Don Corleone in “The Godfather”
What kind of father are you? Are you kind, funny, aloof, authoritarian, nurturing, absent, a provider, stay-at-home, or confused? Most of us are combinations of these descriptors with maybe one or two dominant characteristics. Let’s see if we can group fathering characteristics and instead, look into fathering styles or types.
The Four Father-Types
I’ve devised four father types, based on characters whom we are familiar with if we’ve seen their movies. These are The Godfather, The Captain, Atticus, and Gil. After you’ve read my descriptions/interpretations of each one, think about which type you identify with the most. Certainly most of us dads have some characteristics of all of these fathers, but usually one type will stand out?
Don Corleone, in “The Godfather” is a kind and generous family man who lives by a strict moral code of loyalty to family first, friends second. He will protect all from their enemies. He is also a man of power who demands respect commensurate with his status. He is the leader of the family and his word is law. He teaches family loyalty and commitment above all else. He brings order to all and through his strength and balanced skills. He leaves a legacy of change that will last. A larger than life personality who teaches loyalty and dedication.
The Captain in “The Sound of Music” is a self-disciplined, decisive man, who is in control of himself and expects the same from others. A man of action, shy of real emotion, tied to rituals and routine, he is competitive and highly principled. He is a loving man but he isn’t demonstrative in showing it. He teaches respect and responsibility.
Atticus Finch, the father in “To Kill a Mockingbird”, played by Gregory Peck, is an insightful man with high morals and keen intelligence. He has genuine humility and a natural dignity. His ego does not drive him. Atticus is serious but loving to his children, passing on sage advice but not likely to play and act goofy with his kids. He is also consistent and reliable. His power comes from thoughtful reflection and meditation. He teaches integrity and does it with his brain.
Steve Martin plays Gil Buckman in the movie “Parenthood”. Gil is a man who wants to be a good father, not having had a good one himself. Gil is passionate about his parenting. He’s fun, unassuming, and caring. Gil has a soft and emotional heart. He would be likely to write heartfelt notes to his children and act silly with them. He is idealistic about life and looks to bring goodness to all. He teaches love and understanding with his heart.
So who are you most like and who would you most want to emulate?
The Potential Dark Side
Before I go on, there are versions of the characters that can go to an opposite extreme.
- The Godfather type can become a tyrant, misusing his power for his own selfish gains which Don Corleone does, but not within his family—unless it serves the family.
- The Captain can become a sadist or self-destructive when he sets aside emotional needs too long. This could be why soldiers develop PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Some Captain types become workaholics, trying to get to the top for the sake only of being on top. Some demand too much from their family like Robert Duvall’s character in “The Great Santini”.
- An Atticus type can become a con man, using his skills of charm and intellect to fool people for his own gain. He can also be narcissistic. Bigamists can often be an example this dark side of Atticus.
- Gil can become a dreamer or a weakling, sometimes uncertain of his ability to provide, or to be a good father, something Gil went through in the movie.
I would like to have the power and respect of Don Corleone, the discipline and decisiveness of The Captain, the intellect and dignity of Atticus, and the dedication and passion of Gil. If I am honest about my own identity as a father, I think I come closest to Gil. When I saw that movie, I very much identified with him, maybe because I was unsatisfied with my own father, maybe because my children’s well-being are so important to me, maybe because I am occasionally emotional about my family. But I do have some characteristics of all of these four types. Like most men, I would like to leave a legacy. I was a military man for 29 years and preach responsibility. I also try to pass on “sage advice” to my children, now grandchildren. Lastly, if I were to become another father type, I would like to have more traits like those of Atticus.
It is useful to know about different fathering styles and to examine your own. You may understand better how you father your children or why you do it your way. This knowledge is useful when dealing with family issues, how they come about, and how you can resolve them. There is no need in becoming the style of father you’re not comfortable being. It wouldn’t work anyway. You have to be you, but you can always be a better you, staying completely away from the dark side of these father types.
The father types I mention here are my own vision and in no way are they complete or scientific. They were, however, very loosely based on the idea of male archetypes from the book “King, Warrior, Magician, Lover” by Robert L. Moore and Douglas Gillette. If you are interested in a more scientific analysis of the male archetype and where you may fit in, you can take a KWML test I discovered at http://www.kwml.com/contemplate/assembler.php?page=welcome. These archetypes and their test results are a description of particular male types-- not styles of fathering, per se.
Go be a good father in your own style—be a Dad!