Mrs Doubtfire – A Restoration Of Family Over Marriage – With Burnt Tats On The Side

The comedy of remarriage as a Shakespearean discovery has been reenacted within various structures of films in the 1930’s at the advent of sound or “talkies” and seen again with various features added and subtracted to offer new products of perspective in differing social milieus and time periods such as in Mrs Doubtfire (Chris Columbus, USA, 1993). Stanley Cavell states:

“The conversation of what I call the genre of remarriage is, judging from the films I take to define it, of a sort that leads to acknowledgement; to the reconciliation of a genuine forgiveness; a reconciliation so profound as to require the metamorphosis of death and revival, the achievement of a new perspective on existence; a perspective that presents itself as a place, one removed from the city of confusion and divorce.”

Conflict resolution, or reconciliation, may not necessarily present itself as remarriage, given its contemporaneous time period, but instead it may present itself as a resolution of family and a friendship between two parents who have come to realise that their children will benefit from a relationship with each parent rather than using children as monopoly. The Shakespearean aspect of having an actor in drag, or dressed as a girl, is another feature which posits questions of feminism within the discourse of representation and consciousness particularly in the maternal and paternal roles inscribed by the union of marriage. Stanley Cavell states further that:

“By the consciousness of women as expressed in the genre of remarriage I mean something of both sides- I mean a development in the consciousness women hold of themselves as this is developed in its relation to the consciousness men hold of them.”

Daniel (Mrs Doubtfire), is unable to be seen by the court system as an appropriate guardian, resulting in visitations with a supervisor, set out by the legal counsel of Daniel’s wife Miranda, who see’s her husband as another child rather than an equal. Through this dynamic, Daniel is the one who must raise and address his consciousness as a parent and he does this by adopting the guise of a women or maternal figure, and through this embodiment he then realises or gains consciousness of how to become a man, or more so, a paternal figure through drag which ultimately brings him closer to his family, resulting in a reunion of love for one another rather than a remarriage.

 

3 comments

  1. The idea of using an actor in drag in order to explore gender roles within a marriage and resulting in a remarriage of sorts is a really interesting take from Mrs Doubtfire, one which I had never really considered on that level before. It’s interesting to think how it works into Cavell’s ideas of female empowerment when it is a man becoming empowered through playing into a female role in order to cause a remarriage.

  2. This is really illuminating about how the narrative structure of Cavell’s ‘comedy of remarriage’ has evolved and manifested in later media. Not only is this a story that ends in a ratification of family and friendship instead, but it places responsibility on a well-developed male character. It’s an interesting twist on the genre too – a man donning a woman’s persona in order to re-forge connection.

  3. Interestingly, ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ immediately came to my mind when reading ideas on remarriage. Even though it may not follow conventional ideas on romantic reconciliation, its a unique perspective on the institution of marriage and adapts the typical rom-com resolution to consider a more open-minded and modern understanding of family values.

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