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The movie “Kramer vs Kramer” Essay

The movie “Kramer vs. Kramer” was released in 1979. The setting of the movie is 1970s New York (Papke, 1996). The pervading atmosphere of the 1970s was feminism, and it greatly influenced the film. The 1970s ushered the development of feminism, but it has existed many years prior to that (“Then and Now,” n. d. ). The Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1970; this law upholds that both men and women should acquire the same salary for the same work (“Then and Now,” n. d. ). Then in 1971, Ruskin College became the venue for the very first National Women’s Liberation Conference (“Then and Now,” n. d. ).

That event was a monumental step for feminism, and it gave way to more improvements in the lives of women. The Sex Discrimination Act became a law in 1975; this act prohibits workplace discrimination based on sex or marital status (“Then and Now,” n. d. ). In addition, the Domestic Violence Act also became a law in 1976 (“Then and Now,” n. d. ). The passing of these acts were an accomplishment for women, and it clearly modified the ways in which women can participate in society. The atmosphere of feminism influenced the movie through the character of Joanna Kramer, who was excellently portrayed by Meryl Streep.

Joanna used to work for the magazine Mademoiselle, but she gave up her career to care for her son Billy (Papke, 1996). Thus, the film begins with Joanna assuming the traditional role of what women should be: a housewife whose main purpose is to take care of the family. However, she soon leaves her child and her overworked husband Ted, played by Dustin Hoffman. She returns sometime after, but this time she has a high paying job and now wants child custody (Bozzola, n. d. ). The movie shows its reference to feminism through the shift in traditional roles.

The movie begins with Joanna as a housewife and mother, while Ted is the breadwinner. The shift occurs with Joanna’s departure, as Ted is forced by circumstance to take care of his son. The breadwinner suddenly became in charge of the family. Meanwhile, Joanna resumes her professional life. Hence, the movie implies that women can move beyond roles that society assigns to them, which feminism definitely supports. 2. How does the film reflect social class, racial or gender issues? According to David Ray Papke (1996), “the movie offered a powerful cinematic commentary on gender” (p.

119). This commentary begins with the title. The title itself delineates the polarity between the genders (Papke 1996). The movie is entitled “Kramer vs. Kramer,” as if to say “man vs woman”. Thus, the title itself reflects the gender issue because it implies a conflict between man and woman. The Kramers are white and a middle class family. Ted Kramer is the breadwinner of the family. He works in advertising, and became too consumed with his work. On the other hand, Joanna is the homemaker and full time mother for their only son. However, she was not happy with her everyday life.

They may have married at a young age, so she did not have the chance to explore her world before marriage and motherhood. Frustration may have been the reason why she decided to leave. The characteristics attached to both people are the manifestation of the stereotypes assigned to men and women by society. Since Ted is the father, society expects him to be the breadwinner. As the mother, society expects Joanna to prioritize her family over her career. This stereotype dictates how men and women should lead their lives, as it defines the roles both genders are supposed to assume.

Thus, gender issues are also reflected in the movie through the two lead characters, as they are bound by the traditional roles assigned by society. Moreover, the movie also reflects gender issues through the topic of child custody. The movie shows that gender is a crucial determinant of child custody (Papke, 1996). Even if Ted had proved himself to be a father capable of taking care of his son, the custody was still given to Joanna. This decision is a reflection of the Victorian perspective, that which upholds women as nurturers and caregivers (Papke, 1996).

The custody was given to Joanna because the court agreed that it is the mother’s task to take care of the children. Again, this is a manifestation of the assigned roles to men and women. 3. What institution (family, economics, religion, education, politics/govt. ) seems to be the most influential and most obvious in the film? In the movie, the family proved to be the most obvious and influential institution in the entire film. The movie is based on the Kramer family, and the conflict arose from their struggles. The movie begins with the picture of a typical family.

The father makes a living to support his family. The mother stays at home to manage the household and to take care of the child. However, Joanna’s departure altered their family life. Ted is so used to being the breadwinner that raising a child became a new challenge for him. With Joanna’s absence, the Kramer family was reduced to Ted and Billy. Joanna returns, and demands child custody. The family is now complete, even if the three people involved are not together. In the end, the custody battle became a measure of which parent was most worthy of having their son.

Hence, the family is the most influential institution in the film because it is the core of the movie; all that occurs in the movie is shaped by the Kramer family. 4. Are any of the “myths” identified by your text perpetuated or destroyed in the film? If so, describe how this occurs. The myth of the traditional family states that the man is always a breadwinner while the woman is always happy in taking care of their house and their children. This myth was destroyed by the movie. The movie shows that even fathers are capable of taking care of their children.

The movie exhibited the drastic change Ted went through, from an overworked advertising employee to a doting father. While Joanna was gone, he learned to prioritize his son over his career. Ted’s transformation destroys the myth that men are mere breadwinners without the capacity to embrace the family life. The myth was also destroyed by Joanna’s character. First of all, she left her family to find herself. Wives and mothers of the traditional family are not supposed to abandon their family, regardless of their reason. When Joanna came back to her family, she was already employed.

Again, this destroys the myth. The myth upholds that the place for women is the home, and not the workplace. Moreover, making a living is part of the role of the man in the family, not the woman. Thus, the movie destroys the myth of the traditional family by showing that at present, this myth no longer holds due to the changes that occur with the roles that people play in the family. Personally, I think that being a wife and mother is a great idea. However, I found that there is great fulfillment in being a member of the workforce.

It gives a different sense of accomplishment compared to being a wife and mother. References Bozzola, L. (n. d. ). Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from http://movies. nytimes. com/movie/27688/Kramer-vs-Kramer/overview Papke, D. R. (1996). Peace Between the Sexes: Law and Gender in Kramer vs. Kramer. University of San Francisco Law Review, 30 (4), 1199-1207. Then and Now. Retrieved February 13, 2008, from http://www. channel4. com/history/microsites/F/flourbombs/thennow. html


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