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Negotiated Intimacy in “Casablanca” and “Mrs. Doubtfire” Essay

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Updated: Mar 30th, 2022


The research topic is the dominance of negotiated intimacy in modern love relationships. Casablanca and Mrs. Doubtfire are the two movies that reflect these themes. One was set in the 1940s when intimacy had little to do with negotiation and more to do with obligation. The other is a 1993 film that epitomizes this new phenomenon. The two movies will be critical in showing that intimate relationships are a product of cultural and sociological values.

How the two films demonstrate or negate negotiated intimacy

Most sociologists agree that people enter a world that existed before them. Therefore, other people must teach them how to interact in this society; the process is known as socialization. One’s perception of reality is thus a socially constructed phenomenon. If a person participates in a romantic relationship, it is likely that the individual will adhere to the norms and expectations of his or her society. In the 1940s, different social norms governed the love relationship.

At the time, women had just begun participating in the labor market. They were not financially independent and most of them appeared bound to their husbands. These sentiments are reflected in the film Casablanca. Ilsa appears to tie her fate to her lovers and spouses. When she finds that Lazlo was alive, she sticks to her wifely obligations and abandons her first true love.

It is almost as though Ilsa’s partners are unwilling to consider her as part of the relationship. They have the power to decide whether she stays or leaves one country or the other. For instance, when she met Rick in Paris, it did not matter that she loved him dearly. She had to go back and tend to her husband’s needs because he was alive. Ilsa was a woman who was still bound by role constraints.

Conversely, the relationship between Miranda and Daniel is one that represents modern thinking. In the post traditional society, modern couples approach intimacy on a basis of understanding and knowledge. They expect that each party should derive mutual satisfaction from the relationship.

Failure to meet this goal could lead to termination of the union. This is exactly what occurs in the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. Miranda and her husband are at loggerheads because their relationship ceases to satisfy both parties mutually. Miranda feels that she is carrying too much of the weight in the relationship. Her husband seems lost in a juvenile world that imposes no obligations on its adherents.

He quit a job without thinking about the financial consequences of his actions. Furthermore, he gave his child an extravagant birthday gift irrespective of this new financial situation. By acting in such an immature way, Daniel violated the goals of the modern relationship. He acted in contravention of mutual knowledge and understanding. Miranda did not share his preference for extravagant celebrations and she was not even consulted about it. It is this failure to negotiate that led to the demise of the pair in Mrs. Doubtfire.

The question of employment also affects love relationships quite seriously. In the 1990s, women were expected to participate in the breadwinning role. However, household responsibilities had to be negotiated between the two parties.

In instances where no mutual understanding exited concerning childcare, then women often took up the role. In essence, women had to juggle their jobs with household responsibilities and this took a toll on them. In the film, Mrs. Doubtfire, it is clear that Daniel and Miranda did not have this conversation. Miranda could not find the balance between her family and work because she was already doing too much for her family.

There was no mutual satisfaction in the relationship and she wanted out. No doubt exists concerning how loving Daniel is towards his children. However, he seems to embrace only the fun part while leaving the rest of the hard work to his wife. It is these divergent goals that lead to a split.

On the flipside, Ilsa’s profession is not quite clear. She does not have children that would somehow complicate her work roles. However, traditional society required married women to take care of their men like they would children. Therefore, minimal tensions arise to interfere with this role. Ilsa’s non participation in any meaningful work meant that she would not find it difficult to show her allegiance to her husband. Some stronger forces were at play in this scenario.

Societal expectations concerning marriage have altered tremendously over the years. Rigid rules do not apply anymore and individuals are not obligated to stay in unsatisfying relationships. In the 1940s, women were motivated to stay in love relationships out of a sense of obligation.

Since these women lacked a means of economic survival, they often sacrificed their personal happiness for their unions. For instance, Ilsa was married to the ultimate hero. He stood for a worthy cause and was a man of great status. Therefore, she had a lot to lose if she left him. It is this sense of obligation that caused her to sacrifice her romantic feelings for Rick. If Ilsa had ended her marriage in order to restart a relationship with Rick, then she would have abandoned a life of economic stability for uncertainty.

Rick was a wealthy man, but Ilsa was not his wife; she would have been nothing more than a lover. The financial security that came with the title of a wife was too much to be ignored. Conversely, Miranda was not bound to her husband for financial reasons. In fact, the reverse was true; after Daniel lost his job, it was his wife who took care of the family obligations. It is likely that this lack of economic ties to Daniel made divorce a viable alternative.

Miranda had no financial perks to lose if she divorced her husband, so she decided to leave him. Therefore, the post traditional notion of fewer obligations and more negotiation carried the day. Miranda could not find love in the relationship, so there was nothing else to keep her in it. Negotiation entails mutual benefit; if one party is not sustaining the other financially, then it is easy to leave.

A feminist analysis of the two relationships also reveals that a modern attitude towards relationships is affecting how people interact with one another. Feminists affirm that women were degraded and looked down on in the past. Society had a negative attitude towards the female gender, and women could do little to change that perception.

However, in the modern era, women are independent beings who have the freedom to enter or leave a love relationship as they wish. Feminists perceive this as an indication of the amount of progress that they have made. In the movie Casablanca, Ilsa cannot even be trusted to get herself to another country. She needs the assistance of men to achieve this.

Such an attitude indicates that women had minimal significance in that society. On the flipside, it does cause women to overlook certain trivialities in their relationships. They have to think of the long term consequences of their behavior before making the choice to leave. In Mrs. Doubtfire, the key female character appears to have a lot of power. Feminists would respect her initiative in the divorce as well as her performance during the custody hearings.

However, this freedom degrades certain institutions. It may be argued that female empowerment, as practiced in the modern era, has caused women to become uncompromising. Miranda divorces her husband for quitting his job. She then denies him parental visits because of his impersonation of an English nanny. It may be argued that Daniel had noble reasons for engaging in both types of conduct.

He quit his job because he did not like the message that his character was portraying (a smoking parrot). Furthermore, he impersonated an old lady in order to spend time with his children. If Miranda had been less eager to exercise her feminist rights, then she would have listened to her husband’s side of the story and compromised. This implies that modern couples are getting less tolerant of each other.


Intimacies in lover relationships were obligatory and non negotiable in traditional societies like Casablanca. Ilsa loves Rick but her obligation to her husband; societal expectations concerning women and financial security cause her to stay with her Lazlo.

On the other hand, modern couples demand negotiation and mutual satisfaction in their relationships as seen in Mrs. Doubtfire. Miranda left Daniel because they lacked a mutual understanding on how to take care of the family. Furthermore, she had no economic ties to her husband, so a divorce was plausible for her.

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1. IvyPanda. "Negotiated Intimacy in "Casablanca" and "Mrs. Doubtfire"." March 30, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/falling-in-love/.


IvyPanda. "Negotiated Intimacy in "Casablanca" and "Mrs. Doubtfire"." March 30, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/falling-in-love/.


IvyPanda. 2022. "Negotiated Intimacy in "Casablanca" and "Mrs. Doubtfire"." March 30, 2022. https://ivypanda.com/essays/falling-in-love/.


IvyPanda. (2022) 'Negotiated Intimacy in "Casablanca" and "Mrs. Doubtfire"'. 30 March.

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