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The “Mrs. Doubtfire” American Comedy Film


The American comedy film ‘Mrs. Dountfire’ presents a number of important aspects of the modern American family reflected in behaviors, values and characteristics of individuals. Within the context of the film, a reflection of the contemporary problems affecting American families is represented. Evidently, films that depict issues of American families, especially those developed in the last three decades, often demonstrate a number of variables related to the developmental characteristics of the lifespan and health patterns and practices.

Movie setting and Plot

Directed by Chris Columbus in 1993, the film ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ depicts the family of Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) as it struggles to maneuver through the modern dynamics and social pressures. Hillard is San Franciscan father of three children and talented voice actor. However, he is unemployed and unable to discipline his children. His wife Miranda (Sally Field) believes that her husband is irresponsible, immature and weak individual. The three children Lydia, Natalie and Chris, are victims of parental conflicts. Since Hillard is unemployed, the court grants Miranda the rights to child custody. However, Hillard learns that the wife is planning to hire a housekeeper to take care of the children. He makes a plan to trick her. He poses as an old English nanny with a pseudonym “Mrs. Doubtfire”. She agrees to meet the ‘nanny’ Miranda agrees to hire Mrs. Doubtfire as her housekeeper. Once, while attending a dinner at the invitation of Lundy, a TV station CEO, Hillard realizes that Miranda is attending a dinner party at the same time and place. Therefore, he is expected to honor the CEO’s invitation and act as Miranda’s children nanny at the same time. Due to the effect of alcohol, he reveals himself. In the next court process, Hillard argues that he has a job and ability to keep the children. However, the judge finds his behavior “unorthodox” and insane. Hillard is heartbroken and oppressed. However, he launches his TV program “Euphegenia’s House”, which becomes very popular. Miranda decides to change her mind and reunite with him.

Assessment of the movie family

Socio-cultural processes

The film is set in the late 20th century, when the American society was experiencing a transition period from the modern to post-modern system. In particular, families were facing challenges associated with the social dynamism (White, 2011). For instance, the changing parental roles forced parents to take equal responsibilities in the family. In addition, courts were dealing with thousands of cases related to divorce, child custody and family conflicts. The film “Mrs. Doubtfire” is no doubt a good example of such families. Hillard’s family is affected by the reversed roles. At first, he has no job, causing him to lose the case. On the other hand, the wife believes that a modern man should provide support to the family, care of and promote the children.

Communication and technological aspects

It is important to note that the media plays an important role in the social-cultural processes within the family. For instance, it affects the people’s way of thinking and perception. There is no doubt that Miranda compares her husband with the prototype of males presented in the media, which makes her find him immature and irresponsible. Surprisingly, the media is also responsible for their reunion.

Environmental processes and reversed roles

As stated above, the environment in which a family resides is an important element that determines the developmental characteristics of a family. For instance, the technological, cultural and economic dynamics of a society have a number of impacts on Hillard’s family. Hillard’s role as a father is determined by his ability to cope with the challenges of providing security and basic needs of his family. Thus, wife takes the husband’s role due to the influence prevailing economic and social-cultural environment.

Family Values

In the film, it is evident that Hillard’s family has unique values and culture, which are affected by the social, cultural and technological impacts. For instance, Miranda believes that her children must be perfect, especially in academics. She rebukes Chris for his academic weaknesses and accuses Hillard of throwing a party for Chris, despite his poor grades.

Socialization and child rearing

Child rearing and socialization are important factors that influence the developmental characteristics of a family (White, 2011). In case of Hillard, child rearing seems to be the most important aspect. They fight over the custody of the three children. They also fight over distribution of the roles of disciplining and providing for the children. While traditional families were accustomed to socialization as families, Hillard’s family is dividend by modern dynamics.

Ability to adapt to new situations

Hillard’s family struggles to adapt to a number of situations caused by social, cultural, financial and other dynamics. For instance, children are forced to adapt to a new environment without their father after the divorce. They have to rely on ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ as their custodian.


The film depicts two important generations. The two parents belong to the baby boomers generation. They are a male and a female represented by a square box and a circle respectively. Secondly, the children are a male and two females, linked tightly to their parents by a solid line.


Strong and weak relationships in the inner circles are evident in Hillard’s family. For instance, the relationship between Hillard and his children, especially Chris, is relatively strong. Similarly, the children and their mother have a strong relationship. However, the relationship between Hillard and Miranda is relatively weak, especially due to frequent conflicts of minds and behavior.

Within the outer circles, the family experiences the effects of multiple formal and informal support systems. For example, the cooperation between the family and institutions that provide family support system is lacking. In fact, there is little evidence of Hillard’s family seeking family support from psychiatric or therapists to solve their conflicts.

Comparison with Beaver’s System model

Family structure: In the film, there is a large difference in functioning between Hillard’s family and Beaver’s system model. For example, Beaver’s model calls for strong family links in order to enhance functioning. This aspect is lacking in the film because rather than functioning as a unit, the parents are fighting court and emotional battles before they reconcile.

Mythology: There are some myths in the film, especially seen in Miranda’s way of thinking because she believes in the myth that men are the sole providers of security and other needs.

Autonomy: The moral responsibility and accountability of an individual’s action is seen in Miranda when she decides to make an un-coerced decision for seeking divorce.

Summary and conclusion

In this analysis, it is evident that Hillard’s family provides a good example of the post-modern influences of social, cultural and economic dynamics on families and the society in general. Hillard’s family is a victim of these dynamics, which results into conflicts. In addition, it is evident that the family has weak relationship with Beaver’s model due to poor relationships between the parents.

Hillard’s Family ecomap and genogram
Figure: Hillard’s Family ecomap and genogram

Symbol legend


White, J. M. (2011). Dynamics of Family Development: A Theoretical Perspective. New York: Springer

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"The “Mrs. Doubtfire” American Comedy Film." ApeGrade, 10 Apr. 2022, apegrade.com/the-mrs-doubtfire-american-comedy-film/.

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ApeGrade. "The “Mrs. Doubtfire” American Comedy Film." April 10, 2022. https://apegrade.com/the-mrs-doubtfire-american-comedy-film/.


ApeGrade. 2022. "The “Mrs. Doubtfire” American Comedy Film." April 10, 2022. https://apegrade.com/the-mrs-doubtfire-american-comedy-film/.


ApeGrade. (2022) 'The “Mrs. Doubtfire” American Comedy Film'. 10 April.

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