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May 1994


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Tom Byers <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 18 May 1994 11:01:59 EDT
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Department of English, University of Louisville
Phone: (502)852-6770 or (502)852-6801. Fax: (502)852-4182.
    I saw MRS DOUBTFIRE this weekend. Though it has some genuinely funny
scenes of Robin Williams schtick, by & large it seemed to me a thoroughly
reprehensible movie in terms of gender politics--problems in the American
family have to do w/ the impatience and lack of sense of humor of the woman
who wants a career. The underlying message of such films seems to be that if
feminists would just lighten up (and love their children as much as men do)
then all would be well. I recognize this is a pretty unsubtle response, and
the film does do some things to cover itself against such charges. But it
seems to me to come out of a real bitterness, and what I'm wondering is
whether the bitterness is general or specific. So I have some questions for
screen-listers. 1) I notice in the credits that the movie is based on a novel
by a woman. Has anyone read it, and if so what are the differences between the
novel and the film? 2) I seem to recollect that after Robin Williams made a
big to-do on the talk shows about how wonderful it was to be married and
settled and a Dad, he then took up w/ the baby's governess and left the mother.
Is this accurate? If so, was there a custody fight? 3) does anyone happen to
know anything about anyone else involved in the production that might shed
some light? I recall a Molly Haskell piece ("Lights! Camera! Daddy!" I think is
the title) that suggests that Avery Korman, who wrote KRAMER vs KRAMER, had
been through an ugly divorce, and that the specific misogyny and pity for
 the father in that film might have been related to that. But the thing
about KRAMER, for all the problems Haskell pointed out (mom-bashing,
glorification of domestic work when--and because--a man does it), is that it
did suggest a real transformation of its male protagonist--a level on which
Ted Kramer was forced to "get it," and did. My undergrad film classes still
see that very strongly in that film, and it's an interesting one to teach
because of its various (and contradictory) relations to feminism. MRS
DOUBTFIRE seems to me at once far less substantial, and also significantly
meaner-spirited under its comic overlay. I'm wondering, as I say, whether this
mean-spiritedness may have a specific biographical reference point. I'm also
wondering whether others also saw the film this way.
bitnet tbbyer01@ulkyvm; internet [log in to unmask]
Thomas B. Byers
Department of English/University of Louisville
Louisville KY 40292