Wednesday, March 11, 2009


This past Sunday afternoon, while Angela and Alex were at the Rodeo and Morgan was tied down with homework I slipped out to the cineplex to see a matinee showing of “Taken.” I figured that with only two movie times per day it was about to leave the theater. But I was surprised to see a robust crowd standing in line to buy tickets for it. I was even more surprised to see how many teenage-girls-in-pairs (this is a social category in itself) were there. This is, after all, a fairly violent “action” movie.

But of course it all made sense. The movie is about a 17-year old girl who is kidnapped while in Paris for the summer. Her father, played by Liam Neeson with steely intensity, missed much of his only child’s upbringing and lost his marriage while serving overseas in the CIA. Now he is retired and living near his daughter to make up for lost time. She is the primary focus of his life. She is the apple of his eye. She is his sweetheart. She is everything else to him that these vicious kidnappers should have realized before they snatched her God-help-‘em. And they are not even demanding a ransom, which her rich stepfather could easily have paid. They have more sordid plans in mind. This makes Neeson unhappy, v-e-r-y unhappy. As he tells them on the phone, “I have spent my career developing a very particular set of skills. I will hunt you down and I will find you.” When he said this I was so scared I shut off my Blackberry like the pre-movie announcement had told me to. But alas, the kidnappers don’t quite get who they’re dealing with, and Neeson must spend the rest of the movie putting these skills to ruthless use. [Rumors that the French government tried to surrender to Neeson during the film’s shooting are unfounded.]

John Eldredge declares in his book, Wild at Heart, that what every boy needs to hear from his father is, “You have what it takes,” and what every daughter needs to hear from her father is, “You are worth fighting for.” Every teenage girl in that theater saw a depiction on film of a father fighting, in this case literally, for his daughter’s life. Few or none of them will ever need their dad to go to the lengths Neeson’s character did to rescue his daughter, but they probably all fantasize about their dad rescuing them from distress in some way because he loves them so dearly. One of my daughter’s friends has seen this movie FIVE times.

As Dr. Meg Meeker notes in her outstanding book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: Ten Secrets Every Father Should Know, fathers more than anyone else set the course for a daughter’s life. “If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both,” Meeker says.

Men like this movie because many fathers likewise fantasize about rescuing our families in some way, and of course because we envy Neeson’s, ahem, Jason-Bourne-like hand-to-hand skills, which he uses only for righteous purposes, of course.

So I was happy for these teenage girls as they left the theater smiling and talking excitedly about what they had seen. And I was a little worried for them as well. I hoped that they couldn’t wait to tell their dads about the movie. And I hoped they had dads whom they knew would fight for them.


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