I’m not sure why, but I seem to be obsessed with fatherhood in the MCU. My best guess is because there are actual good fathers present, instead of the usual physical and/or emotionally absent trauma factories that Hollywood loves to pretend all fathers are. Which I guess is better than mothers, because Hollywood seems to think mothers come in three flavors: unrelenting mama bear, tormenting narcissist, or dead. In fact, I can’t really write a similar ‘best mothers in the MCU’ article because in our main line up, only one of them is a mother, and even then only sort of? This seems to be a side effect of having so few women vs men and will hopefully be rectified in the future as Marvel and Disney do appear to have a lot of new female characters slated to show up in their movies and shows.
This list is only going to include characters we actually see interacting with their kids. Drax, for instance, was probably a good father, but we don’t even see his kid at any point so he’s disqualified. Also, I am specifically discussing these characters as they appear in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, not the comics, because I don’t know anything about them in the comics besides the handful of talking points the internet in general won’t shut up about.
Spoilers for The Punisher on Netflix. Gee, I think my spoiler warning spoiled the article.
5. Frank Castle, aka The Punisher, from Daredevil season 2 and both seasons of The Punisher
That’s right, we are fucking blasting out of the gate with the most controversial pick on this list. I know it’s going to be controversial because when I mentioned it to my husband he made the most aghast face I’ve ever seen and went, FRANK CASTLE? And my husband is a very centered guy. I say probably five to seven ridiculous things a day to him and usually he takes it in stride, but with this one if he had been drinking anything he would have done a spit take.
Frank is a career Marine with a wife and two kids. After coming home from his last tour he takes his family out to their favorite park where he sees all three of them accidentally gunned down in what appears to be a fight between local crime gangs, spurring him to gather all of the guns, explosives, and sharp objects he can lay his hands on and start mass killing every crime family in the five boroughs. Of course it turns out that their murders were no accident and much of his appearance in Daredevil and his own first season is ripping through the insane conspiracy layers to get the ultimate villain nestled in the center.
There are three types of good dads out there: (1) Dudes who became good dads after their own kids were born, and (2) Dudes who were born to be dads. They dad everybody who they deem in need of dadding, regardless of actual relationship. I think, based on what evidence we have, that Frank is (3) Basically a mixture of the two. Having kids was never on Frank’s radar, but now that he’s had some his Dad Reflexes have been permanently activated.
Here’s the thing about Frank Castle: He’s the fucking Punisher. I don’t believe the MCU waters down the insanity that comes with that. If anything, the show continually goes out of its way to highlight how fucked up the inside of Frank’s mind is. He is constantly killing people with a completely straight face, even as the people around him he actually trusts are like, you need to fucking stop, my dude. The show, while never condemning him, also never glorifies his actions, and really leaves the morality of what he’s doing out in the fucking wind. He also gets as good as he gives, and spends probably 20-30% of the show absolutely beat to shit and covered in his own blood.
None of this negates his Fatherly Quotient, but it definitely informs how its expressed. When it comes to his actual children, who we only see in flashbacks and hear about in stories, Frank’s memories are mostly good but tinged with regret that he spent more time with the Marine Corp than with them. On the other hand, while he was on duty he talked about his kids so fucking much it made it easy for the main villains to know where they were going to be to kill them. A pivotal point for Frank in season two is admitting to himself that the death of his family didn’t turn him into the Punisher, he was always Like That, and the loss of his family was the loss of the only thing holding him back.
In the second season he meets Amy, a street kid who gets caught up in some political bullshit and ends up in the crosshairs of some dangerous people. As soon as things start going pear-shaped, Frank’s Father Instincts start fucking going off and he can’t leave her to deal with it all by herself. But he’s Frank Castle, so his method of helping includes handcuffing her to a motel bed until she tells him what the fuck is going on and shooting anyone who comes near her, usually right in front of her. By the end of the season, it’s clear he sees Amy as a surrogate daughter, but he’s also already had his revelation that he loves being the Punisher and can’t stop. Since nonstop killing and trying to be a dad leads to an unhealthy work-life balance, he rejects trying to be anyone else’s family and dedicates himself to killing dudes.
To me, this gives Frank more Father Points (or whatever, I don’t really have a scoring system going on here). He’s got the fatherly instincts, he wants to take care of Amy, but recognizes that it’s not a good idea. He overrides those instincts to give her a chance at a better life, which is still the result of fatherly instincts.
Frank Castle is a good father who completely acknowledges he shouldn’t be around kids, which ironically makes him a better father.
- The flashback to when his daughter asks him if he’s shipping out again, and his son starts in with this really hyper-aggressive, xenophobic, America Good Brown People Bad shit and Frank gets in his face and tells him to never say any of that shit, ever again. He immediately feels bad about how aggressive he was, but honestly you have to nip that shit in the bud, so A+
- His goodbye scene with Amy. He slips her an insane amount of money in the exact same way your parents slip you a couple of twenties before going back to college, and then he’s doing the tough guy thing where he’s dancing around what he actually wants to say and then Amy hugs him. Now, if this show had been made twenty-five years ago, Frank would have sat there as she hugged him, staring straight ahead, being all manly and shit. Accepting the hug but not hugging back, not until the end when he would give the most awkward squeeze-and-back-pat combo and then push her away, and then with completely dry eyes send her off. Because God forbid your action hero show that he has any sort of emotions, right? Fuck all that shit, because Frank instantly hugs her back. Hard. If it’s at all awkward it’s only because of the positioning. I cannot fully express to you how much I love this scene. Frank has to let her go and it’s killing him. Christ, I am such a sucker for scenes with men showing emotion.
The Scoreboard So Far
- Frank Castle
This was a long entry because I felt like I really needed to defend my position. Tune in next week when we’ll go over who belongs in the fourth and third spot.
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