My husband ordered ‘The Other F Word’ from the library after seeing a trailer for it a few months ago. I’m not at all surprised that we both really loved it, and even if you didn’t own a host of Blink-182 and MXPX t-shirts when you were a teenager (I’m a little ashamed), it’s still more than worth watching.
The fathers in this documentary aren’t your typical role models. They aren’t even what I’d call anti-heroes. At one point Jim Lindberg, lead singer for Pennywise and the father who is most closely followed by the documentary, tells his daughter, “Don’t give me that look; I invented that look.” But in tackling what it means to be a parent when the heart of your music has been about rebelling against authority (which includes your parents), this film gets at some pretty serious feelings about raising children and the world-shattering responsibility you feel for their existence.
My daughter wouldn’t be here if we hadn’t decided to have her. That is always going to be incredible to me. Many of the fathers in this film were abandoned by their dads, or had less-than-ideal relationships with them, but their devotion to their own children is beautiful to see. I believe it was Art Alexakis of Everclear who remarks sadly that he can’t understand how a father can’t feel unwaveringly responsible for his children, almost like a physical weight. And I’m not a dad and I also literally carried our child for nine plus months, so maybe this sentiment means something different for dudes. I can only imagine what it must be like to experience pregnancy and birth as a father, how different but no less wondrous it is.
But it was the Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Flea who said my favorite thing in the whole movie, riffing on the old notion that parents would shout something like, “I gave you life! I can take it away!” Flea argues that it’s the other way around, that his children have given him life, and it’s so, so true. This certainly isn’t to say that I didn’t lead a rich life before my daughter, or that those who choose not to have children of their own are leading half a life. It’s just that what I have now I couldn’t have imagined before. And I know for me, at least, she’s taught me so much about strength (hers, mine, my husband’s, ours), what I can do, what I will do, what I thought I never would do. I’m not the same person. And I’d never go back.
After we watched it, my husband just looked at me and said, “It feels good, to hear somebody else say the things that I feel.” This wasn’t a film about alternative dads, it was about real dads. Forget dopey “feel good” television sitcoms populated with families that don’t look or act like anyone I know. I’ll take these tattooed fellas any day.