Before The Wolverine, I’d never myself employed this particularity of internetspeak, maybe because my dad is himself a leftist, feminist intellectual (like those who coined and use #nodads). As a word and concept, dad—recalled with the prolonged vowels of the happy headbutts of my youth; buuuut Daaaaaad—was always so beautiful to me. “Damn the man,” I got. But daaaaaads? Dads are great! Then, three nights ago, I watched, through 3D wayfarers, the newest in the X-franchise, The Wolverine, and I finally got it: #nodads.
The Wolverine opens in Nagasaki, Japan on August 9th, 1945, the day the atomic bomb fell. Our hero Logan (Wolverine, played once again by Huge Jackman, I mean Hugh Jackman) is being detained as a P.O.W. and we all see what’s coming and then we watch it come at us in 3D. Mushroom cloud. Everything ravaged, everything burned. Logan saves a young Japanese soldier from the blast, sheltering him with his regenerating mutant bod, an act of kindness that spawns two generations of selfish, mutant-obsessed men and a third of promising, openminded women. In something like 2013, when the majority of the film’s action takes place, this generational conflict is coming to a head. The saved vet granddad, now a tech tycoon, is dying. His legacy is in question. Who will take over: his useless baby boomer son, his graceful granddaughter, or will it be…
The Wolverine was directed by James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma) and written by Mark Bomback, Scott Frank and Christopher McQuarrie, based on a 1982 comic that Frank Miller had a hand in—all dudes, but dudes with daddy issues? I’d imagine so, because without spoiling too much, The Wolverine is about men trying to preserve their power and vitality at any mortal cost and the story’s saving grace, the hopeful future, is in sisterhood and Lean In business. Really, besides Logan, all the men in The Wolverine are corrupted or corruptible, and all the women (save for the “chemist, nihilist, capitalist” Viper, but she’s part reptile so wtv) are mighty: upstanding and willful, generous and smart, physically strong and otherwise totally capable of accomplishing everything in the world with #nodads.
Wolverine was always my father’s favorite X-Man. His appeal was probably partly due to his being, like my dad, whiskered and Canadian (Wolverine was born as James Howlett in Alberta, Canada, in the late 1880s, to rich farm owners), but I think it had more to do with the existential complexity of his character. Logan regenerates and so he can live forever. Having experienced all of the loss of the 20th century and the early 21st firsthand (imagine), Wolverine is disillusioned and pessimistic, if not nihilistic. He’s fiercely independent, wary of making any more personal relationships, because he knows he’ll lose everyone, eventually.
At the opening of The Wolverine, Logan has lost pretty much all will to live, but of course, he has no choice in the matter. We find him as close to death as he can get: hermitted up in Alaska, scruffy like Aragorn, and plagued by nightmares of his lost love Jean. Logan’s existentialism is the second driving force of the narrative: will he find something worth living for? He does, and it’s in a future led by women, no joke, #nodads.
#nodads doesn’t mean the inhalation of men, it means imagining new ways to nurture and go forward, because as Logan well knows, our patriarchal history has only lead to… atrocities like the atomic bomb. #nodads allows for dudes like Logan to stay around because they’re practiced lovers and conscientious mensches. Feminist dads, softie mutants with hard muscles and stamina: all allies are welcome.
The final sendoff of The Wolverine preps us for a series of sequels co-starring the radical goth ninja Yukio (played by the arresting Rila Fukushima). Yukio is a Jubilee kid sister sidekick type, except that she’d never settle for just a sidekick; she can axe kick and butterfly kick and scissor kick. The future looks bright for this particular branch of the X-franchise, but if the hopeful promise of this film’s conclusion is to be effectively carried out, one battle remains: getting some badass women on the production staff and crew, #heythere.