The Witcher‘s Geralt of Rivia is the living embodiment of the strong, silent hero. An elemental fantasy protagonist who spends his days killing monsters, earning coins, and sleeping with women in every grateful city he saves. His masculine beauty, somewhere between the agile anatomy of classical sculpture and the super-sculpted steroid men of Charles Atlas, is the epitome of the modern father.
This (naturally) millennial kink meme – one of the most prevalent sexual tendencies of the 21st century – fetishizes and inverts the original meaning of the term. What “father” was in the 1950s, and what it refers to now, may well be at the opposite end of the spectrum. For Geralt, it’s greasy platinum hair, a stubble-studded jaw, slender cat eyes and his noticeable aversion to crew.
In theory, Geralt is better at being one sheep than he is to take care of Ciri. He certainly looks much better when he does the first one. And yet, for a man whose expressions and behaviors both define the word “brooding,” Geralt is surprisingly quick to warm up to his parents’ “fate.” The Witcher, through the trusting relationship between Geralt and Ciri, builds on all the TV fathers who came before him.
[Ed. note: This article contains spoilers for the end of season 2 of The Witcher.]
The earliest fathers on television were basic – stiff white men embedded in the homeliness of the suburbs. Leave it to Beaver‘s Ward Cleaver rarely interacts with his sons apart from suggesting generic textbook advice; bland, boring fatherly musings played on loop with no real emotion behind it. Even unorthodox fathers, like the widow Sheriff Taylor in Andy Griffith Show, was based on conventional wisdom. TV shows made it clear that fathers were the central focus of the family unit, to Jim Anderson ind Dad knows best, a sitcom whose title adequately captures the essence of 50s paternity.
I love Lucy and Honeymooners was among the first shows that deviated from the masculine expectations of their male lead roles. Ricky Ricardo, a Cuban-American conga drummer, charmingly caters to his wife Lucy’s various quirks, and Ralph Kramden is treasured for his crooked grimaces and campy theater. But that was first The Addams family and its nominal patriarch, Gomez, that television fatherhood felt truly separate from its nuclear shackles and allowed to run crazy and wild.
Unlike the standardized fathers of his time, Gomez does not care about social protocol, though his insistence on his children’s agency may have been a shadow too progressive for most viewers. He announces that he will “give the orders around here,” and also that “no one shall obey them.” He refuses to let Wednesday and Pugsley go to school because “why get kids just to get rid of them?” Gomez lived by the truth that children are not clones designed for surrogate life, and they will never be vessels in which parents can cram their unfulfilled dreams – a philosophy repeated by Geralt all these years later.
In the world of The Witcher, those in power, of course, want to enforce it on everyone else: to have their statues erected in the town squares, their weak lives shaped by bards and historians to legend. Ciri is similarly besieged from every corner. Voleth Meir and The Wild Hunt, The Elves, The Nordics, Cintra, Nilfgaard – all worth their enchanted salt, fight to acquire her and her older blood because “a child born of parents died” automatically becomes fair game. Even the unnamed elf baby carries the weight of her people’s hope (though she is not lucky enough to survive the random acts of backstabbing that pass to politics on the continent).
However, Geralt of Rivia is one of very few people who does not treat Ciri like a puppet. He avoids the ridiculously grandiose names people baptize her with (including: “Child of Elder Blood,” “Child of Wrath,” “Child of Destiny,” “Daughter of Chaos”). Geralt may switch between helicopter upbringing and dangerous days of taking your child to work, but for him she is never anything more than a child – with enough power to change the flow of the story, but a child.
Geralt also does not mind the strange patriarchal precepts about genetics and authority – on the contrary, his actions suggest that adults have no place to impose their inheritance on children. He insists, albeit reluctantly, on Ciri’s autonomy despite the threats lurking around them: a sign of confidence in his daughter’s strength as well as in his own.
Modern television stories have traditionally respected children more as individuals; and approach father-child matings without denying what governs all healthy relationships: intimacy. take Stranger Things, a show that emphasizes the unique asymmetrical relationship between a superpowered preteen girl and her eventual father. Eleven shares countless parallels with Ciri’s overprotected life, starting with Jim Hopper, another stoic, heroic, fluffy man-mountain who turns into a somewhat receptive, slightly overbearing, mostly confused father after meeting El.
Few parents fight as hard or as dirty as Hopper and Geralt. Honor and integrity be damned, all these two care about are their superpowered daughters. Ciri becomes Geralt’s anchor, the reason why he relaxes at Witchering and settles down on a nice long stay at Kaer Morhen. She’s the reason he delivers un-Geralt-like zingers – “Yes. I was once a child too” – classic father-answers to a daughter’s skepticism. emotional palette in addition to guilt and frustration, although his olive branches tend to be 8,000 calories and soaked in corn syrup.
Ciri and Eleven teach Geralt and Hopper to temper discipline with flexibility, a risky line to go considering that these fathers are virtually helpless when their daughters lose control of their powers. These two men do not resist their paternal obligations, but they embrace them – and more importantly, they are willing to learn from their children. Whether in Hawkins, Indiana or Oxenfurt, Redania, hard love and gentle tenderness help Ciri and El navigate their unfathomable experiences with power.
The lively warmth of Geralt’s parenting style is evident in the first episode of season 2. The pair of unlikely travel companions encounter Nivellen, a mysterious cursed man: Geralt and Ciri accept his hospitality for the night, but each of them reacts quite differently to their host’s tale of ve. Geralt realizes that his friend has not been quite straightforward, while Ciri hopes to pull the Nivellen out of his gloomy quarrels over monsters and forgiveness.
But as Nivellen edits the truth back into her sob story, Ciri’s childish innocence – already distorted by the destruction of her home and family – is almost shattered. This is the point of no return for Geralt. He has no choice but to lead by example and turn his back on his friend.
Whether Geralt has encountered the revelation feels irrelevant. Crucially, Ciri learns that her new father would rather believe in women than thoughtlessly support another man. Seeing Geralt walk away from a once dear friend validates his daughter as his top priority, both in her eyes and in the audience. Their interactions up to this point are little more than casual hangout sessions, but the fire chat after their exit from Nivellens is the core that the father-daughter relationship sprouts around. Although he is limited by the regressive rules of his society, Geralt is working to create a more robust framework for Ciri’s emotional growth.
Unfortunately, Geralt’s quasi-feminism does not hold light for Elliot Birch Big mouth, TV’s Softest Daddy, which treats traditional masculinity as one of the infinite versions that a man can embody. Elliot emits a radiant glow from every one of his heavily moisturized pores: sex, genitals, masturbation, sex – there is no subject so obscene that it offends this wonderful man. Located in relative safety in Westchester County, New York, Elliot Birch has access to all the basic tools of fatherhood: raising three children while tackling peripheral tasks like Jay Bilzerian and Andrew Glouberman.
However, in a world as fragmented as The Witcher‘s where people are passionately xenophobic and their children are deprived of all freedom of action, there is simply not enough room to discuss the nuances of puberty. Even the inhabitants of Kaer Morhen, a community well versed in biology and alchemy, are unaware of the needs of Ciris teens, as a “cloth to when she gets her blood.” The Witchers encourage, entice and entice Ciri to become stronger, faster, better – more Witcher, less princess – but the show states that it is not enough to clothe her in cloths and feed her unusual mushrooms to pass Child Care 101.
The Witcher informs his men, perhaps all men, that they “choose to be ignorant assholes.” For the most part, however, Kaer Morhen is a medieval man Full house (no matter how hard it is to imagine Danny Tanner as a creepy monster hunter) a bunch of adorable awkward men who do the best they can in being parents. Witchers’ first hostility is obliterated into devotion over time; they struggle with beaks and claws to recover Ciri from Voleth Meyer’s claws and bet their lives and / or limbs without hesitation.
TV fathers (or their fathers’ surrogates) are no strangers to sacrifice – Ned Stark allows Lannisters to deprive him of dignity for Sansa (Game of Thrones), Rupert Giles openly condemns the Watcher Council for Buffy (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Homer reveals in an uncharacteristically tender moment how much he struggles to secure a bright future for Maggie (The Simpsons). At the opposite end of the spectrum is Emhyr, who is not above sacrificing himself Other things people’s children to get closer (politically, if not emotionally) to his own daughter.
The notion of parental sacrifice is often shrouded in vague abstractions, but its narrative consequences are painfully real. That explains why Geralt leaves his beloved Kaer Morhen in the season finale: he can not bear the thought of losing either Ciri or his Witcher family. It also explains how the Geralt-Ciri equation gets its third factor: Yennefer becomes a provisional mother figure when she surrenders her body and soul to Voleth Meir in exchange for Ciri’s freedom. The three become a glorious undermining of the nuclear family – biologically independent, yes, but uncompromising in their hopes of a better life.
Television paternity has come a long way in recent decades – it is no longer a realm of plaid-suite, pipe-smoking men who have nothing to offer but watered-down proverbs. The cheeky boomer ideologies embraced by Al Bundy (Married … with children) was forced to give way to sensitive heads like Hal Wilkerson (Malcolm in the middle) and Phil Dunphy (Modern Family). And there is still so much left to achieve in this cross-border neglected sphere of fictional relationships.
No one said raising children would be an easy task. Paternity is bitter, chaotic work with no guarantee of success (an idea so radically obvious that it completely skipped the first few decades of television). Geralt is afraid of making mistakes, of making mistakes that would cost his daughter her happiness. He understands that everything he does may end up being for nothing, but he takes the leap anyway. Geralt of Rivia adapts to her unexpected role with grace and sensitivity, a shift that highlights the basics of fatherhood – change is inevitable; life goes on.
The Witcher season 2 is now available on Netflix.