The 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award

While I have been awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents for 42 years now, the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is a new prize that I only introduced in 2020 as a companion piece to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award.

As for why I felt the need to introduce a companion award, depictions of parenthood in popular culture are currently undergoing a paradigm shift with more positive portrayals of supportive and loving parents and fewer utterly terrible parents. Personally, I believe that this shift is a very good thing, because the reason that I started the Darth Vader Parenthood Award in the first place is because I was annoyed by all the terrible parents in pop culture. For while most real world parents may not be perfect, at least they do their best. Maybe, the conditions that gave rise to the Darth Vader Parenthood Award will eventually cease to exist and we can permanently retire the award.

Warning: Spoilers for lots of things behind the cut!

Therefore, let’s give a big hand to all the good parents in pop culture that we have seen this year. As in the last two years, there were plenty of viable candidates, more than for the Darth Vader Parenthood Award, and selecting the winner was a difficult choice.

So let’s have a brief rundown of the candidates who did not quite make it:

Two Marvel characters were the runners-up for the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award, but the Marvel Cinematic and TV Universe also yielded many positive portrayals of parenthood and indeed the claims that all Marvel heroes have daddy issues no longer hold true.

Ms. Marvel was certainly one of the more unusual Marvel offerings out there and strongly focussed on Kamala Khan’s chaotic Pakistani-American family and particularly her parents Yusuf and Muneeba Khan. What makes this positive portrayal of a Muslim family even more amazing, is that most media portrayals of Muslim families still give us all the hoary old clichés of abusive fathers and brothers imprisoning and controlling their daughters and sisters, while the mothers look on and tacitly approve – a whopping 34 years afte Yasemin. Meanwhile, Kamala Khan’s family is an loving, if chaotic family who just happen to be Muslim.

She-Hulk: Attorney at Law gave us another messy but loving Marvel family. Morris and Elaine Walters are fully supportive of their daughter Jennifer Walters, even after she turns into a smarter and more controlled Hulk after accidentally coming into contact with the blood of her cousin Bruce Banner. And talking of Bruce, in the very final scene of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, he brought his teenaged son Skaar, conceived on the planet Sakaar, while Hulk was there as the reigning champion of the Gamesmaster, to the Banner-Walters family barbecue.

I have never been able to connect to The Addams Family, because I saw The Munsters first and The Addams Family always felt like a rip-off to me, even though I know it’s the other way around. That said, no one can doubt that Morticia and Gomez Addams are great parents to Wednesday, who currently has her own paranormal teen show.

A character from Star Trek Picard may have won the 2022 Darth Vader Parenthood Award, but that show also gave us Dr. Teresa Ramirez, the loving single mom of Ricardo who runs a clinic for uninsured and undocumented people in a Los Angeles one universe over from ours. Teresa and Ricardo get embroiled in the intrigues surrounding Jean-Luc Picard, when Chris Rios has an accident while time travelling and is taken to her clinic. Chris and Teresa quickly fall for each other and embark on a life together in the 21st century by the end of the season.

The first ever winners of both the Darth Vader Parenthood Award and the Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award were Star Wars characters and the various Star Wars series on offer at Disney+ continued to deliver both good and bad parent figures.  Senator Bail Organa has been a part of the Star Wars universe and the Rebellion for decades now, but the Obi-Wan Kenobi series gave us a glimpse into his home life and showed us Bail and his wife Breha as loving and supportive parents to young Leia, who was already a handful at age ten.

Another remarkable Star Wars mother who deserves an honourable mention is Maarva Carassi Andor, adoptive mother of Cassian Andor. As chronicled in Andor, Maarva and her husband Clem encountered a young boy in the ruins of a Republican cruiser, while scavenging on the planet Kerani, and took the child along, because they feared he might fall victim to the reprisal of a second Republican ship approaching the planet. Maarva and Clem named the boy Cassian and raised him as their own. Once the Old Republic gave way to the Empire, Clem was arrested during a protest and executed by the Empire to make an example of him, which embittered both young Cassian and Maarva. Cassian Andor eventually wound up joining the Rebellion and sacrificing his life to the cause, while Maarva never lost her rebellious spirit. Even after she succumbed to an illness, Maarva still incited a riot from beyond the grave, calling for the mourners assembled at her funeral to use her funeral stone to brain the nearest Stormtrooper. Maarva Andor is one amazing woman and might well have been the runner-up, if Andor hadn’t aired very late in the year, when I had already made me decision.

Now let’s head to a completely different universe, to announce our runner-up. And the runner-up for the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award is…

Drumroll

Cringer of the Tiger Tribe

I know what many of you are saying now? Wait a minute, who? And how? Because everybody’s favourite fearful green tiger is not a parent in the regular Masters of the Universe continuity. However, there is such a thing as a Masters of the Universe multiverse by now and in one corner of that multiverse sits the Netflix CGI animated show He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, which plays fast and loose with established canon. Though clearly aimed at a younger audience, the CGI show is surprisingly good for what it is, which is evidenced by the fact that I actually watched the whole thing, all 26 episodes of it.

One of the many changes the CGI show makes to established Masters of the Universe canon is that it gives the role of the responsible adult and parent figure that normally goes to Duncan to Cringer. In this universe, Cringer (voiced by actor David Kaye) is a member of the Tiger Tribe, a group of tigers and humans living peacefully together in the Eternian jungle. After losing his claws in a run-in with the poacher R’Quazz (we know him better as Beast-Man), hunting and fighting are quite difficult for Cringer, though he does not let that stop him. And this is how he meets a scared six-year-old amnesiac boy who’s wandering through the jungle and cannot remember anything about his life except that his name is Adam.

That first meeting between Cringer and young Adam is very sweet (and almost a reversal of how Adam and Cringer met in the Filmation cartoon, where a teenaged Adam finds a lost tiger cub in the jungle and adopts him), since Cringer is trying to pretend to be a big, bad tiger, but once he realises how lost and scared little Adam is, he suddenly becomes a big pussycat and nuzzles the crying kid to comfort him.

Since no family comes forward to claim little Adam (it’s a long story), Cringer takes him in and raises him as his own. A few years later, Cringer also adopts a young girl named Krass (she’s this universe’s version of Ram-Man… if Ram-Man were a surly teenaged girl), after her parents die in a mining accident. Cringer’s little family grows yet again, when Adam picks up a street-kid/witch/thief named Teela and Duncan, teenaged tech whiz and apprentice to the villain Kronis, who turns against his employer, when Kronis orders him to burn down a village. Like I said, the characters in the CGI show are very different from their classic counterparts in many ways, though the strong focus on (found) family is one thing the CGI show shares with all other incarnations of Masters of the Universe.

The CGI incarnation is Cringer is probably my favourite version of the character, though I also love Stephen Root’s take on Cringer in Revelation, if only because we have never seen an older and wiser Cringer as a mentor character before. This Cringer is also a great parent to Adam and Krass, though both of them are a handful and particularly Krass is quite annoying – well, she is a deeply traumatised version of Ram-Man as a sulky teenaged girl.  Cringer is always supportive of Adam’s hope to find his biological family – unlike Krass, who is terrified of losing him – and actually pushes Adam towards reconnecting with his father King Randor, once Adam learns that he is the crown prince of Eternia.

And talking of King Randor, one thing that has remained remarkably consistent over all the different versions of Masters of the Universe is that Randor is not a very good father and has a strained relationship with his son Adam. In fact, the version of the character shown in Masters of the Universe: Revelation very narrowly missed taking home the Darth Vader Parenthood Award last year. However, the CGI King Randor is still not perfect and his initial reunion with Adam does not go well, but he is willing to do better and genuinely tries to reconnect with his son. There’s even a sweet scene where Randor and Cringer talk about parenting Adam and Randor acknowledges that Cringer did most of the work of raising Adam into the person he is.

That sort of parental dedication deserves an award and therefore I name Cringer of the Tiger Tribe the runner-up for the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.

Applause

Cringer receives hugs from Adam, Krass, Duncan and Teela and then ascends to the stage. He’s not wearing anything except for his prosthetic claws – he is a tiger, after all. After being presented with Martha Kent’s famous apple pie, Cringer delivers the following acceptance speech:

Thank you. Thank you, very much. This is quite unexpected. After all, I don’t think I did anything special. For eons, it has been the way of my tribe to take in the lost and the outcast who have nowhere else to go.

When I adopted Adam and Krass, I only followed the ways of my tribe. They were lost cubs who had no one, so I took them in and they became my cubs, my family.

In fact, one of the things I do not understand about humans is how they treat cubs who have lost their family. It horrifies me to think that humans just abandon their cubs and lock them up in large cages they call orphanages. A cub is something precious, to be loved and nurtured and protected, not to be discarded.

I have two – well, I guess it’s four now – wonderful cubs and I would trade them for nothing in the world. Because cubs are precious and family is the most precious thing of all.

Thank you very much. Tiger Tribe together!

Mmm, this pie smells very tasty.

Cringer carefully picks up the pie in his mouth and carries it down from the stage, where Adam, Krass, Duncan and Teela proceed to dig in.

Cringer with pie

I don’t have a CGI Cringer, so my Origins Cringer will have to do. The pie is actually a mince pie.

After this eloquent meditation on the importance of family, let’s proceed to the winner of the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.

Like last year, this year’s winner or rather winners are characters who should have been acknowledged long ago, but who have been perpetually overlooked.

Therefore, I am pleased to present the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award to…

Drumroll

Owen and Beru Lars

Portrayed by Phil Brown and Shelagh Fraser in A New Hope and by Joel Edgerton and Bonnie Piesse in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Owen and Beru were moisture farmers living near Anchorhead on the backwater planet of Tatooine and certainly never expected to find themselves at the centre of a multi-generation intergalactic conflict.

When Owen was a young man, his father Cliegg Lars married Shmi Skywalker, who was the single mother of Anakin Skywalker. Since Anakin had left home years ago to become a Jedi, Owen met his stepbrother only once and very briefly.

However, a few years later, a Jedi master named Obi-Wan Kenobi showed up on the doorstep of Owen and Beru’s homestead and handed them a newborn baby boy and told them that this was the son of Anakin Skywalker and his wife Padmé Armidala, both of whom had sadly died in the civil war that led to the downfall of the Old Republic. This little boy Luke Skywalker desperately needed a home, so Owen and Beru took him in and provided a loving and supportive home to the boy.

It is not sure how much Owen and Beru knew about what had really happened to Anakin Skywalker, but what they did know was that Anakin leaving home to become a Jedi was what had caused the whole trouble to begin with. They also knew that young Luke was in danger, because the Empire was actively hunting down not just Jedi but all Force-sensitives.

So Owen and Beru did all they could to protect their adopted son, including facing down the Imperial Inquisitor Reva, a terrifying lightsabre-wielding Force user. And since Owen and Beru knew that the trouble had started with Anakin following Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi to become a Jedi, they made very sure that the same thing would not happened to Luke and kept him away not just from Obi-Wan Kenobi, who was still hanging around Tatooine, disguised as a hermit named Ben, but also tried to keep Luke from attending the Imperial Academy. In retrospect, this may not have been the best course of action, but Owen and Beru acted only out of the best of motifs, namely love and concern for Luke. And in the end, they died protecting Luke from the Stormtroopers who were looking for R2-D2 and C-3PO.

It always irked me that the Star Wars saga placed so much emphasis on Luke and Leia’s biological parents, particularly the father who barely know either of them, and hardly any on the people who actually raised Luke and Leia. Especially since we know that particularly the male members of the Skywalker family are prone to falling to the Dark Side and Luke is the only male Skywalker who is not a complete and utter disaster. It’s obvious that Owen and Beru (and Bail and Breha Organa) were largely responsible for raising Luke and Leia into the people they are and also that the galaxy owes Owen and Beru a huge debt, because it is largely due to their influence that Luke did not walk the same path to the Dark Side that Anakin Skywalker and Ben Solo walked.

The Obi-Wan Kenobi series finally gives Owen and Beru Lars their due and shows them actually being Luke’s parents. It also shows them as badarses, who hold off the terrifying Reva long enough to allow Luke to run away.

So I’m thrilled to name Owen and Beru Lars the winners of the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award.

Applause 

Since Owen and Beru Lars were sadly murdered by Stormtroopers about forty-five minutes into A New Hope, their adoptive son Luke Skywalker, clad in full Jedi robes, accepts on their behalf and delivers the following speech:

Thanks you, also on behalf of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru who unfortunately cannot be with us today.

I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to me. Because the other award, the one for the bad parents, is named after my father and I have two ugly vases to prove it…

“Cheers, mate! I have four ugly vases, three for my father and one for my sister,” Tyrion Lannister calls out from the second row and he seems to be very drunk indeed, “They make for great target practice.”

I don’t think my father is the worst person to ever win the other award – the man who murdered his daughter and then snapped half the universe out of existence is surely worse – but he is the one the award is named after. And you know what? That hurts. Because while I’m Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master and hero of Yavin, I’m also the son of Darth Vader. And trust me, there are a lot of people who won’t ever let me forget it.

However, I only knew my biological father for a few months. But for as long as I can remember, the people who were always there for me, the people who loved me and fed me, who hugged me, when I was sad, and told me bedtime stories at night, those people were not Anakin Skywalker. They were Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru who were always there for me for nineteen long years.

So thank you, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, for being there for me, for being my parents, if not by blood than of the heart. And thank you to the jury for acknowledging all the great work they did.

So tonight I raise a toast… – well, a slice of pie – in honour of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. May the Force be with them and with you all.

Luke Skywalker leaves the stage, carefully carrying his pie. The 2020 winner Din Djarin, who has been sitting in the front row, walks up to him, carrying Grogu, who is very happy to see Luke again.

“I’m sorry, Jedi,” Din Djarin says and holds out his hand, “I didn’t know you were a foundling, too. But your aunt and uncle sound like they were good and honourable people, even if they weren’t warriors. Because taking in foundlings and raising them, that is the way.”

Cringer also trots over to nuzzle Luke in a gesture of sympathy. While Din Djarin and Luke are talking, Grogu helps himself to the pie and levitates two slices into his mouth, before Din notices what’s going on and says, “No, Grogu.”

Luke smiles wryly. “I guess I should be glad that Grogu at least remembers some of his lessons, even if he only uses the Force to snatch food.”

“Trust me, Jedi, you have no idea.”

“At least your cub left you some of the pie,” Cringer says, “I’m afraid my cubs ate all of mine.”

Meanwhile, Grogu decides to Force-levitate the entire pie across the stage and has eaten two more slices before anybody can stop him. Though Grogu is thrilled when Cringer offers to give him a ride on his back.

Martha Kent, clad in her Sunday best, walks up to Luke and Din, carrying another apple pie.

“Oh, those kids are always so hungry. Just like my Clark. And that’s why I always make sure to bake a spare pie.” She hands the pie to Luke. “Enjoy, gentlemen.”

Luke picks up a slice of pie and takes a bite. “We should probably save a slice for Cringer, but do you say, Mandalorian? Can I interest you in some pie?”

Din Djarin shakes his head. “I’d love to, but I cannot eat in public. This is the way.”

“Oh yes, that whole thing about Mandalorians never showing their faces, though that sure as banta poop never stopped Boba Fett. But just in case you’ve forgotten, I’ve already seen your face and know what you look like.”

“I still can’t. I’m in enough trouble as it is for showing my face once, because this is the way.”

“I could Jedi mind-wipe you later, so you won’t remember that I saw your face.”

“Don’t you dare, Jedi!”

Martha Kent finally defuses the situation and wraps up a slice of pie in a handkerchief and hands it to Din Djarin for later. Meanwhile, Grogu is cheering, as he rides on Cringer, before Teela, Krass and even Duncan and Adam take turns cuddling him.

***

And that’s it for the 2022 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award. Who’ll 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 acceptance speeches for them. All characters and properties are copyright and trademark their respective owners.

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