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  • Jordan Francis

The Daddening Effect

A constructive look at a new media trope.

By Jordan Francis, Contributing Writer

Image of The Mandalorian and The Child from the Disney+ series The Mandalorian.

In 2010, the concept of "Daddening" first was reported in a gaming review site, Kotaku, by Steven Totilo. Totilo claimed that the new romance perpetrated by video games was not just adventure and violence, but fatherhood. Many popular games across platforms involve storylines of a strong, masculine character risking everything to protect a young, innocent character (i.e. The Witcher, The Last of Us, The Walking Dead, Bioshock, etc.). This concept took off in the gaming community through Reddit and even a psychology journal borrowed the term within the last ten years. Keeping this gaming concept in mind, we can turn to many current TV shows and movies that have turned to the same dynamic.

There has always been room in comedy for masculine characters to suddenly find themselves as caretakers for children (i.e. Tom Selleck’s Three Men and a Baby [1987], Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy [1999], Ice Cube’s Are We There Yet [2005], or David Bautista’s My Spy [2020]). This trope has always been used for goofy, family-centered movies, but the “Daddening” trope seems to follow more serious, darker-plotted movies and games. The “Daddening” trope involves more violence than giggles.

The Mandalorian (2019) would be the textbook definition of “Daddening” (assuming there was a textbook for gaming terms). The Mandalorian is a hit show on Disney+ following a rogue Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) as he traverses the Star Wars universe with a mysterious child that he must protect from the Empire. Mandalorians are known to be big, bad bounty hunters that show no mercy, yet we are shown one that makes an exception for the child affectionately and unofficially known as Baby Yoda.

As mentioned with the video game tropes, Netflix’s The Witcher (2019) follows the same storyline set in place by the video games and book series by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski. This adventurous fantasy transitioned seamlessly to television and became a smash hit for Netflix. The Witcher (Henry Cavill) is a nonhuman monster hunter that has vowed to protect the princess of a fallen kingdom, despite her mysterious nonhuman abilities. Witchers in the series are known to be ruthless in their ability to hunt the worst-of-the-worst monsters and their unparalleled fighting abilities, and here Cavill’s Witcher has taken a tiny, blonde princess under his wing to train and protect.

Cormac McCarthy’s The Road was made into a film in 2009 starring Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee. This story centers on a father and son in a postapocalyptic world trying to travel along a road to get to the coast, where they think they will be safe from cannibalistic gangs and scavengers. This movie (and novel) is heavily symbolic and moving. We, again, have a father risking his life and their safety for the chance of getting his son to safety.

Probably the most popular movie series in this trope would be Liam Neeson’s Taken (2008). Neeson plays a retired CIA operative that stops at nothing to save his 17-year-old daughter that has been kidnapped while traveling in France. This film is a franchise of three and was even adapted into a short-lived TV show with the same name. Each of the films involves the main character, Bryan Mills, violently avenging someone in his family.

Denzel Washington’s Man on Fire (2004) set the stage for Taken. Man on Fire follows (another) CIA operative that is on a mission to seek vengeance on everyone involved in the kidnapping of the daughter (Dakota Fanning) of a businessman he was hired to be protecting. Apparently, Hollywood holds ex-CIA operatives as some of the most deadly and menacing men in the world, and they definitely advise against kidnapping any young girls these men care about.

Is this the trending interests for males today; is this prevalent to how one would portray masculinity in today’s society? Many of these tropes have a post-apocalyptic or otherworldly setting. Is this the only stage we feel is fitting for a masculine individual to risk their lives and safety for a child? Perhaps with the vast changes in our social and political climates, men relate to this trope and believe that if the world were to be literally falling around them, they too would risk everything to save their loved ones. I would believe this is not too far a stretch from fiction; I think that many individuals would risk life, limb, and the law to save their families. I think that the increase in terrorism (foreign and homegrown) may fuel this trope in the eyes of the everyday person. Many of us have seen horrific events on the news and questioned ourselves and the actions we would hypothetically take in these scenarios.


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