Millennial Movie Hot Take: Mrs. Doubtfire


millennial, Mrs. Doubtfire

Welcome to the Millennial Movie Hot Take, where we take your favorite movies and series and destroy them. Whether it’s a childhood movie, fun sitcom, or a 2000s rom-com, we’ve got spicy takes on those beloved classics that, let’s be real, maybe aren’t as great as we remember. Today, we’re talking about Mrs. Doubtfire.

In case you don’t remember, here’s the synopsis for Mrs. Doubtfire:

After Daniel Hillard, an unemployed actor, loses custody of his three children to his ex-wife, he realizes that seeing his kids once a week just isn’t enough. So the crafty thespian dresses as “Mrs. Doubtfire,” an elderly British nanny with a sharp tongue and an endearing way with children, in order to be close to his kids in this bright, heartwarming comedy.

OK, so first things first: obviously, this is a comedy, and it’s a good one. Robin Williams is, as always, hilarious, and he has got such incredible chemistry with everyone in the cast. It’s still a lot of fun, all these decades (yikes) later, and it’s a classic for a reason. But all that said, I rewatched this with my kids recently, and had SO. MANY. THOUGHTS.

First off, I remember watching this as a kid and feeling bad for Daniel when his wife, Miranda, announces she wants a divorce. And that’s clearly what the movie wants us to feel, right? Daniel is the sympathetic character here. But as an adult (and a mom), all I could think was, MY GOD. At the start of the movie, we see that the couple’s preteen son, Chris, got poor grades and is not allowed to have a birthday party as a punishment. Daniel gets fired from his job, and then — specifically going behind Miranda’s back — throws a birthday party anyway, even telling the kids it’ll be a secret from Mom. And it’s not just a party. It’s a party, complete with noise violations and animals inside the house. That’s the scene Miranda comes home to. And let’s be real, she makes so many good points in that argument!

Daniel has pitted himself against Miranda in the eyes of their kids. The two of them are not, in any way, a united front. And worse, as Miranda points out, he’s made it to where he’s the fun, understanding dad while she’s the mean, strict, unfeeling mom. Never mind that she still tried to make it a nice birthday by bringing home a cake; he had to outdo her by throwing an insane birthday party. Add to it that he’s undermined the issue of the discipline that was, presumably, agreed upon between the two of them and the lesson being taught to the kids is that Mom will discipline them, but Dad will undo it, so there’s no need to take it seriously.


Within those first, what? 10 minutes?, I was 100% rooting for Miranda in every eviscerating word she said. And Daniel took none of it seriously, thus the divorce. And it’s made clear that he is supposedly still in love with his wife, but what we don’t see is any effort whatsoever from him to take the burdens off her shoulders. She’s the breadwinner of the family, as he doesn’t have a reliable job. She’s the disciplinarian. She’s the one keeping the house clean, feeding the children, and ensuring their schoolwork gets done… all, remember, while she works a high-pressure corporate job. Daniel? He… I don’t know. Throws parties and makes jokes at inappropriate times. He’s utterly unconcerned with everything Miranda is having to deal with, and doesn’t seem to try, at all, to help, all while undermining her with their children on a regular basis. Who wouldn’t divorce a guy like that?

So moving on, Miranda and Daniel get divorced, and she is awarded primary custody, while he is permitted to see them once a week. He, understandably, wants more time with his kids, and the judge’s requirements are actually pretty reasonable. Daniel has no job and no place to live, so that’s all Daniel is told to do: get a job and a safe place to live. That is evidently a horrible thing to ask of him, judging by how he reacts, and so he schemes as to how to get around this, as opposed to dedicating himself to improving his life so he can have more time with his kids. We see all the effort he puts into becoming Mrs. Doubtfire, but just imagine if he put that much effort into improving his home and his life! He does get an apartment, but — at least at the beginning — it’s an awful place that looks completely unfit for children. It’s a pigsty that, were I the mother in question, wouldn’t want my kids spending too much time in, either… and I’m not a neat freak by any stretch of the imagination.

Then there’s the whole issue of Mrs. Doubtfire in the Hillards’ lives. As Mrs. Doubtfire, Daniel learns to cook, becomes strict about the kids with their schoolwork, and makes sure the house is clean and tidy when Miranda comes home from work. He is thoughtful, considerate, and goes the extra mile to make sure Miranda feels seen and appreciated. And rewatching this as a wife and mom, all I could think was, you should have been doing this all along. Why wasn’t he doing these things from the beginning? Why did it take this desperate, insane attempt to see his kids more to motivate him to suddenly put in actual effort? Then there’s Stu, the new guy who Daniel is obviously threatened by. And, I mean, Stu is played by Pierce Brosnan, so that’s certainly understandable. Watching it as a kid, again, he’s clearly meant to be the bad guy who’s pushing in on Daniel’s family and needs to go away. But rewatching as an adult, I was surprised by how differently he came across. He specifically speaks well of Miranda’s kids and says how much he loves them. He’s supportive of her career. He does nice things for her. He really… doesn’t do anything wrong. We don’t know what happens with Stu at the end, but in my mind, I’d like to think he and Miranda continued dating.

Ultimately, after Daniel is discovered as Mrs. Doubtfire, the judge is horrified — and he should be! It’s not even about the cross-dressing, but the lying, sneaking around, and subterfuge that shows how he is simply not a stable figure. There’s no doubt he loves his children, but he’s also just… well, again, not stable by any stretch of the imagination. This kind of behavior is frankly insane, and it’s a HUGE violation of Miranda’s privacy and boundaries. Yet she’s again painted as the unreasonable person because she’s awarded full custody… you know, because of Daniel’s actions. And this point is hammered home, because evil Miranda sees the error of her ways (I hope you can feel my eyes rolling here) and gives him joint custody. Whether or not Daniel should have joint custody, I don’t even think matters; he does nothing to atone for what he did. He acts as if he was perfectly justified for his intrusion into his ex-wife’s life and home, for the incredibly intentional and methodical way he lied to everyone — Miranda, his kids, the courts, everyone. There is never any learning moment for Daniel where he realizes that what he did was wrong. He basically just whines and feels sorry for himself, and Miranda gives him what he wants.

It really can all be boiled down to this: Daniel Hillard was a terrible husband and father, even though Robin Williams was, as always, a hilarious actor and a national treasure.

What do you think of this Millennial Movie Hot Take? Do you agree or disagree? Let us know in the comments!


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