Sure, the 27-year old boy plays it cool in the opening of TRON: Legacy, chills out in a swanky bachelor pad I confessedly covet (but he drinks Coors, so we KNOW something’s amiss) and pretends he’s cool rockin’ the whole “aloof” thing, but the truth is he feels confused and betrayed by his absent father. This film provides yet another entry in the ongoing daddy-centric bent of entertainment that’s been trending the last few years, admittedly with a lighter splash of “I Love the 80s“ nostalgia.
“Alan, you’re acting like I’m going to find him sittin’ at work, just, ‘Hey, kiddo, lost track of time.'” – Sam Flynn
TRON: Legacy continues, as a sequel, dallying with the creator/creation conversation that the original film liberally toyed with (as discussed in the last post). However, I felt the stronger theme that outlined the story’s grid this time was that of the failed father. The Kevin Flynn we knew in the first film was the arcade-running, computer-hacking man-boy, forever adolescent; even the love interest in the first film, Lora, had traded him for the hardworking and earnest Alan Bradley. In Legacy, Jeff Bridges’ iconic character Flynn is now shown as the work-obsessed tech billionaire, who looks into the world of code and bellows “In there is a new world! In there is our future! In there is our DESTINY!”
Kevin Flynn’s obsessions makes him miss vital years of his son’s childhood; sucked into a digital world, “the Grid” becomes a narrative parallel reflecting both the classic workaholic father and the escapist dad of the 21st century, engrossed in World of Warcraft while a son or daughter plays alone with their toys wondering why daddy loves the computer more than them. You might argue that, in the context of the film, Kevin is trapped against his own desires… but he’s trapped by an external manifestation of himself (CLU). This makes it pretty hard to argue against the metaphor; the enemy keeping me enslaved and away from my child is ultimately… me.
Whether it’s the allure of an MMO or the upwardly-mobile working obsession of our culture, dads often feel “enslaved”, inextribably bound to these passions in a way that make them justify and prioritize entertainment time or the next pay raise… unlocking achievements on the XBox or earning merits on the job, defeating a boss in the video world or satisfying a boss in the real one… missing each day as their child eats at the dinner table next to an empty seat wondering if dad is ever going to teach him something other than sins ofomission. While it is a choice dad made, he often can’t figure out how to get out, how to turn it off, how to turn it around. He needs help.
Fathers ARE fallible. Repentance is needed. A savior is needed to rescue us from our distracted and diverted selves. Throughout the course of the film, Kevin realizes with clarity that he’d gone looking to define his destiny – his legacy – in “the grid”, when all the time that future had been right in front of him; his primary focus should have been the legacy of building into Sam. His resultant actions in the film demonstrate some kind of understanding, an attempt at redemption and reconciliation… but how to get there is admittedly fuzzy. It’s a great post-film conversation waiting to happen, as I don’t think it’s possible in the real world apart from first being reconciled to our Creator.
The very next thing Deuteronomy 6 says after stressing our need to know, love, and have relationship with our creator, is to teach these things to your kids. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”It’s curious that as the first TRON film dealt with the fragmentation between creator and creation in an enslaved world, the second film stresses the failure to carry out the second initiative we’re commissioned to do, depicting a father caught up in his own grid to the point that he’s absent to invest in his son.
If not for the muddy message at the film’s climax offering some hope, which we’ll discuss in the final (spoiler-filled) post, the story of TRON would have a very bleak legacy indeed… though a tragically fair and needed commentary on fathering today. I hope some Dads watching the film will be convicted to put down the controller or come home from work on time, spending time with their family, even talking and teaching their children through film parallels like this one.