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Heart-Led Single Fatherhood in Films

Positive Masculinity Contributor - Dominique Lewis

Bio: Lead Content Writer for Positive Masculinity, Technical Writer in the medical device industry

In spite of the uncommon life circumstance of single fatherhood, the examples in media are exceptional in portraying healthy masculinity. Some of the most inspirational films include starring roles as single fathers. The themes and characteristics evident in these roles are so memorable and timeless. Breathtaking scenes of determination, hope, and leadership are consistent across each single father film, and a natural ability to be compassionate while still masculine. There are extraordinary examples of healthy and heart-led masculinity in single fatherhood films and each film has an unforgettable takeaway that can improve our society’s vision of masculinity.

Single fathers are rarely encouraged or complimented for being single and independent, while single mothers are regularly boasted about for their heroic independence. While single-parent homes lack full support, society usually honors every effort of the single mother, while the praise of single fathers sits on the back burner. Even holidays geared toward fathers are much less celebrated and acknowledged in comparison with mother’s day. The way that the media has displayed single fathers challenges the status quo of unhealthy father involvement in parenting.

In the film, The Pursuit of Happyness, a determined and faithful father plays the main character who takes care of his son regardless of the son's mother leaving and not having the finances to pay for rent or a car. Beyond the circumstances, this single father made sure his son received meals at home, an education, and hope. He goes out of his way to break the generational trauma of paternal abandonment from his own childhood. Beyond this, he teaches his son to believe that he's capable of anything beyond the circumstances. While at the basketball court with his son, his father tells him “Don’t ever let someone tell you, you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you got to protect it. People can’t do something themselves, they want to tell you you can’t do it. You want something, go get it. Period” (Ponio).

There were numerous lessons that Chris Gardner taught his son throughout the film, although the recurring message of having hope in the midst of difficult circumstances was the main theme. This was constantly shown through the single father’s actions, words, and life. He taught his son to never give up on his dreams even when circumstances don’t appear to be serving him or leading to a positive result. While experiencing an unsteady relationship with the mother of his child, struggling to pay the bills, and not having a stable home to live in, he still strived to show his son a better life.

Similarly, in the film Fatherhood (2022), a single father struggles to raise his daughter after her mother passes away during childbirth. His in-laws refuse to believe that he's capable of taking care of his daughter on his own. This may be due to his gender or cultural background, and how the average African-American man is not trusted to have custody of his children or volunteer to in the case of being widowed. Regardless of the statistics, he shocks them with his remarkable care for his daughter. She grows up learning to trust her father and depend on him for her every need.

Each of these films show meaningful masculine characteristics that aren't often shown in two-parent households. These characteristics are even less common in the African American population. The Institute for Family Studies found that almost 1 in every 2 children in the African American community is raised in a single-parent home (Institute for Family Studies). As a result, the disadvantages of being raised in a single-parent home while also being African American, detrimentally increased in the case of incomplete education and chances of being incarcerated. “Black young adults who grew up in a single-parent home are about 1.8 times more likely to have spent time in prison or jail by their late twenties, compared to their peers from a home headed by two biological parents” (Institute for Family Studies). While the statistics are highly discouraging, the steps toward redemption aren't impossible.

The principles of determination, hope, perseverance, integrity, faithfulness, open communication, and unconditional love in these African-American single-father films can be attuned to living a heart-led life. The way that both single fathers sacrificed their pride and ego to ensure that their child was loved, heard, and seen was a significant way of leading with their hearts. It can be common and very easy to follow the generational or traditional traits of their fathers who may have led with superiority and pride. Although these heart-led fathers abandoned their past to see and experience an all-around genuine relationship with their children. If more parents and adults were educated on how to lead with their hearts and help children feel seen and heard, especially in the realm of addressing unhealthy masculinity, the world and the next generation would be a significantly safer space.


  1. Jd. “Heart-Led Leadership.” Sources of Insight, 27 Aug. 2022,

  2. Ponio, Judy, and Content Team. “50+ Uplifting Quotes on the Pursuit of Happiness.” Our Father’s House Soup Kitchen, 3 June 2022,

  3. “Less Poverty, Less Prison, More College: What Two Parents Mean for Black and White Children.” Institute for Family Studies,

  4. Fleck, Brandi. “The Healing Power of Seeing and Being Seen — Human Amplified.” Human Amplified, 24 Sept. 2022,

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