Treasure Planet is Disney’s ‘In Space!’ version of the classic novel, Treasure Island. It is the story of Jim, a troubled youth who is adrift in the world as he searches for his path and his purpose. The cause of his aimlessness is the loss of his father, at a fairly young age, leaving him unsure, sad and angry.
This is actually one of the most honest portrayals of fatherlessness I have seen in a film, especially a family cartoon.
The story begins with Jim as a happy, smiling, chubby child, enjoying story time with his mother. We then transition to teen-Jim, a rugged, obviously rebellious youth out for thrills.
We see all the problems he has been having, with the law, in school, communicating with his mother. It is only a ways in that we learn the trouble started when his father left. This is where the film begins to dig into the problems of fatherlessness, later on detailing Jim’s father’s departure in faded flashbacks.
Jim goes through all the problems which sons always experience when they grow up without a father (or even a father figure). Aggression without focus, a lack of drive, no discipline. All this stems from a lack of father involvement, a concept which is reinforced by Silver becoming Jim’s father figure, of sorts, which helps to give him some focus and helps to set him down the right path.
Jim eventually becomes caring, confident and focused, the things any good man should be.
What is important to remember is that these problems are not caused by a bad father (although they can be), but by an absent father, and this isn’t limited to fathers who willingly leave. Deceased fathers and those whom the mother leaves are also absent in the same way, having a similarly negative effect on their children.
While Treasure Planet only shows one situation which can lead to fatherlessness, it is honest enough about the problems and keeps the focus enough on Jim that it is not limited to talking only about fathers who left their families, but about missing dads in general. It doesn’t focus on the evil of the absent father, which keeps it from coming off as an attack on fathers. It focuses on the problems Jim faces, making the point without making fathers feel bad.
The feeling is that the problems don’t come from the father having left, but from him not being there, allowing the message to cover all reasons for absent fathers.
Another thing I like about the movie is how it handles Silver as a father figure. His positive effect on Jim is undeniable, but he is not played as a full replacement father for Jim. Too often movies will show new men stepping in to take the place of the biological father in the lives of children, but this usually doesn’t go so well.
Silver is really more a mentor, just one of the many roles of a father plays, but perhaps the most important to a young man approaching adulthood, like Jim. This helps to give a sense of the absolute importance of fathers without trying to claim just any man can be a true father figure.
All in all, Treasure Planet is a fun movie, one of my favorite Disney movies, which tells a powerful tale of fatherlessness and a young man’s search for himself in the cosmos.
Night at the Museum is an example a movie which I didn’t really appreciate the first time I saw it. The first time, I wasn’t yet a masculist, so I wasn’t looking at media from the perspective of men’s issues. But now I am, and I can now say that Night at the Museum is a fun adventure about a father, also with several other masculine messages mixed in.
The main character, Larry, is a divorced dad with partial custody (Wednesdays and every-other weekend) of his 10-year-old son, Nick. Larry is a schemer who goes from job to job, but he is also a loving father who eagerly spends time with his son, takes an interest in his activities and will do anything to not lose him.
By the end of the movie Larry is strong, in control and intelligent (he even studies!). His son loves him and both are confident about themselves and Larry’s work. Nick trusts his father and Larry doesn’t let himself be pushed around.. He is a good role model for his son and for young viewers alike.
On the topic of fathers, the movie makes a strong case for the importance of fathers to their children. Larry is very important to Nick. He isn’t just someone who can come and go without notice. Then there is also Attila the Hun. In a brief scene, he is revealed (or at least implied) to be so violent because he didn’t have a chance to spend time with his father. This helps establish the importance of paternal involvement, and it even does it without overly blaming Attila’s father. It is said the Hun-senior was off plundering and pillaging, but Larry also adds that he was “doing his job”, thereby not overly blaming the father for his absence, as so often happens.
The issue of male aggression is also approached by the Jed and Octavius characters. At one point, Jed says that they are fighting because they are men, and because that is what they do. This is an old tune, sung often, but Night at the Museum takes it a step further. Jed and Octavius go on to work together, laying aside their anger to help save the museum. Their wish to fight is pinned on their will to see their people thrive, showing them to be good leaders. Without even saying so, the movie quickly overturns the idea that men just want to fight for no reason by showing these two warriors teaming up and even becoming road-trip buddies. It’s easy to miss, but it is a welcome message.
Over all, night at the museum is a fun adventure movie about a strong father, and it also touches on other male issues as well. Larry is a strong male lead who is in control and focused, but also has a sense of humor and a more sensitive side which gleams through on a few occasions. He is one of the rare examples of a ‘cool dad’ who isn’t a soldier, isn’t rich, isn’t a scientist and isn’t a stooge to his wife. He is a real cool dad.