Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What's Wrong With "Mr. Mom"?

The movie, that is.

It's easy to say what's wrong with the term itself. It's sexist, because it assumes home is a woman's natural domain. Also, even if it's not always the intention of people who throw this phrase at stay-at-home-dads, the consequence is that it emasculates these dads by questioning/threatening their gender identities (although I'll admit it might be more relevant in cases of new at-home dads who are still sensitive and still very much confused about finding themselves in a situation society didn't prepare them for). In addition, it doesn't only affect current stay-at-home-dads, but those who contemplate staying home when their babies are born, but are afraid it might damage their masculinity.

See, that was simple. Calling someone "Mr. Mom" is bad and it's wrong. Fortunately, there's a better phrase to use: "Mr. Dad." Or "Dad." Calling someone Dad doesn't mean he goes out in the morning and comes back in the evening with the promise of a paycheck two weeks later, but that he's a man, and he has kids. See, "Mr. Mom" users? And you thought you ran out of options!

So that's easy enough, but what about the movie? What's so wrong with Mr. Mom?

Actually, the answer is "Nothing much," for the majority of the movie. After all, for the most part, it's a fun little movie about a loving dad who finds himself in a new situation, and copes with it to the best of his ability. He's bumbling, sure, but that makes complete sense. I never babysitted when I was a kid. I never changed a diaper before I had a baby. Hey, I never even held a baby before I had a baby. So why would I know what to do with one? The Michael Keaton character in the movie had been taught men worked for money and women raised kids, so how is he supposed to know the first thing about his kids? It's not his fault he didn't have a clue, and it's not the filmmakers' fault that their character was realistic.

In the background of the movie, though, there's always an ideological point. There's a moral to the Mr. Mom story, and little by little we advance toward the inevitable conclusion at the same time the characters themselves reach it: There's a natural order in the universe, and for everything there is a place. Although Mr. Mom is becoming a great stay-at-home-dad, and although his wife's career is quickly taking off, the natural order of the world will be maintained by the end of the movie. Mr. Mom goes back to work, while his wife goes back home. No longer will they have to fight the sexual advances of the people who inhabit the right side of the gender-sphere (the locals, let's say), because now Dad is back at the dad-world of work, and mom is back home.

And it's a shame, because it's a funny movie with a familiar shtick and likable characters. And after all, it's not the movie's fault that thirty years later people still think it's acceptable to call dads, "Mr. Mom," because they inhabit the perceived wrong side of the gender-sphere. Unfortunately, the very end of the movie makes it inexcusable. We have a man who spends 90% of the movie learning that a real man must do what needs to be done, rather than what society expects him to do. And then he forgets it, because really, a man staying home with kids is a great comedic setup, but once the comedy is done, it's time to go back to work.






Mr. Mom
Not a Bad Idea, Actually

2 comments:

  1. Great thoughts and wonderful writing, Oren. The "Mr Mom" moniker irritates me, but not as much as 4 years ago when we added our adopted daughter to our family and I became Mr Mom. "So, how is life as Mr mom?" I now sluff it off with something like "Well, my wife is her mom and I'm the primary care giver ...." I used to look down my pants ..... "Well, the boys are still in tact, so I doubt that I'm the mom." The latter met with horror at my Baptist church. I love my job. Can't imagine my life any other way. I'll get into your blog a little deeper later. Much success to you. (Look for a friend request on facebook from HomeDaddy Don).

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    1. I've had a lot of "Daddy has you for the afternoon?" and similar stuff, but I admit that no one has ever called me Mr. Mom. My reaction, if it happens, would be as subtle as yours, I'm sure...

      (And I didn't see anything on Facebook, by the way.)

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