Don't Let Gerard Butler Fool You: Fatherhood Isn't About Being Sexy

The movie does flirt with the idea of having George suffer some sort of consequences for his years of neglect and priapism. But that's just the standard rom-com tease. He's in the title role, he's got that wounded smile—how can he lose? In one of his final lines of the film, George says he's learned the importance of being there—but Matt was there, too, and more often—and, really, could probably be expected to be there more responsibly and consistently in the future as well. George's charm isn't that he's there. It's his athleticism and his good looks and arguably most of all his faithlessness.

If fidelity and responsibility were what mattered, Matt would get the happy ending. But he hardly ever does. Every so often you'll get some sweet guy hero like Lloyd in Say Anything. But more often you're presented with supposedly charming fixer-upers, from Han Solo to Richard Gere in Pretty Woman to Eddie Murphy in Boomerang to, again, that ongoing archetype of rakishness James Bond. It's as if the folks who make movies think that even Matt wants to be George—so much so that the faithful goober will cheer for the star even as said star is pissing on him from a great height.

So, on behalf of all the Matts out there, let me take a moment to piss back. It is true, as I said, that my coaching did not transform my son's team. But that's okay, because I don't need world-class athletic prowess to rescue my relationship with my own child, thank you very much. I changed his diapers (more often than his mom, as she'll be the first to admit). I walked up and down with him when he had colic. I wheeled him around the neighborhood from park to park, stuffing Cheerios in his mouth when he got cranky. I make him breakfast (not very well, but still). I hold his inhaler when he has an asthma attack. I schedule playdates. I even use the word "playdate" in public, God help me. And, perhaps most importantly, I didn't need his mom to explain to me how to be a parent like I'm an idiot. I'm a better father, and for that matter a better husband, than George ever was, or than he is ever likely to be, given what we see of him in this film.

That's not a particularly splendid accomplishment or anything. George is an insultingly low standard. Which is all the more reason that husbands, fathers, women, and everyone else should resent being told—in this film and in general—that we should root for this loser. Reformation is great, but I get really tired of hearing that responsibility and faithfulness only really count if you screwed up and screwed around first. Infidelity is not a necessary prelude to masculine maturity, and sports, despite hundreds of films and thousands of beer commercials, just has nothing to do with being a man.

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Noah Berlatsky is a contributing writer for The Atlantic. He edits the online comics-and-culture website The Hooded Utilitarian and is the author of the forthcoming book Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948.

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