1. Mr. Bennet (Pride & Prejudice)
|"Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins...and I will never see you again if you do."
I have a lot of respect for Mr. Bennet. Not only is he the only guy in a houseful of women, but--Mrs. Bennet. I mean, that man has a lot of patience. But though he does let his wife walk over him a bit for the sake of keeping the peace, I really like that he does put his foot down when one of his daughters doesn't want to be as silly as her mother. I think he handles the diverse personalities in his family well--he recognizes each daughter for who she is, and lets her be herself, whether that's silly (Lydia), studious (Mary), or independent (Lizzy). True, it probably wasn't the best parenting that led to Lydia's catastrophic elopement with Wickham, but, overall, I think he did a fairly good job for the times in letting his daughters become the people they wanted to be, instead of who others (*cough* Mrs. Bennet *cough*) expected them to be. (Also: it should be noted that he is just as entertaining, and approximately thirty-eight percent cooler, in "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", which I am halfway through reading--and loving it!)
2. Jack Bristow (Alias)
|Jack: "I don't sell airplane parts. I never sold airplane parts."
I discovered "Alias" in its third season, during my freshmen year of college; my roommates and I got our hands on seasons one and two, and had regular "Alias" nights where we binge-watched as much Sydney Bristow badassery--and, let's be honest, as much Vaughn, Will, and Sark--as possible. But we all loved Jack Bristow, too, and his horribly awkward relationship with the daughter he has no idea how to relate to. Guilt, over not being around during her childhood and then failing to protect her from the grasp of Sloane and SD-6, seemed to have prevented him from having much relationship with her in the beginning of the show, but watching his fumbling efforts to reconnect in the midst of their joint mission to take down SD-6 is nothing short of endearing. He clearly loves Sydney; he just has no idea how to be a father, and often lets fear curb his efforts (like the time he called her from outside the restaurant, to let her know he wouldn't make it after all). But, aside from talking to her, he'd clearly do anything for her, from arranging for Sydney and Danny to run from Sloane (too late, unfortunately) to sacrificing his own life to bring down the man who had done so much to hurt to his daughter.
3. Barney Stinson (How I Met Your Mother)
|"Everything I have, and everything I am, is yours, forever."
Barney's hilarious, but he's a mostly horrible person. I loved him and hated him throughout the show, but I love how looking into his daughter's eyes for the first time changes him completely. Ellie matters to him, from their first moment together, and she matters so much that she completely re-shapes how he sees his world and the people in it (I loved the moment in the finale when he got up, presumably to chat up a couple of young women at the bar--only to berate them for "trying to make bad decisions" and instructing them to call their parents). Though we don't get to see Barney as a father for very much of the show at all, I'm betting he turns out to be a fantastic dad.
4. Fa Zhou (Mulan)
I love Fa Zhou. When his daughter comes home from a catastrophic meeting with the local matchmaker, after being told that she was virtually worthless, her father sits down beside her and points to a bud on the flowering tree stretched over them, telling her that though it will bloom late, he thinks it would be the most beautiful of all. And then, after Mulan literally defeats the entire Hun army and saves the Emperor's life, she brings home gifts that are meant to "honor the Fa family"--but her father puts them aside and embraces her, telling her that "The greatest gift and honor is having you for a daughter". I love that her worth to him has nothing to do with her failure as a woman (in that culture, anyway) or her success as warrior. He just loves her.
5. Matthew Cuthbert (Anne of Green Gables)
|Puffed sleeves...and twenty pounds of brown sugar.
I know Matthew isn't technically anyone's father, but sometimes the greatest dads aren't the biological or legal ones. When I saw this week's "5 Fandom Friday" topic, Matthew Cuthbert was actually the first character who sprang to mind as one of my favorite fictional fathers. He takes Anne home from the station that first day, even though she isn't a boy, and from that moment on, he takes care of her and loves her as a daughter. He gently defends her eccentricities to Marilla, he lets her talk his ear off as much as she likes, and he steps far outside his comfort zone to give her the moon in every way he can (hence the twenty pounds of brown sugar, as he works up his courage to ask the clerk about getting a dress with puffed sleeves). In the end, his last words to Anne are "I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don't ever change. I love my little girl. I'm so proud of my little girl." Dear, sweet Matthew...what a beautiful relationship he and Anne give us!
So who are your favorite fictional fathers?