Why Does Adam Banks’ Father Hate His Son?

January 16, 2010

Something has always bothered me about the end of The Mighty Ducks. (There’s a great article about what the movie meant to my generation here.) It’s not the fact that the Ducks play terrible, unsound hockey; as coached by Gordon Bombay, the Ducks can only score via trick plays (statue of liberty, flying V) defensive breakdowns (the fact that everyone just gets out of the way whenever Fulton shoots the pucks), or the individual heroism of their star player, Adam Banks (I concur with this post; it’s no contest in any film but the third). D3 acknowledged this element, allowing me to move past it. That the Hawks twice blow a 3 goal lead in the final doesn’t even upset me; the Ducks ability to comeback (their bouncebackability) wouldn’t rate very highly on the cinematic revenge scale (see Kill Bill, wherein the Bride overcomes a bullet to the head). We can all agree: Gordon Bombay is a good motivator, but not a strong tactician.

And it’s not the film’s bizarre class commentary. The social divisions of income inequality are at the heart of the film. Gordon Bombay’s elitist lawyer needs to get in touch with his inner proletariat in order to be a successful coach, correlated on film by dressing down in athletic clothing instead of suits.;Mr. Duckworth can buy the Ducks gear, but he can’t buy membership in the Ducks; Adam Banks’ father has access to the lines of power and can get the league to change its rules in order to accommodate his son; Jesse Hall refuses to acknowledge Banks as a member of the Ducks–despite prolific goal scoring–until he is viciously checked and run into the goal by a member of the Hawks. This symbolically marks him as the enemy-of-my-enemy in the eyes of Hall, transforming him into friend. “Cake-eater,” Hall’s emphatic pejorative of those in upper-income brackets, (how this did not become a widespread insult, I’ll never know!) even becomes a term of endearment. At the end of the day, the class-conflict is left in place. All of this suits a world stung from the Bush 1 recession.

No, rewatching the movie on Encore this morning, I realized why the end of the Might Ducks leaves me frustrated: it’s that Adam Banks’ father has difficulties accepting his son for who he is. We don’t know much about Mr. Banks. We know that he’ll fight to keep Adam on the Hawks. Understandable given that “his older brother was a Hawk; all his little friends are Hawks.” He seems as if he’s on his son’s side.

And yet…during the last game, Mr. Banks is wearing a Hawks jacket. This is the last game of the season, after the Ducks have miraculously made it to the championship game, overcoming ridiculous odds. Banks has clearly emerged as the team’s star player, and the Ducks have gained a sizable fan base, 90% of whom are wearing Ducks’ merchandise. So why is Mr. Banks wearing a Hawks jacket? The only explanation is that Mr. Banks loves his older son more than his younger son. Indeed, he prefers this unseen character so much that he will wear a Hawks jacket to a game where he visibly cheers on his younger son. You don’t have to be a structuralist to recognize that Mr. Banks is projecting mixed signals. Yes, he shows real concern when his son is rammed into the post, but that doesn’t change the fact that he was unwilling to affiliate with him during the game. Do the bonds of Hawkship last so long that Mr. Banks cannot support his son? Is he the film’s anti-Gordon?

Either way, this is a dark cloud hanging over what should have been a magisterial climax.

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