In honor of the Academy Awards I thought I would put up a brief post about parenthood in the movies. I’ve written on the general topic (and more broadly, parenthood in popular culture) in the past. Since I believe the legal definition of parent is socially constructed, it’s depiction in popular culture can be important.
Anyway, on the eve of the Oscars I got to see American Hustle. (For the record, it was nominated for ten Oscars, won absolutely nothing, but I thought it was quite good.) It’s about a con artist–Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale–who is pretty much a small-time, low-life sort of guy. He’s ensnared by the FBI and ends up being used to ensnare increasingly valuable (and generally corrupt) defendants. Based on a true story, as they say.
Rosenfeld is a complicated character. He’s a crook. He preys (at the outset) on other crooks. He has both a mistress and a wife. It’s hard to say he is admirable.
Except for one thing. He has a son, Danny. Actually, some of you might insist that I say he has a step-son, for Danny is the son of Danny’s wife and some former connection of hers. (I cannot recall what has happened to that man, but he’s clearly gone. ) Irving has adopted Danny.
Without giving much away, I can say that Irving’s unalterable commitment to Danny is part of what drives the plot. Danny is “my son” say Irving, and he won’t leave him. He doesn’t say “step-son.” He doesn’t say “adopted son.” He just says “my son.”
Now it’s not a big deal in the movie–that this otherwise rather unsavory character who seems to have an unreliable moral compass is willing to sacrifice quite a bit to make good on his commitment to be a father to his son. It’s just there. And I think it’s worth a moment’s notice.