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Family Analysis in the “Stepmom” by Chris Columbus Essay

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Updated: Feb 24th, 2022


The family is one of the major subjects of study in sociology. In sociological terms, it represents the integral part of the social system. Each family is a cell which supports the society. Media, which is also the important part of the society functioning, touches upon the urgent social themes. The family relationships represent one of them.

The aim of this essay is to describe the family relationships in one of the families portrayed by the media. With this purpose in mind, I am going to analyze the family of Luke Harrison, one of the main characters of the fiction drama Stepmom by Chris Columbus.

The main characters and film background

Luke Harrison is a successful legal expert. However, he has faced rather difficult problems in his life. He and Jackie, a mother of his children, have divorced recently. They have two children: Anna who is 12 years old and Ben who is 7 years old.

Luke has met another woman and tries to build the family with her. Isabel, his girlfriend and later the bride, is a photograph dedicated to her work. She does not have her own children and she recognizes the fact that the children of Luke and Jackie will become a part of her family. Isabel tries to make friends with Anna and Ben. However, it turns difficult to her because the children do not want to see another woman with their father. The relationships with elder child Anna seem to be the biggest problem for Isabel.

The situation is sharpened by the jealousy of Jackie who feels that Isabel wants to “steel” her children. Two women are very different personalities. Jackie is elder than Isabel. She has devoted herself to her family but her relationships with her husband have been broken. Isabel is a career-minded and ambitious person. She lacks the experience in children upbringing. She is hardly to be the competitor to Jackie. Jackie is a perfect mother and it is natural that she fears to lose the affection of Anna and Ben towards her.

Probably, the conflict reached its peak when Ben had been lost in the park while being on Isabel’s watch. Fortunately, the boy was found. However, the relationships of Isabel with Jackie spoiled much more.

Isabel realizes that she will always be a stepmom for the children. Eventually, she finds the common language with them and Jackie. The episode when Isabel approaches Anna represents one of the turning points in the conflict. A girl has fallen in love for the first time but her boyfriend has offended her. Isabel gives advice to Anna how to teach him a lesson and to stand for herself. Anna follows her advice and feels herself a winner in the situation with her boyfriend. Jackie admits that Isabel has really helped her daughter.

The conflict has been solved because Jackie has known that she has a cancer. The characters have realized that it is vital for the happiness of the children not to break the family ties but to be strong and to do their best to solve the conflict. The last scene depicts the situation when Isabel takes a picture of Luke, Jackie and their children with the intention to make a family portrait and Jackie offers Isabel to join them.

The Analysis

The marriage is one of the central themes of the film. Besides, the theme of divorce is addressed parallel in the film. Unarguably, these themes are closely connected with the study of the institute of family. In addition, the problems of marriage and divorce are important for the understanding of people attitude towards family.

The attitude of people to marriage depends on the social and historic events as well. It reflects the moods in the society. “Modern marriages might provide companionship in the form of a spouse, but it deters companionship with relatives other than the spouse” (Gerstel & Sarkisian 18).

Sometimes the marriage can cause the breakdown of family ties. The situation portrayed in the film Stepmom is, undoubtedly, one of them. However, the characters have, eventually, realized the threat to their happiness and the well-being of their children and have prevented the breakdown of their family ties.

The scholars stress that the society recognizes the importance of the family. In addition, the statistics shows that the number of years which people, on average, spend in marriage is substantially more than in the past (Goode 2). The plot of the film reflects this trend. We can see that despite the failure in the relationships with Jackie, Luke Harrison intends to build a new family and makes a proposal to his girlfriend Isabel.

Thus, marriage is considered by him as a necessary step in building the family. The failure in relationships with Jackie has not changed the attitude of Luke to marriage and relationships. He intends to marry a woman with whom he feels himself comfortable. “As a recent Gallup poll finds, 94% of unmarried young women and men say their primary goal in marriage is finding a “soul mate” (Gerstel & Sarkisian 19).

At the same time, the scholars argue that the intention of marrying a “soul mate” often undermines the ties with other family members (Gerstel & Sarkisian 19). The evidence of this can be seen in the film. Luke’s intention has caused not only the conflict with his former wife but also the problems with their children.

The care for children is also an important theme of the film. The author of the film touched upon the problem of the impact of the divorce of parents on children. Many scholars argue that this problem is closely connected with the concept of family structure. “Some argue that any family form diverging from two-parent, homemaker-breadwinner household represents decline, while others counter that new family forms actually represent creative adaptations to new social contingencies” (Gerson 16).

In my opinion, the characters of the film have coped with the problem of the divergence of their family from the traditional family structure. However, it has taken a lot of time and efforts.

As for Jackie, she has experienced a stressful situation in her life, the divorce. She feels that such values as family and her relationships with her children are threatened. According to C. Wright Mills, Jackie has experienced the crisis. The author states that the safety of our values is an integral part of our well-being (Wright Mills 11). He also stresses that when people feel that the values, which they cherish in their life, are threatened, they experience crisis (Wright Mills 11).

It is obvious that the success of marriage depends on the characters of the wife and husband. It depends on their attitude to family, career, and children upbringing as well. The scholars state that the family with two parents provides more material and emotional benefits to children than the family with only one parent (Biblarz & Stacey 5).

Luke’s desire to marry Isabel is an important step in creating the environment facilitating the development of his children. Ultimately, Jackie has realized this as well. She will always remain their mother but she understands how important the family atmosphere is for the well-being of her children. Furthermore, she overcomes her jealousy realizing that she has a fatal illness. She wants Isabel to become a real supporter and caregiver for her children after her death.


In order to sum up all above mentioned, it should be said that the family relationships is the central theme of the film Stepmom by Chris Columbus. The plot of the film is interesting in context of the sociological study. It addresses such social issues as the relationships between parents and children, marriage, and divorce. The film depicts how the characters prevent the breakdown of family ties in spite of the confrontation and conflicts.

It reflects one of the modern social tendencies. The crisis resulting from the feeling of threat to the personal values is perfectly represented in the film. Finally, the importance of family environment for children upbringing is shown. In my opinion, the film is very emotional and dramatic, the same as the relationships in the family it portrays. I recommend watching this film to everyone who is interested in the theme of family relationships and social problems.

Works Cited

Biblarz, Timothy J. and Judith Stacey. “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?” Journal of Marriage and Family 72 (2010): 3-22. Print.

Gerson, Kathleen. Unfinished Revolution : How a New Generation Is Reshaping Family, Work, and Gender in America .New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print.

Gerstel, Naomi and Natalia Sarkisian. “Marriage: the Good, the Bad, and the Greedy.” Contexts 5.16 (2006): 16-21. Print.

Goode, William J. The Family. Englewood Cliffs, USA: Prentice-Hall, 1982. Print.

Wright Mills, Charles. The Sociological Imagination .New York, USA: Oxford University Press, 2000. Print.

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