Countless articles have been written that showed us both the best and the worst of the fathers in popular culture. However, there is another group who largely remain unheralded: father figures. Men who, though not necessarily related by blood, are often times a better parent than their ward's natural parents. I decided that someone needed to give a shoutout to these often overlooked heroes. While it may be true that blood is thicker than water, that doesn't mean you have to be related to someone in order to be their guardian, protector, or role model. So, without further ado, let's take a look at some of popular culture's greatest father figures!
1) Joe West
Let's face it. We all know Joe and Barry aren't actually family, but they might as well be. Following Henry Allen's wrongful incarceration, Joe took Barry in, and their bond has only grown stronger as Barry has gotten older. This is wonderful considering that Barry has reached the age where most boys want to spread their wings and fly away from everything their fathers have taught them, but Barry's love and respect for Joe have only intensified with age. Joe has sacrificed a lot to get Barry to where he is today. A single dad doing a dangerous, thankless job and trying to raise a kid on the side is a tough gig, even without adding an adoptive child he barely knows into the mix. That's a lot for any man to handle, but Joe does it admirably. Joe reminds us that no matter how much pain and suffering a person goes through, they can still be a light to those around them. The clip below is probably one of the moments from Season 1 that tugged on my heartstrings the most.
Wow. Those feels are real. You just keep being Barry's rock, Joe. As long as you're around, we know Barry's in good hands.
2) Jonathan Kent
Since Clark Kent has absolutely zero recollection of his life with Jor-El and Lara on Krypton, Jonathan Kent is the closest thing to a father that Clark has ever known. Jonathan Kent always knew deep down that Clark wasn't really his son, but that didn't stop him from doing his best to train him up right. Jonathan knew that Clark would struggle with being different, and realized that being his dad made Jonathan different too. And Jonathan dared to be different. He helped Clark realize that being different was a blessing and not a curse, a gift to be used for the good of society, not something to be abused for selfish ends. But the most important thing Jonathan taught Clark is that sometimes, contrary to the popular saying, water really is thicker than blood. The scene below is just one of the many poignant moments between the two in Man of Steel.
You tell him, Jonathan. You're a good man, and you taught the boy you raised to be a good man too.
3) Alfred Pennyworth
Let's just be honest for a minute. You knew this one was coming. No list of important father figures could be complete without including this relationship somewhere. Alfred is by far one of the most compelling father figures on this list. He basically raised Bruce, even before the death of his parents. Following that event, Alfred became that much more directly involved in raising young "Master Wayne". One might truly say that it is because of Alfred that both Bruce Wayne and Batman are still alive. Not only does Alfred take care of Bruce's physical needs (often through personal sacrifice), but his fatherly advice has healed many of The Dark Knight's deepest psychological wounds as well - a fact which only serves to make the below scene from The Dark Knight Rises all the more heartbreaking.
Ouch, Alfred. That was savage. Granted, it was exactly what Bruce needed to hear, but still, that was pretty harsh.
4) Master Splinter
I have to say, as much of an explosion-filled CGI freakfest as Michael Bay's TMNT was, there was one moment that really showed how much Splinter had to sacrifice for the turtles in a way that little TMNT mythology had before. Splinter did his best to shield the turtles from the hostile world above, trying to emulate the love he saw in Doctor O'Neal for his daughter April. Splinter and the turtles are about as opposite as any family members could be, but the bond between them is obvious, even though Splinter is not truly their father. The below flashback to the turtles' origin gives us a fresh and much clearer look at how much Splinter gave up in order to protect the sons gifted to him by fate.
Master Splinter, I bow my katana to you, sir. You trained those turtles well.
5) Obi-Wan Kenobi
While Obi-Wan states in Revenge of the Sith that Anakin was like a brother to him, Obi-Wan really is more of a father figure to Anakin. Anakin never had a father, and Obi-Wan took greater care of him than any father ever could have. Obi-Wan sacrificed much to protect Anakin. He risked his career, his position, and often even his life to make sure that Anakin fulfilled his destiny as the Chosen One. This makes his fiery showdown with Anakin on the volcanic planet Mustafar one of the most iconic and gut-wrenching sequences in the entire franchise's history. Below is the fight in its entirety, but cut to the 7:08 mark for where the real feels start.
The fact that Obi-Wan is forced to turn his back on the boy he has loved for years is truly heartbreaking. You did your best, Obi-Wan. There was nothing more you could have done.
They say "blood is thicker than water". But they were wrong. You don't need to be biologically related to someone to make a profound influence on their life. Whether it's Joe West taking in a boy he hardly knows or Master Splinter raising four rambunctious turtles, it's clear that sometimes being related by blood is overrated. Love transcends blood, and these five relationships demonstrate that fact perfectly. Granted, none of these men (or rats) are perfect, but in terms of how much affection they show to those under their protection, the love meter is off the charts. Thank you, father figures for giving us, through your courage and sacrifice, men and turtles that are the heroes we deserve because they are trying to emulate the unsung heroes they deserved.