The Misogyny You Didn't Notice in 'Mr. Mom'
Motherhood doesn’t just consist of cleaning, washing clothes, and dropping off the kids at school. It’s just called taking care of your kids.
There are different ways to be an advocate.
You can protest. You can raise awareness through social media. You can start activist groups in your neighborhood.
Now, more than ever, we need people to start calling out the things that are unjust. The worst thing to do is to be silent.
With recent abortion laws becoming stricter (and unreasonable), and more stories surfacing that align with the disturbing, but valid truths of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it’s hard to not to immediately notice when something isn’t right—particularly in the pop culture of our past.
Recently, I came across a film that I used to love as a kid, Mr. Mom. In the late nineties and early 2000s, I thought this film was the greatest film on television. It involved cute kids, a loving father, and witty one-liners. But now, as I am more politically aware, and an open feminist, I have come to realize that there’s some underlying misogyny in this film.
Mr. Mom, written by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone, etc. Basically every 90s family film was directed by John Hughes), is a 1983 comedy chronicling a father as he navigates motherhood. Jack (Michael Keaton) recently gets laid off, and while his wife is away working, he takes on the role of being a “mother.” Obvious points to mention that are incredibly sexist is that motherhood doesn’t consist of cleaning, washing clothes, and dropping off the kids at school. It’s just called taking care of your kids. Yet, in Mr. Mom, basic tasks are presented as if this these are the things that only mothers can do, with the kids often sharing their disapproval in how Jack does things by saying “you’re doing it wrong,” because apparently, only mothers are useful for the maintenance of the household.
“Mom” is Caroline, played by Teri Garr. She’s soft, makes everyone breakfast every morning without getting a bite in herself, and stands hopefully by the door as Jack rushes to work and carpools with “the guys” (in the car, Jack slumps in the seat, complaining to a car full of males he’s exhausted and needs a break from his family. In the opening scene, Jack only took a shower and got ready for the day, while Caroline woke up the kids, prepared their breakfast and lunch, fed a stubborn baby, and listened to Jack yap in the morning. But yeah, he’s tired).
Caroline is the typical sensitive cookie-cutter mother that’s too-often presented on television: a non-confrontational and submissive woman. Yet, when she gets a new job, and has to swap her stay-at-home-mom life with Jack, Caroline falls into an affair with her boss. There's a cringe-y level of flirting that happens between Caroline and her boss, and she just allows it to happen. It reaches the point where her boss even feels comfortable enough to whisk her away on a private plane.
Often in movies and on television, we see the man pretending to go to work when in actuality, he’s cheating on his wife. We see him being unfaithful, coming home every night, and acting as if nothing has happened. I don’t know if John Hughes wanted the gender roles to switch in his version of possibly “defying” gender stereotypes, but it falls short and is unsuccessful.
Caroline is presented as lustful, and easily influenced by sex. When Jack really starts to go downhill, making grilled cheeses with an iron and inviting women over to the family home to gossip about Spanish telenovelas, Caroline really doesn’t have much to say. At the end of the day (in this film), men still run the household.
Since just about every film is getting a remake, do I think Mr. Mom deserves one? Probably not, because it’s really just chronicling the life of a single dad, which is a lot less glamorous than in the movie. But if there is a remake, I’d like there to be more representation. Possibly the narrative could be told from the perspective a gender-fluid couple or a trans couple. Seeing POC representation in this role would be more than acceptable too. But a movie about a white dad trying to maintain his masculinity while wearing an apron is just outdated and close-minded.