Lover-father syndrome

Eric, (Kyle Chandler) and Tami Taylor, (Connie Britton) the couple we all want ot be a part of on <i>Friday Night Lights</i>.

Eric, (Kyle Chandler) and Tami Taylor, (Connie Britton) the couple we all want ot be a part of on Friday Night Lights.

There’s a conversation I have every so often with my girlfriends. It involves the very important, very serious topic of evaluating the merits of various male TV characters. Specifically, we consider which celluloid heroes we’d like to look up to as our imaginary father as opposed to those we’d like to enjoy in, shall we say, less familial ways. For example, we can all agree that David Stratton would make an excellent imaginary dad, (just imagine teaching him how to text - adorable! 'Hi Imaginary Dad David Stratton, great job on the Gosling interview! Did you give him my number like I asked?' 'hello.No.I.Did.Not.Who.Is.This.Please?' Stratton doesn't know how to use the space button, which is an actual thing that my dad does when he texts. Occasionally though, the barometer for what makes a good father veers dangerously close to those defining points of a lover, and everyone's forced to take a good, long look at themselves in the mirror. Ladies, you know of what I speak. If you're finding yourself confused by feelings of both paternal and romantic affection, you may be afflicted by something my learned colleague Natalie refers to as ...LOVERFATHER Syndrome.

1. Coach Eric Taylor Friday Night Lights 

Coach Taylor had his share of problems with daughter Julie, but considering how much of a brat she turned out to be that was pretty understandable. As surrogate father to the members of the Dillon Panthers (and later the East Dillon Lions), he raised all of his kids to be honourable - remember when he instituted a zero tolerance policy of his footballers standing by while a Steubenville-lite scenario played out? 

Dan and Roseanne.

Dan and Roseanne.

But if you’re familiar with Friday Night Lights, y’all will know the babin’ hot mama that was Coach Taylor’s wife. With flaming locks of auburn hair, Tami Taylor set Coach’s pulse a-racing. He loved that woman. Let’s face it, we all did - but we also kind of wanted to be her, kicking ass, taking names and coming home each day to (and with) Mr Coach. As an aside, Tami Taylor scores off the charts as a LoverMother. #conniebrittonshair

LOVERFATHER VERDICT: 70/30  

2. Dan Connor, Roseanne

Detective Stabler.

Detective Stabler.

Wasn't Dan just the best dad? He was fair-minded, understanding and (mostly) supportive. He didn't much like it when Darlene became a teen mum, but only because he felt like she had this enormous intellectual potential. As a father, he seemed like the kind of guy you could rely on to pick you up at 3am from a boozy party. And even though he might be mad about it, he would still do it because ultimately he wanted you to know you could always trust him and turn to him if you needed help. 

But as Roseanne's husband, he was especially cracking. He adored his brash, uncouth wife and couldn't get enough of her - it was obvious during the run of Roseanne's eight seasons (the ninth one doesn't count) that they had a ferocious sex life. 

LOVERFATHER VERDICT: 60/40 

3. Detective Elliot Stabler, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
In the criminal justice system, there's one man who takes it upon himself to be the defender of women and children alike. This....is his story. Detective Stabler knows he can’t save everyone, but he keeps trying. As a father to his own kids, he struggles to be a good role model to them while coming to terms with all of the brutal things he sees in the SVU. As a potential daughter, you kind of get the feeling that he'd have your back if any chump tried to hurt you. Like, Detective Stabler would almost definitely pay someone a visit and use those haunted, steely eyes to say things that fists couldn't if, for example, someone did something really chumpy like cheat on you three weeks after your mother died and then not tell you about it until after you'd let him have a shower at your house following a night in the cop shop because he'd gone on a bender and stolen property from a restaurant and to be honest, none of that even surprised you because when you told him you were pregnant he reacted by patting you on the shoulder and saying, 'I'm sorry' and then complained about having to turn up to your abortion because one of his favourite musicians was playing that night. Stabler would probably not take that very well.  

Not that that happened to me. 

As a lover, Stabler ticks all the boxes one would require from a tortured romance. He's a man who's Seen Things, and has the mental scars to prove it. You'll never be able to fix him, but by gosh you'll burn a lot of energy trying. Afterwards, you can hold him and think about how grateful he must feel to have found safety in your arms. Then again, you've seen him in his other role as a manipulative, hardened criminal in the experimental prison unit of Oz. Could you ever really be satisfied with sensual, tormented love-making now that you've glimpsed the raw, man-on-man lust truck he's driving in his orange scrubs? No, you can not.Plus, Stabler's first name is Elliot, which is also the name of my nephew. And while I'm willing to explore the kinky dynamic of LoverFather,LoverNephew is a bridge too far - even for me.

LOVERFATHER VERDICT: 20/80

15 comments

  • In one regard many women actually, albeit unwittingly, want their lovers to be their fathers!

    To explain - infants cannot communicate thru speech. So, from an infant's perspective, the best parents are those who can perceive their needs (ie read their minds thru body language etc) and satisfy those needs.

    And in my experience, it is rather common for women to want their lovers to be able to 'read their minds' and meet their desires without the awkward part of having to actually ask for what they want.

    And that, to all intents and purposes, is wanting your lover to be your parent!!

    Commenter
    profligate
    Location
    Melbourne
    Date and time
    July 12, 2013, 9:16AM
    • I've had a girlfriend straight out say that she was with me because I reminded her of her father, and that she couldn't be with someone who wasn't like him.
      Which weirded me out.

      But I've heard other girls say similar things.

      Commenter
      Jon
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 11:03AM
    • Oh no, please don't get on the armchair psychology bandwagon here.

      Yes, people (both male and female) often do want a level of unspoken empathy and understanding from their partners. This does not, repeat, NOT mean that we want a parent figure.

      Bloody Freud has a lot to answer for. 100 years after he first threw out his garbage, unscientific theories based on speculation and personal experience, people are still using them to oversimplify female sexuality.

      Most women would gag at the suggestion that our sexual preferences are determined by our relationships with our fathers. I know I would.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 11:48AM
    • Is it that weird? I don't think she was saying it in a way that suggests she has unrequited sexual tension with her father, just that any partner would need to possess similar traits and attitudes that make her admire/be emotionally close to her father.

      The same goes for the odd level of disdain some women express when talking about a man looking for another version of his mother.
      If his mother was someone who was strong and independent yet caring and supportive even in the toughest of times, why would him looking for similar traits in the person he intends to spend the rest of his life with be cause for disdain?

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 12:25PM
    • Red Pony - Your implication seems to be that we have a choice as to what our formative influences were ("were" being the important word... past tense), and that rejecting those influences in some way benefits us (maybe yours were awful, I don't know). I don't think there are any principles to be applied here. It just is.

      Commenter
      JTO
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 12:42PM
  • Did Sandy Cohen not cross your mind? That wit. That pro bono lawyer-ing. Those eyebrows! I mean seriously.

    Commenter
    Kirsten Cohen
    Location
    Orange County
    Date and time
    July 12, 2013, 9:51AM
    • +1

      Commenter
      JB
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 10:41AM
  • I wonder if unconsciously many feminist who have had good father role models often want to retain their surnames on marriage not as a sign of independence but as a way of retaining links to their father?
    I also wonder if the quality of your relationship with your opposite parent sets the example for your ability/inability to interact with the opposite sex?
    So with more same sex parenting what can we expect in societal interactions in the future? Interesting changes we are going through now

    Commenter
    david
    Date and time
    July 12, 2013, 10:06AM
    • I think you're onto something David. Studies have repeatedly shown that girls who are close to their fathers lose their virginity later in life (some may disagree, but I'd argue this is a good thing when the alternative is losing it at 13 or 14 waaaay before either party is emotionally ready) and have more stable relationships in adulthood.

      Suggesting that a healthy relationship with fathers leads women to healthier adult relationships may be venturing into Captain Obvious territory, but it's something always worth repeating.

      Commenter
      Shane
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 11:07AM
    • Shane, that relationship is very likely mediated by the obvious fact that girls who are closer to their fathers are more likely to have come from stable and loving homes, and/or be subject to more attentive and authoritative parent styles. If you'd care to cite the research you're referring to, we can see if that is the case.

      There are many roads to Rome, and they aren't all built on a creepy, pseudo-sexual father-daughter relationship.

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      July 12, 2013, 11:52AM

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