Commentary: ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ Was Surprisingly Progressive

by Frank Martin

One of the great things about films is that they are a snapshot of the time in which they were made. It’s very enjoyable to visit the movies of old to see how they hold up both in your change in perspective and the change in society as well. Movies are also a fun cultural history to pass down to the next generation. Personally, I been having a blast introducing my kids to the films of my youth. And while I do this, I’ve allowed myself to look at things with a different set of eyes, and this has caused me to realize that Mrs. Doubtfire was a surprisingly progressive film for its time.

In the beginning of the movie, Robin Williams’s character is a stereotypical man in terms of his household responsibilities. He puts fun with the kids above all else. This includes cooking and cleaning. But through a desire to be with his children, his character grows tremendously to the point that by the end of the film the kids’ mother feels much more confident allowing him to take care of them after school. Even in today’s society, it is still unusual to see a man’s role in domestic duties for the household, but Mrs. Doubtfire viewed it as a positive development for their family.
Speaking of family, that is the note in which the final message of the film sounds off on. Watching it with my children, the movie was an important teaching moment about the nature of divorce and the definition of family. Although it is still a struggle to redefine traditional family values, it’s refreshing to see a movie from the ’90s that was ahead of its time in communicating that families take many forms and one family dynamic is not better or worse than another.

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