Many of the movie’s concepts are appropriate for consideration as Father’s Day approaches on Sunday.
This science-fiction movie stars Will Smith as General Cypher Raige and his son Jaden as Kitai.
It is about a classic hero, the son, who must develop the strength and courage he needs to succeed on a journey to save his father’s life. Kitai is at an age when he is trying to become a man. A major goal for the father is to help his son release the fear that was etched his memory when a monster, URSA, killed his sister.
My theory is that the monster’s name stands for “U R So Afraid,” as it can only attack when its victim is scared. Otherwise, it can’t detect the victim’s presence.
The son struggles with many things. There was guilt, (Was there something he could have done to protect his sister), physical dangers (This now-ancient earth is fraught with them.), and doubt (Can Kitai become brave like his father?).
The General knows what all parents must learn: at times children must deal with issues on their own, such as Kitai’s challenge to resolve his guilt. At times children need guidance, and this father guides his son along the necessary path. At times children need freedom so that they have the opportunity to develop the courage they need to travel alone. None of these traits can be successfully developed within a child if fear overshadows their future.
We adults also recognize that fear, even when resolved on some levels, has a tendency to return and require that we overcome it on an even higher level. This is a complex truth to not only accept but to teach to our offspring.
“After Earth” is not the only movie to address the idea that fathers can effectively teach children to overcome fear. One of my favorite movies, “Second-Hand Lions,” is about two brothers, neither of whom were biological fathers. They learn, though, to become father figures during the course of the movie. Their growth, combined with their courage, inspires their young nephew, Walter, not only to overcome fear and disappointment but also to live life to its fullest.
When the burden of fear is gone, we humans become free to view life as an adventure. One cannot watch actors Michael Caine and Robert Duvall (the two brothers in Second Hand Lions) without experiencing astonishment, laughter, tears, and affection, all of which are much better emotions to embrace than fear.
“After Earth” is a fine movie, but “Second-Hand Lions” is better since it has a dual theme and gives us reasons to overcome fear.
So, fathers (and mothers in the role of a father), one way to spend Father’s Day would be to watch these movies and become inspired. Both teach that parenting, when done well, results in a life of adventure and friendship that is greater than the challenges.
Other movies that teach positive messages about fatherhood include “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Big Fish,” “Field of Dreams,” “The Pursuit of Happyness” (another Will and Jaden Smith movie), “Hook” (my other favorite movie), “Parenthood,” and “Finding Nemo.” Find a child and enjoy a good movie on Father’s Day.
Email Sherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.