Photo: 20th Century Fox
Parents get a bad rap. So, it’s our job as kids (at heart) to continue that tradition by showcasing some of pop culture’s bad parents from throughout the years. Consider this an endless list, because surprisingly, there are a lot of unfit fictional parents out there. Also, we all know that flat-out psychos take the cake for the ABSOLUTE worst parents: Norman Bates’ mother… Jack Torrance… the freaks from Texas Chainsaw Massacre… and so forth. With all that in mind, and the firm stance that Homer Simpson is actually a decent father (at least to Maggie), we thought we’d see who else out there was doing a truly terrible job. Sorry in advance to all the parents doing their best out there, but perhaps meeting some of the guilty here will make you feel a little bit better about yourselves.
Bad Parents: 7 Of Pop Culture’s Worst
1. The McCallisters, Home Alone
When you make a franchise out of movies where parents really screwed up, you know you’re doing something wrong. Say what you will about The McCallisters being family-oriented and taking enormous, inconceivably expensive family vacations consecutive years in a row, but they really, really, really do not treat their youngest Kevin like any semblance of a human being (let alone their son). The first movie sets this up in a way where, okay, it’s “believable” that the power in your house could black out, and in a rush to catch your flight, you could conceivably forget about your child in the 3rd floor room/attic. The biggest issue here is that this happens AGAIN. In sort of the same way as before, only Kevin at least makes it to airport. You’d think after a year of self-parental shame and child therapy for Kevin’s near-murder by burglars, the parents McCallister would take extreme precaution when going on an international trip the following year. This…was not the case. In fact, it sometimes seemed like a joke to them. Someone take Kevin away from these awful parents. In fact, ditch the entire family, too.
2. Jack Byrnes, Meet The Parents
We understand the whole gist of this film series is that Jack Byrnes is supposed to be hard to win over. He was in the CIA, so he’s very untrusting. Making him the ultimate naysayer for getting his approval on anything regarding his daughter. But that still doesn’t make it right. Sure, joining the circle of trust in any family is tough to achieve for an outsider. There’s inside jokes, there’s intra-family pool volleyball games, and sometimes there’s ex-boyfriends like Owen Wilson. But any reasonable person would realize that this man in particular is a maniac when it comes to Ben Stiller’s Greg Focker. It starts small, but turns into a terrifying tale. The pool scene would make anyone cringe for this poor guy and what he has to go through. Who in their right mind would put a man through this, let alone someone who has been dating their daughter for long enough to want to propose. Human beings don’t act like this. People don’t put hidden cameras in a guest room to spy on guests in their home. I mean, the guy treated his cat better than Focker. You could argue, though, that this type of behavior was all a big psychological experiment of Jack’s to truly test Greg’s willpower. But to us, well, Jack’s a total nutbag and we’d be headed for the door.
3. Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Star Wars
Pretty self-explanatory. Good guy joins dark side (a.k.a. the side encouraging evil, anger and hate). Kills tons of people (including small children). Strikes fear into the hearts of defectors. Is mostly robot. Finds out his children are alive and more powerful than him. Seeks to destroy them. Fails. Then, opts to force them into joining his evil cause. Or die. Pretty solid parenting, huh? But hey, he redeemed himself in the end, right? Saving Luke versus killing 142,000-ish…? Nah, this dude’s bad.
4. Mary: The Mom, E.T. : The Extra Terrestrial
Poor Mary. Single mom life is hard. But not knowing your child is housing an alien in your house, that’s not great, either. Mary has a very loving relationship with her children, but her constant failure to keep her eye on the ball has us wondering if she could have tried a little harder. I mean, she did mistake a hobbling E.T. for her little Drew Barrymore daughter. Come on, Mary. How did you not notice who drank all of the beer in your fridge, forgetting the fact that it was an alien? Perhaps her incredible reaction to Elliot’s use of the word “penis breath” really says it all for us. How did Elliot come up with this form of insult? Mary don’t care. “Sit down.”
5. Splinter, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
A bit unconventional, sure. Especially since I’m a Turtle junkie. But Splinter, when you really think about it, isn’t the best parent to his four teenagers. For one, let’s get proper nourishment out the way. I understand these boys are turtles, and that they live in New York City, but even I know you can’t just eat pizza every day. Believe me, I’ve tried. Sure, the Turtles also try to swap out toppings from time to time, but it’s really gotten out of hand. Perhaps a little less focus on ninjitsu training and a little more introducing fruits and vegetables to your growing sons’ palettes? I know, it sounds lame, but it’s parenting. The other obvious thing is, well, they live in a sewer. I know they’re mutated to some degree, but so are a lot of other New Yorkers. It can’t be good to breathe down there, even for them. And finally, there’s the whole ninja thing. It seems Splinter has been training his sons since birth how to be ninja. While that’s good for, you know, a hobby and all, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a way of life. They’re no killing machines per say, but they’re all lethal weapons… carrying lethal weapons… who do end up saving the city… by use of violence. We’re not saying the heroes in a half-shell aren’t awesome and that we didn’t want to be Turtles growing up, but from a parental standpoint, these kids aren’t really being given the “safest” upbringing. Sorry, but that falls on you, Splinter-dude.
6. Frank Reynolds, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Let’s face it, the Reynolds’ are all terrible people. But maybe this stems from the top. More specifically, Frank. Let’s see… he openly drinks or does drugs at any given point in the day, carries firearms loosely, pretended to be intimately involved with his own daughter for personal gain, loves whores, toasted champagne at the news of his wife, hates AIDS or anyone in contact with it, and, of course, loves Mac, Charlie, and the rum ham more than his actual children. It’s no surprise that his kids grew up to be awful, spoiled, sometimes crack-addicted sociopaths. Take note: if you live a parental life like ol’ Frank, your children are likely to turn out a murderer or a bird. Truly, the only people that could be worse parents might be Bill Ponderosa or Uncle Jack.
7. Jack Bauer, 24
Turns out there’s a price to pay for being a super-agent for your country: your family has a huge target on their backs. Jack Bauer is a phenomenal government employee. He’s a superhero. A living weapon. Pretty much un-killable. A jack of all trades, you could say. Well, except when it comes to his flesh and blood. Sure, he loves his family, but the job can really get in the way of that. For example, the man has horrible hours, which surely strain his relationship with his wife and daughter. Then there’s the whole “all terrorists see your family as your weakness” angle. For example, at the beginning of 24, Jack’s daughter Kim was swiftly kidnapped and used against him. Not exactly what you’d want for your daughter, is it? Cut to the next couple years when Kim follows in Jack’s footsteps working for the government and continues being thrown into harm’s way again and again: dealing with deception, nerve gas, her mother’s killer, and oh yes, a nuclear bomb. Seems like your job is really screwing your family up, Jack. Would it have killed you to take a desk job? I love you, but still, hope it was all worth it.