero costume designer and Helen Parr is the best kids movie Mom ever. If, per my previous point, great kid movie Moms were not an endangered species, I would move to make her an honorary Gay Dad.
2. Over the Hedge (2006) Two surrogate fathers vie for the heart and leadership of a family of woodland creatures displaced by a housing development. One, RJ, has some self serving motives, but the other, Verne is for pure fatherly love. In the process, and with some great music by Ben Folds, RJ sees his error and steps up to a real Dad role. Plus… this movie has a hilariously skunky Wanda Sykes, who does an inter-species romance thing with a cat.
My contribution for the BEST Gay Dad Friendly movie of all time, however, is………………………………
1. Finding Nemo (Minus the scene before the main title) ( 2003) I am cheating a little. My “best” pick is based on my own edited version of this film. For the past 9 years, my sons have never seen the part of the movie before the titles. I always started the movie, picked “scene selection” and went to the second panel and started it where the title “Finding Nemo” comes up. I would recommend the same to you unless you think your children watching a mother fish and the majority of her offspring being eaten is desirable. I didn’t.
So… for me, it is about the REST of the movie. In my opinion, this is probably the best dad and kid movie ever made. Single Dad Marlin has trouble not being over-protective. His world revolves around his son, Nemo. Nemo embarks on an adventure where he inadvertently falls from beneath Dad’s protection, but is then guided by a surrogate father, Gil. Nemo learns to become self actualized, and Marlin learns to let him. The movie is weaved with parental axioms of life like “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…” to the crux moment of “ ‘He says its time to let go” “Let go? How do you know something terrible isn’t going to happen?” “I…..don’t…! ..and then, letting go to find an instant latter that you are exactly where you needed to be.
The father/child bond in the movie is complex and perfect. My sons watched this movie literally thousands of times, and I still never tire of it. In the end… Marlin does learn to let go, enough, and to respect his son… and he has Ellen Degeneres as a best friend. I mean…come on…how Gay Dad is that??
So there is my “best” list…what is yours? And lesbian Moms… what would you like to see in a kid’s movie?
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It’s not really my favourite, but you can give Bambi 2 a try, when it comes to dad-son relationship evolution. And maybe, How to train a dragon, where also you have to deal with disabilities and being different and My neighbour Totoro for a father who can talk to children (his wife is hill and luckily will recover). As for the mummy, I agree with Mrs Incredible choice and I really have hard time with positive mother figures. Maybe GrandMa in Red and Toby?
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Your view about the above films were bang on, and here’s another that I REALLY think you’d enjoy watching with your partner and sons; “Scot”. It is about a male couple who end up parenting a child who is also moulded from special ingredients, and how they all ‘figure things out”, so to speak. I highly recommend it. It is warm, funny, dramatic, sad, and, in the end, a wonderful, realistic learning experience for anybody who watches it. I celebrate families in any form so long as love is at the core, and the best interests of the children are constantly on the radar. Congrats to you and Jim on having such a family. You are blessed.
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I never really thought about how early childhood movie choices could help shape a child’s world and vice versa. Your analysis of how mother figures are represented in these films was eye-opening because, although we al know the stepmom or mom steryotypes we never really think about them. I am a film student and I think I am going to do a little research on how we learn from movies at a young age. Thanks!
Thank you so much, Sierra! I would love to hear your findings and opinions about them. You are in a great position to make a difference. Kudos!!!
I love that the fact you can use Disney to entertain your kids. I am a gay male myself and well, I know that would be great whenever I decide to have kids or not. Never the less, thank you. I would say “Brave” shows how women can be independent.But, thanks for the advice in so many ways…
Love your picks. And I would have to agree with APeene,sometimes the mother/daughter thing is a complicated place, being a daughter and a mother of a daughter I know I’m still trying to figure it all out! lol
Those were great movie reviews! My children and I loved most of these movies too.
Thanks Angela… I am hoping I set Brave up for you a bit by lowering expectations. LOL. I am glad you liked it, and glad it captured a true mother/daughter conflict. I still hold to the end however…she was not required to pick at that moment, but it left the impression that she was going to have to in the future and she still was not going to be her own person. But…I am willing to be proved wrong…!
And if Brave does turn out to be a good Mother representation film…I hope there are MORE of them. (I still would hold up the Incredibles Mom to the Brave Mom as a prototype though!!)
Rob, I absolutely LOVE your movie reviews and your posts in general! Finding Nemo is my VERY favorite Disney/Pixar movie. I LOVE it and I have watched it myself many times, even without the kids 🙂 My only disagreement with you is on the Brave movie. You had given me a poor idea about that movie before I went to see it, but then I didn’t see the same negativity that you did. And I think it is realistic that the Mom & daughter have friction in their relationship, but in the end, they realize their love for each other is stronger than that. AND (spoiler alert for those who haven’t seen it) the daughter does NOT have to choose to marry anyone in the end. I got the impression from your initial review of that movie (months ago), that she still had to pick someone to marry.
Anyway, you, as always, are the bomb! Thanks for your awesome posts!