Lessons in Fatherhood as Taught by Eighties Movies


It was only after I said to my daughter, “If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything,” that I realized I just quoted Back to the Future.  I must admit I was a little self conscious about it at first, but a 2-year-old doesn’t know a McFly from a Tannen.  And the sentiment certainly isn’t bad advice to impart on anyone.  In other words, an eighties movie just taught my daughter a life lesson.  Interesting.

This got me thinking:  What other wisdom could I glean from the films of my childhood?  How could the movies of the ‘80s shape me into a better father?  And these are pretty stupid questions, aren’t they?

Yep.  But let’s see what I uncovered anyway.

ROCKY IV—The Boxing Match Speech that Ended the Cold War

Leave it to the Italian Stallion to make a speech so stirring that it effectively ended decades of tension between the United States and Russia.

“If I can change.  And you can change.  Everybody can change!”

Inspiring stuff, Rock.  Perhaps not the most eloquent message I’ve ever heard, but still…INSPIRING STUFF.

Now, in case you missed it for all of its nuance, what Mr. Balboa’s trying to get across is a message of compromise and teamwork.  The unshackling of the chains of closed-mindedness!  The glittering gateway to a brighter future for all mankind!  That sort of thing.  And it’s all good stuff!  I like those things and I’d like my children to as well.  This is a positive message to pass on.

Of course, a moment after saying these emotional sentiments Rocky wishes his son a Merry Christmas in a way that seems to imply that he doesn’t know his name.

And now that I think about it, Rocky wasn’t exactly the best role model for fathers in the first place.


Let’s move on.

THE KARATE KID—If You’re Going to Say “Guess So” to Mr. Miyagi, You’re Going to Get a Lesson on Life

Let’s face it:  Daniel LaRusso was a big baby.  Always flying off the handle, “Daniel-san” was an emotional basket case and—despite the efforts of his embarrassing, yet super awesome mom—in terrible need of a father figure.  Enter Mr. Miyagi, full of wisdom (and chores) and his potent lesson on decisiveness.

“Walk on the road.  Walk right side?  Safe.  Walk left side?  Safe.  Walk middle?  Get the squish, just like grape.” 

So cool!  Man, I wish I had a Mr. Miyagi as a child.  Plus, this is actually a message I should pass on to my children.  I’m not a terribly decisive person you see, and frequently get the squish, just like grape.  I don’t want my kids getting the squish either, so I could see an older, less attractive version of myself kneeling down with Audrey or Zachary some day and passing on the grape-walking-down-the-road speech.

And then I’ll make them paint the fence.


“Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

Wait a minute!  That’s the same as the grape speech!  We’re through the looking glass here, people.

TEEN WOLF—Behold the Wisdom of Bobby Finstock

When people think of Teen Wolf they typically conjure up memories of Michael J. Fox going wolf to get a keg of beer, Styles pouring a bowl of Jello down a girl’s shirt, and the bolt of lightning that is high school basketball.  But me?

I think of Coach Bobby Finstock.  (Go ahead and skip to the 2:20 mark.  It’s all gold though.)

That’s a lot to soak in, I know.  So much wisdom.  We’d better break it down a bit:

  • “Hey, it doesn’t matter how you play the game, it’s whether you win or lose.”  Told you the guy was wise.
  • “Never get less than 12 hours sleep.”  If I can convince my children to adopt this I may just survive this fatherhood thing yet.
  • “Never play cards with a guy with the same first name as a city.”  Especially Dallas.
  • “Never go near a lady with a tattoo of a dagger on her body.”  It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Okay, we can toss the how-to-play-the-game part out, but three out of four ain’t bad.  And the lesson on sleeping half the day?  Transcendent.  I love it when they sleep.

These movies aren’t too bad either.  And between Marty McFly, Yoda, Mr. Miyagi, and good ol’ Coach Finstock I think I’m pretty well equipped to continue parenting my children in a responsible, effective manner.  At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself.  After all, if you put your mind to it…

You can accomplish anything.


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