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Source Code: Women aren’t the only ones with “daddy issues”

April 19, 2011

I went to see Source Code the other day, the one with Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, and Vera Farmiga. Here is the basic plot from imdb: “An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.”

Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens whose last memory is of being in Afghanistan before we wakes up on the train. There are a few interwoven plots as Stevens simultaneously tries to figure out what the “Source Code” program is, what happened to him in Afghanistan, and who has bombed the train. Monaghan plays Christina, a love interest on the train, and Farmiga plays Goodwin, a fellow soldier who is guiding Stevens through the Source Code.

Stevens is a hero of epic proportions for a reality-based character since he does a lot of saving – saving the girl on the train, saving the train, saving the city of Chicago, saving Goodwin from a heavy conscience, saving his father from painful guilt, and even saving himself from a pretty gruesome ending. That’s a lot of saving. But over and over again, Stevens tells Goodwin that she must find his father and tell him that he’s stateside. We soon find out why this is not such a good idea. But we also learn that just before his third trip to Afghanistan he and his father fought about his going back into war and Stevens would do anything to make it up to his father.

Although there is a bomber in this movie (thankfully not played by an Arab!) the villain here is actually the scientist who invented Source Code who coldly wants his program to succeed even at the cost of human life, which is loosely defined.

What I noticed about the film was the portrayal of this obvious masculine role (he’s served three tours in Afghanistan leading a battalion) who cares deeply about his relationship with his father. We also saw this in the movie Tron for which I almost wrote a review commenting on the same thing. Both main characters will do anything to find their fathers and make things right. Mothers are all but absent (completely so in Source Code).

I for one like this movement. In general it has been women who are the ones portrayed as having issues with parents (although it can be with mothers or fathers) with almost a disregard for boys’/men’s relationships with their parental units. As John Mayers’ Daughters goes:

So fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too

Boys, you can break
You’ll find out how much they can take
Boys will be strong
And boys soldier on

I never liked that line in the song. Boys do break. Men do need their fathers, and their mothers for that matter, just as much as girls and women do. And I think this movie, and others that are coming out, is both representing what is already there (this movie was made for 15-35 year-old men, so the plot is obviously one that will resonate with that demographic) and making it okay to feel that way. And I’m all about having men be open about their daddy issues, especially if they do it while looking pretty darn good on camera.

Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter Stevens in Source Code

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