It’s almost the end of the year, so it’s time to announce the winner of the coveted (not) 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.
Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page to various computer file formats, updated every year. Eventually, I decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner, the 2019 winner, the 2020 winner and the 2021 winner were announced right here on this blog.
Warning: Spoilers for several things behind the cut!
Before we get to the main event, let’s start with the 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents. I originally created the Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award as an anaologue to the Retro Hugos in 2020 to honour terrible parents who either did their villainous parenting before the award was a thing or who were overlooked in the past for unfathomable reasons.
Our 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award winner is an example of the latter, a character or rather two of them who should absolutely have won back in 1985, only that I missed them when I retroactively assembled the first years of winners in the late 1980s and instead awarded the admittedly terrible soap opera character Hans Beimer. However, let’s rectify this oversight.
Therefore I’m thrilled to announce that the joint winners of the 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents are…
Hordak the Mighty, Viceroy of Etheria and Second-in-Command of the All-Conquering Evil Horde, and Shadow Weaver
As chronicled in He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword back in 1985 (or you can see my take on the story here), Hordak stole Princess Adora from her parents King Randor and Queen Marlena of Eternia, when she was just a baby, because he wanted the child’s fabulous secret powers for himself.
Hordak then raised young Adora as his own and made sure to instil the values of the Evil Horde, values such as subjugation, slavery and slaughter, into the girl. He was aided in this by the sorceress Shadow Weaver, who used her powers to brainwash Adora, keep her under control and prevent her from asking uncomfortable questions. Once Adora came of age, Hordak made her a Force Captain in the Evil Horde and forced her to take part in the atrocities committed by his forces. In the 2012 Masters of the Universe comic series, Hordak even sends Adora, now known as Despara, to her homeworld Eternia to attack, conquer and murder her own parents and brother.
However, coming face to face with her twin brother Prince Adam a.k.a. He-Man and getting hold of the Sword of Protection helped Adora to finally break free from Hordak and Shadow Weaver’s control and become She-Ra, the heroine she was always meant to be.
Ever since then, Hordak and Shadow Weaver have been trying to bring Adora back, by force if necessary. Not to mention that Hordak and his forces also continue to try to conquer the planet of Etheria, crush the Rebellion, enslave the population and suck out their life force to power their headquarters the Fright Zone. Furthermore, Hordak also poisoned the troubled mind of Prince Keldor of Eternia against his family, gave Keldor a vial of acid to murder his own brother and when that plan backfired (in the most literal sense of the word), Hordak used his dark magic to turn Prince Keldor into Skeletor, the Lord of Destruction. Finally, Hordak is also notoriously abusive towards his own subordinates such as Mantenna, Grizzlor, Leech or Catra and frequently drops them through a trap door in front of his throne.
Such villainy deserves an award and therefore Hordak and Shadow Weaver are the winners of the 2022 Retro Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.
Applause errupts around the auditorium. Only Hans Beimer, the actual 1985 winner, boos.
Hordak and Shadow Weaver both appear in person, Hordak clad in his familiar black uniform with red cape and bat symbol and Shadow Weaver clad in her flowing dark pink robes. They take to the stage, flanked by two Horde Troopers and accompanied by Mantenna, Grizzlor and Mosquitor. In the front row, Hans Beimer continues to boo, until he gets zapped by a Horde Trooper for his trouble.
Hordak and Shadow Weaver accept their award, an ugly vase, and deliver the following acceptance speech:
Thank you. I am so… sniff… touched that my efforts in bringing peace and order to the galaxy in the name of the Great and All-Mighty Horde Empire are finally being recognised and I greatfully accept this… what is this object of power anyway?
It’s just an ugly vase. It’s not as if we can actually afford a trophy.
“…this ugly vase of power. But this is apparently about Adora, so Adora, if you can hear me and I know you can, please, come back. I promise you that you will not be punished, at least not very much. Just please, come back and rejoin the Horde.
I know that we have not always seen eye to eye in the past and that we have had disagreements on matters of Horde policy such slavery, decimating local populations or sucking out the life force of prisoners. But I know that it is perfectly normal for children to disagree with their parents’ politics, especially since children don’t always understand the harsh realities of governing a galaxy-spanning empire.
And yes, I know you’re angry that Shadow Weaver and I never told you about your biological parents. But why can’t you see what we have given you? When I first took you from Etheria, you were just a squishy, soft, ugly, little pink thing that cried and peed all the time. But we raised you, taught you, trained you and made you a Force Captain of the Horde and my Despara, my harbinger of doom and destruction. Surely that has to count for something. I mean, have you ever looked at that brother of yours? He’s a lazy bum and a coward. Is that really the life you want for yourself?
If you’re worried that we’re upset about your relationship with Catra, we’re not. Why should we be upset? Catra was always a most loyal Horde enforcer and she’s certainly better than that treacherous bum Sea Hawk. Though we would appreciate it, if you were to bring Catra back as well, Adora, if only because I’m running out of Force Captains and have even been considering promoting Mantenna, which should show you how desperate I am. But honestly, while we know that humans have strange hang-ups about same sex relationships, we of the Horde do not know such prejudice.
The Evil Horde is fully committed to workplace diversity. I mean, Mantenna, Grizzlor, Mosquitor, Leech and Modulok are not even the same species and Horde Prime alone knows what their sexual preferences are. We are an LGBTQ friendly employer. At least, this book So Your Kid Just Came Out As Gay that Eleanor gave me said I should say that.
In the front row, 2021 winner Eleanor Bishop blows Hordak a kiss and calls out, “See, Hordak, dear, I told you that would work. Don’t forget to call me about business opportunities for marketing the products your slaves produce.”
Hans Beimer briefly comes to and manages to emit one more “boo”, before a Horde Trooper zaps him once more.
Just please come back, Adora. I miss you, my Force Captain, my Despara, my harbinger of doom and destruction. Torturing prisoners has never been as much fun as when you were sitting beside me.
Shadow Weaver then takes the mike and adds:
Catra and Adora, quit this nonsense and come back to the Horde. Just come back and I will make sure that you will soon forget all of those silly rebellious ideas and thoughts and sleep the slumber of the wicked again.
Hordak, Shadow Weaver and their entourage leave the stage. “Boss, are you really going to promote me to Force Captain?” Mantenna asks and promptly gets slapped across the auditorium.
Hordak, champion of LGBTQ rights. And I thought I’d heard everything.
Anyway, now that the Retro Award is out of the way, let’s get to the main event, namely the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.
As I’ve noted in 2020 and 2021, every year there seem to be fewer and fewer Darth Vader Parenthood Award candidates and more and more candidates for the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award, which will be handed out tomorrow.
Another trend I’ve noticed in 2022 is that we increasingly see fictional parents who are neither cartoonishly evil nor saintly good, but who are just people who clearly care for their kids and yet mess up anyway and drive them away. I’m not the only one who has noticed this trend, by the way. Matthew Huff wrote a whole article about the phenomenon for the AV-Club.
Evelyn Wang from Everything Everywhere All at Once is probably the best example of this trend, a woman who clearly loves her daughter and yet disapproves of her lifestyle and the fact that her daughter is gay. Evelyn could theoretically win both the Darth Vader Parenthood Award and the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award and somewhere in the multiverse she probably did.
Viserys Targaryen from House of the Dragon is another example. He clearly loves his oldest daughter and heir Rhaenyra and yet order his pregnant wife Aemma to be sacrificed in order to save the life of her baby, whom he hopes will finally be a male heir to the Iron Throne. After the death of his first wife, Viserys remarries Alicent Hightower and three sons and a daughter with her and still insists that Rhaenyra shall inherit the Iron Throne, setting Rhaenyra against Alicent. Furthermore, Viserys forces Rhaenyra to marry Laenor Velaryon, whom she does not love and who is likely gay. Viserys messy family relationships and treatment of Rhaenyra, Alicent and their respective kids leads to a civil war after his death.
Season 2 of Star Trek Picard decided to delve into Jean-Luc Picard’s unhappy childhood, complete with flashback scenes of Picard’s loving mother Yvette, who permanently seems to be terrified of something, and her abusive husband Maurice. However, it eventually turns out that Jean-Luc’s memories are not exactly reliable and that Yvette was mentally ill and eventually committed suicide and that Maurice, even though he’ll never be father of the year, was actually trying to protect his young son. So I’ll file Maurice and Yvette Picard under ambiguous.
Now let’s move on to parents who are unambiguously terrible, but not quite terrible enough to win the award. First, we have Wendy Spector, mother of Randall and Marc Spector. As chronicled in Moon Knight, when Randall Spector accidentally drowned as a child, Wendy blamed her other son Marc and physically and emotionally abused him, until Marc developed dissociative identity disorder to cope with the abuse. That’s pretty terrible, but not quite terrible enough to win.
The Star Wars series Andor yielded several parents of the good, the bad and the ugly kind. We’ll tackle the good tomorrow, but first let’s look at the bad and the ugly. Eedy Karn is the ambitious and cold mother of Deputy Inspector Syril Karn who is inordinately concerned with her son’s career in the Empire and willing to pull any nepotism strings, so Syril will ascend the Imperial ladder of success. She’s pretty awful, but just plain awful isn’t enough to succeed in an award named after none other than Darth Vader himself, so it’s No Award for Ms. Karn.
Andor also gives us a look into the family life of rebel leader Mon Mothma on Coruscant and it’s not happy. Now no one can doubt that Mon Mothma was a great leader of the Rebellion and she also was a very active and engaged Senator for her homeworld Chandrila. However, like many very politically active and socially engaged people, Mon Mothma is a pretty shitty mother who neglects her teenaged daughter Leida for her political ambitions, discourages Leida’s interest in the culture of her mother’s homeworld and even sells Leida out in an arranged marriage to cover up the embezzlement of funds for the Rebellion. Leida’s father Perrin Fertha is pretty shitty, too, and basically only cares about the good life on Coruscant and not at all for his wife’s political career. He also hangs out with high-ranking Imperials and supports neither his wife nor his daughter. Now anybody who has met people who are very politically and socially active and busybody do-gooders knows that a lot of them are terrible parents and partners, though it is interesting to see a Star Wars series, even one as compatively realistic as Andor, not just acknowledge this, but protray a popular character like Mon Mothma as a bad mother. But though Mon Mothma may not be a good mother, Darth Vader she’s not.
In the end, the battle for the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award came down to a neck to neck race between two sets of parents. Which brings us to the runner-up for the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents, namely…
Ulysses and Verussa Bloodstone
As portrayed by actors Richard Dixon and Harriet Samson Harris in Werewolf by Night, Ulysses was the head of a monster hunter clan and wielder of the legendary Bloodstone, which weakens monsters and also exposes hidden monsters. Ulysses was a very enthusiastic monster hunter and did not particularly care if the “monsters” actually posed a threat to anybody. If someone met Ulysses’ definition of monster, he would hunt and kill them without mercy.
Ulysses’ first wife and his daughter Elsa did not agree with his profession and became estranged from him. Ulysses eventually remarried and his second wife Verussa enthusiastically partook in the monster-hunting family business.
When Ulysses finally shuffled off this mortal coil, Verussa called together various monster hunters to determine who should inherit the Bloodstone. Elsa reappeared as well to claim her inheritance, much to Verussa’s chagrin. The inheritor of the Bloodstone was to be determined via a monster hunt staged on the ground of the Bloodstone estate and the monster to be hunted was an innocent creature named Ted a.k.a. Man-Thing. When Elsa teamed up with Ted and his friend Jack to free Ted and gain the stone for herself, Verussa threw a fit, locked Elsa in a cage with a werewolf about to transform and repeatedly tried to kill her. She eventually succumbed to an attack by Ted, who may be mild-mannered, but nonetheless has limits.
That sort of villainy deserves recognition and therefore I name Ulysses and Verussa Bloodstone the runners up for the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents.
Since Ulysses and Verussa Bloodstone are both dead, their daughter/stepdaughter took to the stage, clad in jeans and a blood-red leather jacket.
I’m not sure what I’m even doing here? I mean what’s the point of this? To prove that my father and my stepmother were fucking terrible people? I fucking know that they were fucking terrible people, thank you very much. As for this…
Elsa looks at the ugly vase.
…I don’t want it. I mean, I inherited a whole mansion full of butt-ugly furniture and I’m still in the process of cleaning that shit out. Why would I want an ugly vase?
She throws the ugly vase across the auditorium, narrowly missing Hans Beimer and hitting Mantenna instead, who yelps, as his eyes pop out.
But while I’m here, let me make one thing very clear: The Bloodstone organisation is under new management. And henceforth, we will only hunt cryptids, if they actually pose a threat to humanity. No more monster hunting just for the fun of it. Cause Nosferatu there…
She points at Hordak, who is completely confused by the reference, since 1920s horror movie have not yet found their way to the Horde Empire.
…has it right. It doesn’t matter what someone looks like, whether they’re human, mutant, werewolf, vampire or monster. What matters is what they do. If you live your life peacefully, the Bloodstone organisation is not going to harass you. But if you hurt others, you’ll answer to me.
She storms off, while the entire auditorium looks after her. “Ungrateful whelp,” Shadow Weaver hisses.
Okay, after that fiery speech, let’s finally get to our Grand Prize. The winner of the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents is none other than…
Dr. Adam Soong
Portrayed by actor Brent Spiner in season 2 of Star Trek Picard, Dr. Adam Soong is a geneticist with delusions of grandeur living in the Los Angeles of a 21st century one universe over.
Possessed by seemingly unlimited wealth, Dr. Soong poured considerable funds and effort into highly unethical research and created at least 24 clone daughters, only one of whom, Kore, survived to adulthood, while her sisters succumbed to rare genetic disorder that made both sunlight and dust deadly for them. Soong lied about his experiments to everybody, including Kore, who believed that she was Soong’s biological daughter.
When Soong was called before an ethic committee and lost his funding, he accepted an offer from a mysterious alien being calling himself Q. In exchange for a substance that would cure Kore’s condition, Q demanded that Soong stop a young astronaut named Renee Picard from boarding the first mission to the Jupiter moon Europa. Soong was extremely ruthless in achieving this goal and repeatedly tried to murder Renee, actually did murder the Watcher Tallinn and ran over Admiral Jean-Luc Picard with a car. Furthermore, he also handed a squad of special forces soldiers over to the Borg Queen to be assimilated and personally led them on an assault on the French vineyard Chateau Picard. He also tried to kill Jean-Luc Picard again as well as Seven of Nine, Raffi Musiker and Chris Rios. Oh yes, if all that wasn’t awful enough, Dr. Adam Soong was also involved in a top secret genetics project codenamed “Khan” and we all know where that leads.
At least Q delivered the cure to her condition to Kore Soong, who promptly deleted all of her father’s files and took off. She was last seen in a park in Los Angeles in the company of a Watcher named Wesley Crusher. We hope she has an amazing life up there among the stars.
That sort of villainy deserves an award and therefore I name Dr. Adam Soong the winner of the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Terrible Fictional Parents.
Dr. Soong ascends the stage clad in the elegant tuxedo, gratefully accepts the ugly vase and delivers the following speech:
Thank you. Thank you so very much. I am… sniff… so honoured that my genius has finally been recognised.
For decades I laboured in obscurity, hemmed in by red tape and stupid ethical rules. Tell me, why should I not create and clone my own daughters? If I had gone to a fertility clinic, the whole thing would have been entirely legal, but just because I created my clone daughters myself, I’m suddenly a criminal? If anybody is a criminal here, it’s my latest daughter Kore who deleted my research, my life’s work, and emptied out my bank accounts, too. And I demand that Kore is found and made to pay for her actions. Do you hear me, you lazybum police officers? Find her!
But I digress. Esteemed jury, if you feel that Kore and her late lamented sisters were an exceptional feat of genetic engineering, trust me, you will love my next project. Cause project Khan will create humans that are faster, smarter and better than plain old homo sapiens. I promise you, the next step of evolution is here and I, Dr. Adam Soong, have helped to usher it in. My name shall live forever in fame.
Thank you. Thank you very much.
He descends the podium, blowing kisses to the audience and clutching his ugly vase. He sits down next to 2021 winner Eleanor Bishop and they immediately begin chatting. I guess we’d better keep an eye on those two, since I’m sure they’re plotting something.
Meanwhile, Hans Beimer tries to grab the Retro ugly vase from Hordak and gets zapped for his troubles… again.
And that’s it for the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award. The companion prize, the Jonathan and Martha Kent Award for the Fictional Parent of the Year will be handed out tomorrow.
Who will win next year? You’ll find out in this space.
Disclaimer: I don’t own any of these characters, I just gave them an award and wrote an acceptance speech for them. All characters and properties are copyright and trademark their respective owners.
I feel Mon Mothma is trying to connect with Leida in the early episodes. I think Leida is into figuring out where she wants to go in life. Leida is being a normal rebellious teen and is looking into her planet’s traditions to find something she can get into. I am a big fan of Mon Mothma ever since I found out she was democratically elected leader of the Rebel Alliance while reading the novelization of Return the Jedi. I think she was tryin her best at being a parent
Yeah, on second thought Mon Mothma – a character I have always liked a lot – probably should have gone in the ambiguous rather than the bad category.
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Fun post. Unimpressed by that AV club thing — as several commenters pointed out, this is hardly a new topic for movies (I can think of examples as far back as the 1950s).
Yes, particularly if you include Oscar baits like The Whale or The Fabelmans, you have plenty of examples going back decades.
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