Am I a terrible superhero father?

And other existential crises from Jupiter's Legacy

In this edition of Scene & Heard, a weekly newsletter where a guest writer reflects on just one scene from a recent Netflix release, Andrew Levins wonders how he stacks up to the superhero parents in Jupiter’s Legacy — streaming now on Netflix.
Scene & Heard is part of Netflix Pause, a publication that’s all about hitting pause to reflect on the latest film and TV. Subscribe now to get three free newsletters in your inbox every week diving into screen culture.
Without further ado, the scene in question…

People always talk about how much more kids movies will destroy you when you become a parent. Those not-so-subtle parental themes become even less subtle once you’ve got a few kids of your own, and the tears flow so much harder; the chances of me having dry eyes when the credits roll are about as likely as a fairytale princess’ parents still being alive after the first 20 minutes.

I can’t quite say the same, though, about the superhero genre. It took 22 Marvel movies for Tony Stark to say he loved his kid 3000 and — besides a few Ant-Dad moments — I could watch every superhero movie without having to worry about bursting into tears. The superhero genre has been my safe space, where I can sit back, relax, and never relate to anyone. Until now.

Jupiter’s Legacy is a new series about two superpowered twenty-somethings reckoning with the legacy of their superhero parents. If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like having Superman and Wonder Woman as your mum and dad, look no further than the grown children of The Utopian and Lady Liberty, Brandon and Chloe Sampson — one trying as hard as he can to be as good as his father, the other trying to be her father’s polar opposite.

The Utopian, played by Josh Duhamel, may be daddy af but he’s also saddy af, incapable of giving his children the support or independence they need, and it’s during the Sunday dinner scene in the first episode that I realise I might be about to face every parent’s greatest fear: seeing myself in a bad TV dad.

I can’t help but imagine a Sunday dinner at my house twenty years from now, my grown children a mess after half a lifetime of trying to live up to the legacy of their father, a mildly successful freelancer…

Tensions are high in the Sampson household. A few hours before dinner, Brandon has to be bailed out from a fight with a supervillain by his dad, and he’s struggling to live up to his old man’s ideals — as a son and as a superhero. But at least he wants to be a superhero, unlike his sister Chloe who rocks up to dinner unexpectedly (and drunkenly). Their father forces them all to say grace before awkwardly bringing up one of Chloe’s recent risqué magazine shoots. Everything falls apart pretty quickly (not that The Utopian actually tries that hard to hold it all together) and for the first time in my life I find myself wondering: am I becoming a terrible superhero father?

I can’t help but imagine a Sunday dinner at my house twenty years from now, my grown children a mess after half a lifetime of trying to live up to the legacy of their father, a mildly successful freelancer who throughout different points in their life had worked as a DJ, a writer, a podcaster, a chef and ten other forgotten career paths. My son is struggling to host three podcasts and he can tell that I’m disappointed that he isn’t hosting five like his father. My daughter joins us unexpectedly and has barely touched her dinner before I express my disapproval that she’s started incorporating hardstyle songs into her DJ sets — a genre of music I would never play.

Then I stop thinking about the future and start thinking about the now. My son is already a bit of a Brandon — he recently wrote about me at school, claiming that he wants to be a DJ when he grows up. My daughter, on the other hand, seems to oppose almost everything I suggest. Even at four years old she’s showing some very Chloe-like tendencies: she never listens to me, she’s obsessed with clothes and she’s prone to fits of screaming rage. Am I already a terrible superhero father?

I spend the rest of the episode catastrophising about the potentially dysfunctional future of my family. I miss key scenes of Jupiter’s Legacy set in the past as I imagine therapy sessions, drinking problems, more awkward Sunday dinners. Luckily, my attention re-focuses just as Brandon flies through the air, punching a bad guy so hard that his head explodes. The sheer impact pulls me out of my spiral, and my concerns fall to the ground, much like the grey blobs of brain matter dripping from Brandon’s fist. My son would never do that. And I am not a superhero, let alone a terrible superhero father. Levins’s Legacy remains ordinary, for now.

Andrew Levins is a DJ and the author of the Nelson book series for children. He is the host of the podcasts Hey Fam..!, All The Small Games and Serious Issues.
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