The most amazing moment in Mrs. Doubtfire isn't when poor Robin Williams is stuffed into his pantyhose and cumbersome padding beside a swimming pool on a hot day, or when his Mrs. Doubtfire “boobs” almost catch fire, or even—in the extended sequence that leads to his unmasking as the father to his children as well as their female Scottish nanny—when he dashes around a restaurant furiously getting in and out of drag.
It comes right at the end in a voiceover, and it is—for a Hollywood film—a radical ending in every way: an ending that does not see a husband and wife reunite, or a broken family glued back together. Instead, a new kind of mainstream movie family takes shape—two separated parents, united by their much-loved children.
And then, after that, Mrs. Doubtfire herself gives a speech that emphasizes the various definitions of what “family” can encompass.
The significance of this is in the film’s year of release: 1993 was in the white heat of the culture wars, the year after arch-homophobe Pat Buchanan addressed the Republican National Convention to tell the assembled that the agenda that Bill and Hillary Clinton “would impose on America—abortion on demand, a litmus test for the Supreme Court, homosexual rights, discrimination against religious schools, women in combat—that’s change, all right. But it is not the kind of change America wants. It is not the kind of change America needs. And it is not the kind of change we can tolerate in a nation that we still call God’s country.”
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