Home > Film > Up – Condemned without trial

Up – Condemned without trial

Up is the latest release from acclaimed Pixar Animation Studios. In many ways it is one of Pixar’s most unique films, being quite different from most of their other movies. One such way is that it’s the first to feature an absent father as a plot element. That also makes it the first to unfairly portray an absent father.

Up is about the adventures of the aged man Carl and the young boy Russell.  Just as any boy would, Russell loves his father and longs for time with him and approval from him. That is a good message, but where Pixar goes wrong is in their portrayal of the father himself.

Or rather, the non-portrayal.

What is unfair about Up is that this absent father is truly and absolutely absent. He never makes an appearance, not in dream, photo, flash-back or heartwarming closing montage. He never even gets named.

All we know from Russell is that his father is busy and misses out on doing things with Russell. We are never told why the father is not there, only that he isn’t.

Now, the feelings of children are important. If they feel neglected, their parents should try to be there for them more, but we also know that children do not always understand the world. Many absent parents are such because of conditions outside their control. The most common is obviously work. Many men, and also many women, work long and hard, far from home, all to provide a good life for their family. This can leave children feeling unloved, but wouldn’t it be unfair to dump shame and blame on this hard working parent?

Only if it’s a mother.

Just as in Up, the media tends to show hard-working fathers as nothing but absent bums, never there and never useful when they are there.

However, many movies conclude this problem by showing the parent reducing their long hours so they can spend more time with their family (see my post on Hook for how that can turn out).

Not Up, I’m afraid. The movie ends with Russell’s dad once more absent, so Carl takes his place, to the approval of Russell and his mom. Carl steps in as Russell’s father figure, but without any information about the real father having ever been shared.

Apparently being absent is totally unacceptable for a parent (or at least a father), no matter the reason for the absence.

I guess that’s reasonable. After all, some offenses are always wrong and deserve punishment/imprisonment…like assault with a deadly weapon, right?

But with all that in mind, what message does Up leave us with?

If dad ain’t there, get a new one.

The strange thing is that Russell’s dad got about the same treatment as a deceased father would (missed > replaced > forgotten).

What does that say about our media’s opinion of working dads?

Categories: Film Tags: , , ,
  1. Marcy
    January 14, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    I did see this movie last year. I don’t remember anything about EITHER of his parents. They were not even in the plot, right? And why should every movie about a boy even have his parents in it? I did not see it as a weakness. In fact, I thought the movie was actually about Carl, not hte boy. It does portray a different type of ‘family’ caring – one of choice, not birth right. What was clearly intentionally in the plot was the inter-generational bond between a boy and a reluctant mentor. It was about the grandson (missing for Carl, right?) and grandfather (reluctant Carl) bond that is so often missing in our society. Seeing Carl grow out of crotchety-old-grump was meaningful. Russell seemed a fairly constant character, it was Carl who really grew Up!

    NEWS:We went to see PIRATE RADIO this week – what a fun movie. More quirky male charaters than you can count. Women were really cartoons in their lives, when
    there were any women at all. Wondered what you would make of it as a male character study. Clowns? Pirates? Heros? Goofballs? Madmen? Visionaries? All of these? Based on a true story to boot. Fun !!

  2. AQ
    February 12, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    You seem shocked that the movie seems to say that “being absent is totally unacceptable for a parent (or at least a father), no matter the reason for the absence.” But, isn’t that true? I know you are very interested in having men maintain stronger roles in the lives of their children, so isn’t it a good thing that this movie says “ignoring your kids is a bad thing”? Ignoring your kids is a bad thing! I think this message that working and making money is not as important as being an active member of your family is great, and reflects a really important shift in societal ideals and gender roles that has occurred over the last few decades.

    • February 12, 2010 at 9:26 pm

      Yes, ignoring your kids is bad. The problem here is that there is no counter argument given.
      As far as we know, his father isn’t ignoring him. He might just be busy.
      That information is withheld from us.

      • AQ
        February 13, 2010 at 9:03 am

        It seems like the character probably is “just busy”, but has chosen to be that busy. As much as some money is required to stay alive, I think most middle-class people (and this character does appear middle class) can choose to not work so much that they are not part of their childrens’ lives.

        • February 13, 2010 at 9:17 am

          Yes, as I said in my post. But is it still unfair to not show the father’s side of the case.
          We are to just accept that he is bad for not being there, with not effort even being made to change that.

          Reminds me of those restraining order hearings where the defendant doesn’t even have to be present.

          We are hating men for doing the role society provides them, rather then trying to change things.

  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: