Saturday, March 19, 2016

it often disappears with age or entering politics

"Can we get back to politics?" - Thomas Jefferson, Hamilton

If we do take Mrs. Doubtfire seriously, it stops being cute. Sure, it's still got, as Saer put it yesterday, watching the movie for the first time, "the feelz" but just because Daniel (Robin Williams) is hurting doesn't mean he should get what he wants. In fact, we're shown the troubling version of Daniel in the opening scene. He's doing voices for a cartoon and he's too concerned with "I've got to do what I've got to do" to realize that what he's got to do is his damn job so he can, you know, make money, and help Miranda (Sally Field) out with their kids. That's the real world. Instead, Daniel lives in a world where he feels just fine quitting that job (and note Lydia's (Lisa Jakub) familiarity with the idea of him getting fired) then spending however many hundreds of dollars it costs to rent a mobile petting zoo for his son's birthday party (which Chris (Matthew Lawrence) was not even supposed to have because of his bad report card).

Hell, I think the old next door lady calling Miranda about the party like she's telling on a kid breaking the rules is there just so we impulsively side with Daniel. No one likes a nosey old white lady. If the party had just run long and Miranda happened upon it, the result would have been... Well, probably the same--

(The same inappropriately scene-making behaviour seen... (Had to look it up because I thought it was the same year) two years earlier in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, not just from the mother but also the boyfriend interrupting the obviously formal event going on. I mean, can you not just deal with your anger in private after taking someone aside? No, that wouldn't make the movie happen. Hollywood wants a scene, literally. Why have realism when you can have noise?

For that matter, Chris is turning twelve. Does he need a mobile petting zoo? No, but that makes Daniel's impulses just crazy enough that we could consider (but certainly not take) Miranda's side in things. The movie, as it is, lumps the three kids together and infantilizes them beneath their respective ages. Even that deleted scene I linked yesterday, which offers Lydia some focus away from her siblings, treats her like someone much younger than fourteen. If Natalie (Mara Wilson) asked Daniel to "pretend" it would make more sense; she's five.)

--but it would not provide the easy in for the audience to side with Daniel. However outlandish a party he's throwing, when some old lady calls the cops, our impulse is to side with the party because who doesn't love a party?

But, we shouldn't like that party. Bringing barnyard animals to that residential neighborhood without appropriate permits (or fences) is not a good idea. Throwing a big party assuming you can clean up before the wife gets home is also not a good idea. The movie makes Miranda shrill because that makes it easy for us to support Daniel; he's just trying to do right by his kids, right? But, then Daniel's idea of doing right by his kids extends to violating a court order, committing fraud against his wife and his kids and his court liaison. But, Robin Williams is funny, so we laugh, and oh, he clearly loves his kids, so we forgive. But, so many bad parents love their kids.

(An aside: the dysentery scene is weird. Daniel actually says, "I'd hate to hear that she came down with amoebic dysentery or, you know, piles." Natalie asks what amoebic dysentery is, Chris explains graphically how it leads to death and Natalie asks why her father wants her mother to die, when that's not even what he said. I mean, sure, he's a sarcastic guy, and referencing those afflictions is a joke, but the joke is that he does actually care how his ex is doing, but he, as usual, takes things too far in his dialogue to make his point. But, nowhere there did he say that he wants Miranda to die.

But, then Miranda arrives an hour early to pick up the kids after dropping them off an hour late, and she doesn't knock, insults Daniel's new apartment (aside from still having boxes to unpack, the place seems rather nice), and complains about how busy she is, because the movie absolutely needs us to dislike her. (But, we won't want her to die, either.))

There is actually a dangerous message at the heart of this film. One that pulls me toward political discussion, actually. The film relies on the same impulse seen in oh so many action films--if you're the good guy, it doesn't matter what you do to win. It the justification for protest, the justification for a bit too much energy (read: violence) at rallies. It's on either side--not to embed this particular blog entry entirely in the present--of Trump's events. Like the big one in Chicago that was cancelled last week. Wherever the anger arose, wherever violence happened, either side could justify it because they're right. It's a message constant to American stories--not just action films--and American politics. Generally, outside of the worst of cinematic (or comic book) villains, no one ever really believes him- or herself wrong. Maybe you made a bad decision here or there, but in the long run, you're a good person, right? And, you want to do what's right for you and yours, and when it comes time to vote, you want to vote for the man (or the occasional woman) who will do what's best for the country. Objectivity be damned. You chose rightly because you're not a bad person and, after the fact, what you have chosen has to have been right because why else would you have chosen it? And, you must stick with it and defend your choice or admit you were wrong in the first place.

In Mrs. Doubtfire, the judge suggest in the end that Daniel might need to seek mental help, and the judge might actually be right. At a certain point, the pathology of pretending to be another person every day has got to be more than just a silly ruse. Lying constantly is hard, unless you start to believe the lies. And, you could twist that one right back into politics. I mean, when they're running for office, on the one hand, you can barely believe everything that a candidate says. But, on the other hand, you're supposed to. The candidate is supposed to become what they say they are. The rally-attendees, the protesters--they certainly believe what is being said...

Of course, what is a politician if not his or her rhetoric writ into action? What is a father like Daniel if not his impulses writ into misguided (and illegal) action? And, who are we to judge if can understand the impulses behind it? Right? He's just a father who loves his children and is willing to break the law and commit potentially psychologically damaging fraud to spend time with them. It's perfectly understandable.

And, if Euphegenia Doubtfire ran for office, she'd probably be really into fascism and really strict laws, limitations on free speech and whatnot. But, just because she loves us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment