‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

‘Top Gun – Maverick’ is Action-Based “Dad Cinema” At Its Very Best

The moving story in “Top Gun: Maverick” of a fatherless son’s journey toward healing is proving popular with audiences worldwide. This is a film highlighting the importance of fatherhood, portraying a tale of reconciliation and redemption.

Top Gun: Maverick is smashing box offices, and it’s easy to understand why.

The film is spectacularly outpacing its weak-because-they’re-woke counterparts, because the film’s unapologetic dad themes resonate.

Alongside the gutsy F-18 camera shots, audiences are in love with the Tom Cruise/Joseph Kosinski sequel because its father-son backstory hits home.

Even the, “it’s all flag-waving, MAGA propagandist tripe” critics are applauding the sequel for keeping to the consistency of the first film’s deep relational backbone.

As The Atlantic’s David Sims explained, the film’s ‘emotional weight rests on Pete Mitchell (Maverick) fighting to earn the respect of Goose’s son (Rooster), who blames Maverick for the tragic loss of his father.’

Childhood Memory

For me, Top Gun: Maverick cut deeper.

My family and I recently saw the film for a birthday bash. The only thing missing was my dad.

Watching the first Top Gun at the cinema with my dad was to be one of the only long-lasting positive memories I would have of him.

It was 1986, I was 9, and we’d turned up late to the cinema.

Missing the iconic afterburner intro of the first Top Gun, dad and I slid into our seats in rhythm with Tony Scott’s smooth golden orange sunset, shot high above a lone F-14 landing on the silhouette of the USS Enterprise.

It became a shared interest, a mutual pursuit, a common bond solely shared between father and son.

From the soundtrack, which always seemed to be on repeat in our broken-down housing commission home, to the old-school Amstrad computer game, the movie connected us.

This was true, right up until my dad’s final week, when, knowing he would never get a chance to wear it, I gifted him a T-shirt with the Top Gun logo on it.

Now covered in dust, I still hold onto the volumes of Warplane magazines he’d chosen to buy me, instead of paying “through the teeth” for participation in a weekend sport.

Healing

I related to the second film because of the first.

Similar to ‘Goose’s’ son in the film, I was confronted by what was lost, what might have been, and what my dad chose to abandon somewhere along the way.

The sequel made the memories all the more material when Val Kilmer (Iceman), tells Maverick — still haunted by the death of ‘Goose’ — “It’s time to let go.”

Seeing the first film at the cinema in 1986 with my dad was an oasis event, an anomaly of normalcy in a wasteland of ash.

This explains why, in almost every scene of Top Gun: Maverick, I heard, and felt my dad’s absence, and choked up at Hans Zimmer’s rendition of Faltermeyer’s iconic Top Gun anthem.

We’re taught in The Good Book to raise up thanksgiving in the face of suffering. Even the smallest object or event that is worthy of our gratitude puts points on the board when it comes to healing trauma.

In retrospect, watching Top Gun with my dad in ’86 was the first, and only time he offered me a healthy introduction to manhood.

His wasn’t perfect, but that was a perfect day. That day my dad did good, and for that I thank him.

For me, the only thing missing from Top Gun: Maverick was the man who took me to see the first one, sitting, at his best, beside me and my uber-impressed family.

Top Gun was, and is, about loss, grief, and recovery; fatherhood, and fatherlessness — as much as it is about courage, defiance, and the determination to overcome obstructions encountered along the way.

The sequel builds on its original father-son backstory. It is “dad cinema” at its very best.

To lean on Miles Surrey’s review in The Ringer,

‘Every single dad — past, present, and those who are expecting to be dads in the near future — should check out Maverick, if not for the sanctity of ensuring Dad Cinema doesn’t fade away, then for experiencing a blockbuster that surpasses its predecessor in every respect.’

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First published at Dads4Kids.

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The Power of Commitment

The Power of Commitment

Becoming a man and a father requires the ability to commit to your family and to sacrifice for them. Here is a frank interview of a dad who had to learn the virtue of commitment while on the job.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Honesty is the best policy.” Zig Ziglar, one of the world’s greatest motivational speakers, put it this way,

“The foundation stones for a balanced success are honesty, character, integrity, faith, love, and loyalty.”

These were the thoughts that were coming to me as I talked recently to John Lissaman about being a dad and a husband. I asked John what the biggest challenge was that he found about being a dad. The honesty of his answer surprised me.

John: “I think one of the biggest challenges was actually realising that this is not about me anymore… It’s about growing this child into someone whom I hope will be better than me.”

A New Reality

Warwick: “Yes, it’s funny how that realisation does hit you and it’s funny how it can take a little while to hit you.

I think for women, the very act of carrying the baby for the full nine months. It’s the sacrifice, it’s the pain, it’s the discomfort and then of course she goes through the pain of childbirth. That means blood, sweat, tears, quite literally. A woman goes through a baptism of fire to have a child.

She is committed to being committed, because the only way forward is commitment. It seems to me John, that we as men must learn commitment — correct? What are your thoughts? Do you think that’s a crazy idea or what?”

Becoming a Man

John: “No, I don’t think it’s a crazy idea. And I think we’re all different. Somebody asked me, When did I become a man? I don’t think I became a man until quite recently.

I think I was a big kid, running around, pretending to be a man. And so, I imagine that some men take on that responsibility a lot easier than others.

I was certainly one of the ones who didn’t learn commitment. Through my wife’s pregnancy, I certainly didn’t, and it was only at the birth and shortly thereafter that I realised there was that commitment. So for me, it was something I needed to learn, absolutely, and I’ve been learning it ever since.

Your commitment changes, you always have the commitment to bringing up your children, but as they get older, it changes as they change. Now my daughter’s nearly 13, my commitment is very different to what it was 13 years ago.

It’s more about giving her some autonomy and allowing her to grow as a woman. The commitment is still there to support her and encourage her, but it’s quite different to what it was 13 years ago. So, you’re always learning as a father.”

Rites of Passage

Warwick:This whole issue of men who are little boys who think life is all about them is critical. I wish personally that I had a rites of passage ceremony around twelve or thirteen.

That’s something I am a big advocate for now. But it strikes me, we’ve got a lot of men here in Australia and around the world, in the western world in particular, that basically have never really grown up.

They still think that life is about them. You and I know that if we go through life thinking it’s all about us, it’s actually quite a narrow viewpoint, because it’s not just about us.

Yes, we are important, but other people are important. Our wife’s important, our children are important, our family is important. There’s this sense that as a man we have to learn about commitment.

We need to learn how to sacrifice and that’s something that needs to be instilled at a much younger age. Would you agree with that statement?”

John: “Absolutely I would. And the transition to adulthood is something that I’m particularly focussed on at the moment with my son being eleven and daughter thirteen.

That rite of passage is vitally important. It’s not something that I ever went through. It was just normal, at the time, to just grow up and you went along in your life.

You know I have regrets that I didn’t grow up into a man at an earlier age. I wonder what my life would be like now if I had had that rite of passage and had grown up into a man at an earlier age.

As I mentioned earlier, prior to getting married I think I was quite hedonistic, and it was really all about me. I don’t believe I seized every opportunity I was given and there is an element of regret there.

All I can do now is hope that I move forward, with better intentions, and perhaps by having this discussion today we might trigger things in younger men and younger fathers.

That they can have a think about where they are, and they can have a think about whether they need to step up and be that man and go through a rite of passage themselves.”

The above is just a small slice of the conversation with some edits for clarity. We also talked about the benefits of eating together as a family, the issue of taking responsibility, the importance of the sex conversation for our children, the power of the Courageous Fathering Course, growing your children to be better than you, and much, much more. Watch the full interview here.

Lovework

John has given us all some food for thought. Maybe our Lovework is as simple as thinking a bit more about the challenges John has given us about being a man and a father. Happy thinking!

Yours for the Challenge,
Warwick Marsh

PS: John and his children featured in our appeal this week for help in our mission of putting more ‘Smiles on more Children’s Faces’. Watch the video here. If you would like to help us change the world one man at a time and help create more happy families, donate now!

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Photo by Emma Bauso.

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What My Dad Taught Me, His Daughter, About Manhood — And Why It Matters

When I read “To Kill A Mockingbird” for the first time — and every time since — I invariably pictured my father as Atticus Finch. It didn’t hurt that he’s a lawyer and looks like Gregory Peck, with glasses, determined features, and dark hair falling over his forehead. But the resemblance was deeper.

After I read of how Atticus gently sat Scout down on the porch swing and explained our imperfect world to her childish ears, I thought of each time my dad would do the same when I discovered some new hurt or crisis. His explanations of the deep obligations of integrity sounded like the heartfelt lessons in which my dad explained to me the importance of doing what’s right.

Like my dad, Atticus was enduringly wise and capable of solving anything. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders, in the selfless hope of making it better for his children.

It’s easy to idolize your parents as a child, and of course no one is flawless. But as an adult, I continue to look up to my dad greatly. He taught me about the world, and about the integrity and sacrifice necessary to live well in it. In doing so, he also taught me, his daughter, a great deal about manhood.

It’s been observed plenty that the American leftist cultural narrative doesn’t teach boys what they should be learning about manhood. It goes without saying that teaching boys how to be good men is an indispensable part of a flourishing society.

But the public sphere’s masculinity vacuum hurts girls too. Women have no shortage of interactions with men — we marry them, work with them, go to church with them, grow up with them, and raise them. We have a cultural imperative to teach boys how to be men, but we have just as much need to teach girls what masculinity looks like, and to expect it from the men in their lives.

My dad taught me to respect and expect integrity, sacrifice, and wisdom from men. A man worth his salt doesn’t let fear or pressure intimidate him out of doing the right thing, condemning evil, or standing up for those who can’t defend themselves.

Through his example of going to a taxing and wearisome job every day, then coming home to help my mom with dinner, fix a broken sink, or work in the yard, my dad showed me good men make sacrifices. Women aren’t exempt from the obligation to live sacrificially too, of course. But what separates men from boys (and women from girls) is an eager and persistent decision to place others’ needs above their own. To listen patiently even after a long day, to place duty above pleasure, and to do so out of love.

As he’s made those sacrifices, my dad has also shown me how much a man should value his family. He and my mom have cultivated our family as a great source and depository for each other’s encouragement, support, fun, and rest.

I’ve also learned from watching him that manhood includes a strong sense of duty. In high school, my favorite thing to watch with Dad was HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” and each episode prompted deep discussions about duty and leadership. Out of a sense of sacred obligation to God, loved ones, and country flow daily sacrifices and the motivation to continue them. Inseparable from that duty, too, is a strong sense of loyalty toward those to whom love obligates you.

Dad also instilled in me that men should be — and women should appreciate them being — capable. From knowing political and historical details to being able to change a tire or fix things around the house with his hands, I could always trust his expertise. When I was little, he was the one who could make my skinned knees magically better through a sly or funny change of subject I didn’t even realize had happened.

Not all men have to be history buffs or amateur carpenters, of course, but there is something deeply admirable about being a capable and knowledgeable problem-solver. For all of the elite sneers about “mansplaining,” capability is a quality we should be careful not to devalue.

So is wisdom. Problem-solving isn’t limited to fixing appliances. It also includes thoughtful insight and discerning counsel. As a woman, there are few virtues I’ve learned to admire more in men than good judgment and its wise application.

I also learned from my dad to expect, but also earn, respect. He took me on daddy-daughter dates and always opened the door for me. I remember him making a special point to dance with me at my cousin’s wedding when I was little. From preschool to my professional life, he has always celebrated my victories but never let me be complacent with success or gave empty praise.

There’s plenty more to admire about my dad, like the matchless sense of style he’s sported since the 1980s. But as he’s helped teach me to be a principled and well-rounded person — and thus a better woman — he’s also shown me what strong masculinity looks like. His example has equipped me to expect and celebrate genuine masculinity in my own friendships and interactions. And more than anything, it prompts me to be grateful for such an exemplar — this Father’s Day and every day.

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