Film and TV

TV Has So Many Daddy Issues

(WARNING: Spoilers) Last week saw the conclusion of the fifth season of FX's most underrated show, Justified, and fans of the program finally got the confession they have been waiting to hear for five years. In an attempt to get the youngest of the Floridian Crowe family, Kendal, to fess up to not shooting U.S. Marshall Chief Art, Raylan Givens has one of the most honest heart-to-hearts in the entire series. Within their exchange, Raylan admits that most of his reason for doing what he does (shooting bad guys) is that he had such a corrupt and, overall, crappy father. Raylan became a marshal more or less to piss off his father, or maybe it was really to get his attention.

Viewers of the show have been keen to this since the first time we met Arlo Givens, but Raylan may not have had the self-awareness prior to this moment. Or maybe he just never wanted to say it out loud because then it's for serious.

This season Raylan had a slew of father strife, this time with the man he really considers a parental figure, his boss, Art. Their relationship saw a sad decline in trust after Raylan admitted to being part of a death that was perhaps less than "justified." The demise of this father/son-type relationship was tough to watch through this season's emotionally lost Raylan. Disappointing your "dad" hurts.

Justified is far from the only drama dominating the airwaves that features characters whose motivation is spurred by their padres. Television right now is filled with a lot of wannabe tough guys who are really just trying to impress their pops. There are a lot of daddy issues going on.

HBO's mega-hit Game of Thrones premiered its fourth season last week, and it was filled with father/son contention. Poor one-armed Jaime Lannister, once the apple brandy of his dad's eye, now can do no right. Old man Tywin told Jaime to hit the road, get married and basically live a life of slothery. Like all good sons out to win (or in this case re-win) their father's love, Jaime wants to prove that he can be just as good a left-handed swordsman as a right-handed one. By the second episode, he's pleading with his brother Tyrion -- whom dad absolutely despises -- for assistance. You know you have some serious daddy issues when you stoop low enough to ask your midget brother for help!

This week's episode also brought us back to the horrific spectacle going on at the Dreadfort, where the sadistic Ramsay Snow continues to torment and emasculate Theon Greyjoy. I won't recall to you all of the disturbing torture that Ramsay inflicted upon Theon; if you watch the show, you remember. But the question always remained as to why Ramsay was such a psychopath. And now we know the answer -- he did it all for his dad's approval. Ramsay, like our hero from the North John, is a Snow, which means he's a bastard child. Those Snows and their desire to gain the love of their fathers; you'd almost feel bad for Ramsay's desperate need for dad's approval if, you know, he hadn't, like, cut off Theon's private parts.

Speaking of Theon, the whole reason he's in the predicament that he is in is due to his own daddy issues. Recall that his father gave him up over to the Starks to be considered one of theirs. Ned Stark was more of a father to Theon than his own, but when Theon is given a choice between the two, he chooses to "impress Dad" over "don't be a dick." And so he loses his own (zing!).

AMC's '60s drama also premiered this week, filled with its own underlying father-approval problems. Don Draper has always been something of a momma's boy -- hence his need to dominate every woman he meets -- but his counterpart, and perhaps the real star of the show, Peggy Olson, is racked with her own father complex.

Peggy spent the first five years of the show fighting for any spittle of attention that Don would give her, until she realized she could find her older-man-love elsewhere. But the opening of this season finds Peggy back in begging mode. Now she seeks the approval of new boss Lou, who not only dresses like a dad and makes bad jokes like a dad, but is completely derisive to her -- the perfect storm for someone vying for a father's attention.

But the list of daddy-related plotlines doesn't end there. FX's other hit drama, Sons of Anarchy, which returns in September, is nothing other than one big ol' father/son drama. It's Hamlet with tattoos and gun running, and it took six years of father/son discord for Jax Teller to finally kick his Oedipal complex.

And it's not only dramas that dig featuring emo sons and their papas. In the sitcom world, Community's Jeff Winger spent an entire season attempting to call his old man -- a plotline that hopefully never returns. On The Mindy Project, Danny, Mindy's co-worker and love interest, drags her to meet his estranged father, whose changed persona throws him off enough that Danny is compelled to make out with Mindy on a plane. Long story. And then there's Modern Family, which revolves around sons and son figures trying to soften crotchety patriarch Jay Pritchett.

Television loves it some daddy issues!

If we assume that television is based on real life (it sort of is), can we assume that the world is filled with men who are so in need of love and admiration from their own fathers that they would go to extreme lengths like, I dunno, war? I leave you with evidence A.

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Abby Koenig
Contact: Abby Koenig