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Saturday Letters : Father & Sons & War

February 21, 1987

Sheila Benson's reviews Feb. 13 of the new "father-son" movies starring Sylvester Stallone ("Over the Top") and Anthony Hopkins ("The Good Father") lead me to a suggestion:

These films--one bad and one good--focus on paternal rage and fear over the loss of sons or the emotional distance from sons. This "male" theme speaks to current notions that men are failing as fathers and must change somehow.

Yet if men are truly angry and fearful over what's happening to their sons and themselves as fathers, they should try the following exercise in father-son communication:

Take your teen-age son to see "Platoon," alone. Talk about it. It raises, without ever mentioning them, key questions for fathers: Will you discourage violence in your son that will lead him to kill and be killed? Will you protect him from war? from racism? from despair?

Put another way, will we love, hold and shield our sons from the madness that drives males to kill each other for vicious sport? And, can we educate our sons about the social, economic and political forces that lead older men to sacrifice younger men for cynical and ignorant ends? Can we, in effect, create peace?

In the theater where I saw "Platoon," the young men cheered the "heroes" right to the bitter end, oblivious to the issues and terrors the film tries to expose. The coming attraction for a new killer-male film, "Death Before Dishonor," received supportive hoots.

Fathers and sons need to deal with this, as does everyone else.



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