Why are surrogate parent-child relationships so pervasive in pop culture? Is it the hope that even if your parents die or hate us or don’t know how to solve our problems, someone else will pick up the slack and help us out? Or do we just enjoy watching strong, independent people be all vaguely touchy-feely and stuff, to kids that don’t happen to be their own? Either way, the surrogate father-daughter relationship has become a particularly popular one recently. For this Father’s Day, we thought we’d celebrate all the pop-culture heroes who aren’t necessarily dads but who act like them anyway sometimes, as well as the badass girls who benefit from their paternal instincts. Let us know your favorites in the comments.
Arya Stark and Tywin Lannister, Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones‘ second season involved quite a bit of interaction between the head of the Lannister household and the youngest Stark girl in disguise. Tywin even told Arya that she reminds him of his daughter (which is funny because we know his daughter and… yeah, no). Wouldn’t you just love to see a crazy spin-off that’s just the two of them? It would end horribly, of course, but it would be a pretty fun ride!
Buffy Summers and Rupert Giles, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
As Watcher to the Slayer, Giles’ job is to mentor Buffy in her numerous vampire killing and evildoer-defeating duties. He and Buffy end up forming such a close bond, however, that he actually quits his job with the Watchers’ Council rather than hurt her, and spends the rest of the show hanging around (except in that one season where he didn’t, but we don’t like to talk about that).
A special shout out should also go out to Faith and the Mayor, who are kind of the evil version of Buffy and Giles. Really, the mentor-mentee surrogate family is one of Joss Whedon’s all time favorite tropes. If we get that Black Widow prequel, you can bet Natasha will have an older guy telling her she’s awesome and egging her on, too.
Katniss Everdeen and Haymitch Abernathy, The Hunger Games
While the relationship between the tribute and her mentor wasn’t as fleshed out in the movie as it is in the books, you still get the sense that Haymitch enjoys the ruthlessness and cynicism he sees in Katniss, and the two have much more in common than either of them do with Peeta. He’s just too much of a cake-decorating goody two-shoes to relate.
William Adama and Kara “Starbuck” Thrace, Battlestar Galactica
In an ideal world that wasn’t nuked to smithereens by Cylons, Kara would have married Adama’s oldest son and the two would have officially been family. This is Battlestar, though, where no one is allowed to be truly happy, so that didn’t happen. The Old Man and Starbuck still have an incredibly touching relationship, though, somewhere in between dealing with family drama and dealing with the fall of humanity.
King Théoden and Eowyn, The Lord of the Rings
It’s hard to keep track of who’s related to who in Tolkien’s classic book series, especially if you start to go into the stuff that wasn’t in the movies. Seriously, you think trying to keep up with George R.R. Martin is tough? For one thing, all the names in Middle Earth sound exactly the same. Eowyn is actually Théoden’s niece, but after his own son’s death (his name is Théodred), he treats her and her brother as if they are his children, too. Then she avenges his death by being a total badass, much to the delight of every nerdy girl to ever fancy herself a shieldmaiden.
Tenzin and Korra, Avatar: The Legend of Korra
Don’t let M. Night Shyamalan’s awful movie fool you, the Avatar: The Last Airbender television series is a completely awesome world of magic and adorable hybrid animals (polar bear dogs, anyone?). The recent sequel follows the new Avatar, Korra, as she trains and lives with the previous Avatar’s son, Tenzin. Even though Tenzin is calmly spiritual and Korra is loud and headstrong, the two really care about one another like family — which they almost sort of are, since Korra is the reincarnated soul of Tenzin’s dad. That’s got to make reunions weird.
Bruce Wayne and Carrie Kelley, Cassie Cain, and Stephanie Brown, Batman
Even though Batman is usually better remembered for mentoring a whole bunch of young boys to be Robin, he’s also tried his hand at teaching girls, too — and it’s just as delightfully creepy yet adorable! The first Batgirl, Barbara Gordon, did her own thing, but after she was paralyzed while fighting crime, she and Bruce acted as substitute parents for Cassie Cain and then Stephanie Brown (who was also Robin for a little while). In Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, an older Bruce took in 13-year-old Carrie Kelley as the first female Robin. Too bad many of these girls have the tendency to develop feelings for Bruce, but honestly, so do the guy Robins when you think about it, so it’s not too different.
Frankie Dunn and Maggie Fitzgerald, Million Dollar Baby
Not only do these two boxers grow to respect and love one each other in the context of a trainer/trainee relationship, but Frankie ends up caring for Maggie so much that he defies his Catholic upbringing to euthanize her when she’s fatally injured. The Irish inscription and nickname that he gives to her, “Mo Cuishle,” translates to “my darling, and my blood.” He doesn’t tell her that until right before she dies, of course. Excuse us, we all have something in our eyes.