Movie: Mrs. Doubtfire

I saw Mrs. Doubtfire in the theater when it was released in 1993.  At that time, I watched the story through the eyes of a child with divorced parents.  I thought it was a nice story, and a funny one.  But there was a lot that I didn’t understand.  Yet.

For those who don’t know, Mrs. Doubtfire is a movie featuring Robin Williams as a divorced dad who is unhappy with his custody situation.  In a desperate attempt to spend more time with his children, he dresses as a woman and lands a job as his ex wife’s housekeeper. During this time, he also has a front-row seat to watch the new Stepdad Figure move in to fill his shoes.

I watched the movie again over the weekend.  And this time, I saw it from a different perspective.

This time, I was crushed when the family court denied custody to Daniel Hillard because he didn’t have a job or an apartment.  The apartment aside, I’ve heard of many women being awarded custody on the basis that they do not have a job and therefore will be more present to care for the children.

This time, I was enraged when Miranda Hillard arrived an hour early to pick up the kids from their once-a-week visit with their father.  As the three children stood up from the dinner table to rush out and meet their mother, I heard the pain in Mr. Hillard’s voice when he instructed them to sit down and shouted “you’re my goddamn kids too!”  …And then I noticed Mrs. Hillard’s sense of entitlement and superiority when she burst into the apartment without knocking and demanded that “her” children leave with her immediately.

This time, I recognized the rejection felt by the man disguised as Mrs. Doubtfire as he sat at a bar and pounded beers while watching his family frolic at a country club pool with his ex’s new suitor.

In seeing the movie again, I was able to understand and sympathize with both parents in addition to the kids.  I identified multiple facets of the divorce process which I was too ignorant to observe nearly twenty years ago.  And I was able to make note of the messages sent through the screen:

  • “Different” does not equal “unfit”
  • “Desperate times call for desperate measures”
  • It not appropriate to disparage another parent in front of the kids.  And it’s not a laughing matter.
  • Respectful interaction between parents makes things easier for everyone.
  • Life goes on.
The next time you’re searching for an appropriate Family Movie Night Flick, might I suggest Mrs. Doubtfire?

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3 Comments

  1. Isn’t it interesting how our perspective changes when our situation is different. And your impression of the movie would have been quite different 20 years later even if you were not a step-mom. I think it’s because we’re wiser and able to see all the angles better. I remember reading “Desire Under the Elms” when I was about 19. I read it again for an American Lit. class when I was in my 30s and I could hardly believe it was the same play. Life is funny-peculiar that way.

    I enjoy your writing. Hope you’re doing well.

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