Examining trends in fanfiction.
When it comes to royally ruining children, no one does it like dads. From giving their children serious issues, to raising them in the dark of their abilities, to guaranteeing that they will be stunted emotionally for the rest of their lives, fathers have the market cornered.
There is a sub-category of tags on Archive of Our Own, and you can find in it many media where dads feature. In Supernatural it’s “John Winchester’s A+ Parenting.” In Umbrella Academy it’s “Reginald Hargreaves’ A+ Parenting.” In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s “Howard Stark’s A+ Parenting” or “Odin’s A+ Parenting,” depending on the super-powered son.
Parenting is a complicated subject in media. Follow any parent on Facebook and they will post constantly about how judgemental other parents are, about the stresses of being a good parent, about the implications about how you can ruin your child by giving them too much sugar or turning on the television once in a while. No one can be Super Dad in real life, but in a world where you actually have Superman and Iron Man, you can be the polar opposite of that.
You never see moms pop up in this tag, which is all about the failings of fathers.
You never see moms pop up in this tag, which is all about the failings of fathers. As it usually appears, it’s about isolation and children who are bad at associating with others. Emotional damage – a son who can’t love a new partner because he only sees the way his own father failed, a son who grew up striving to be more because he knew he could never live up to his expectations. Bad fathers see, are all about expectations. They wanted sons who would be greater than they were, and maybe on the surface those kids were, but they were also profoundly damaged for the experience.
Would Tony Stark have created Iron Man if he wasn’t an extreme mess of a daddy’s boy who grew up with Howard Stark’s A+ parenting? Of course not. The same thing that makes these boys little broken soldiers is the same thing that makes them great, and that’s some A+ parenting.
Amanda Hudgins is an occasional writer, former rugby player and wearer of incredibly tall shoes.