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Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer Essay


The entire infrastructure of people’s culture/civilization/society is comprised of a socialization process. This process is interwoven with personal impressions, ideas, emotions and prejudices as ideologies. Inherited norms, customs, and ideologies are vital components that comprise the socialization process.

Such a process equips an individual with the necessary skills needed to function in their society and thereby insures social and cultural continuity or permanence (Clausen, 5). Key to the socialization process is the family unit which is the cornerstone and basic/indelible institution of any civilization.

Through the family unit, in particular the nuclear family unit (a biologically related family comprised of a father, mother, and children who dwell in one household) the above mentioned components are taught.

How has the socialization process via the family unit been reflected in the artistic component of culture? It is mirrored simply through mass media entertainment (film/cinema, radio, television, etc.) whose influence and proliferation has been phenomenal.

Technological expediency made it an unequaled facet of entertainment in the 20th century and cultural measuring rod. A cadre of distinguished and thought provoking films has depicted the family unit and its dynamics with Kramer vs. Kramer among them.

The 1979 American film version of Avery Corman’s novel of the same, Kramer vs. Kramer was a directed by the prolific director/screenwriter Robert Benton and stared Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, Jane Alexander, film legend Howard Duff and newcomer/child star, Justin Henry.

The film chronicles the separation and eventual divorce of Ted (Hoffman) and Joanna Kramer and its impact on them as well as their son, Billy (Henry). A workaholic advertising executive, Ted has become mentally estranged from his family compelling Joanna, a stay at home mother who feels she has lost her sense of self, to leave.

Catapulted into single parenthood, Ted struggles to relate and connect with Billy. Thru time and with the help of his neighbor/ kindred spirit Margaret (Alexander), another single parent, they cope and eventually bond.

Joanna returns for Billy and an emotional/heart wrenching custody battle ensues with Ted being represented by hardcore attorney John Shaunessy (Duff). Under the premise that a mother is best fit to raise a child, the court awards custody to Joanna. In the end Joanna sincerely comes to the realization that it is better for Billy to remain with Ted.

Kramer vs. Kramer was indicative of the social reality of the 70’s and 80’s which saw a dramatic shift in attitudes about parenthood. Although a mother physically births a child, both parents are involved in the conception, nurturing and raising process.

The traditional or stereotypical nuclear family portrays a two parent home where the father is present physically but not mentally in the nurturing and raising portion as depicted by Ted. Society promotes and encourages a two parent home with the hidden reality that the mother must be present to truly raise the child or is better suited to raise a child (e.g. custody awarded to Joanna). A hidden imbalance existed in the Kramer home and Joanna’s leaving brought this imbalance to the forefront.

It took the removal of the mother to illustrate the importance of the father being in the home to help raise children. Ted was not a nurturing father/parent and only focused on what he wanted Joanna to be as parent/wife and not himself. As he confesses in one scene, “I kept trying to make her be a certain kind of person. A certain kind of wife that I thought she was supposed to be (Kramer vs. Kramer).”

Both parents must be actively involved in the nurturing and raising of their children. Loss of sense of self and self worth in a parenting situation (Joann’s leaving) is the result of lack of concern for each other’s wellbeing and teamwork. A parent’s true value to their children is imparting a sense of themselves (character, etc.) to them. The film’s ending implies that although the family unit is broken, both Ted and Joanna come to accept and value each others roles (father, mother) and most importantly their primary parental responsibility – the wellbeing of their child.

Bibliography

Clausen, John A. Socialization and Society. Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1968.

Kramer vs. Kramer, 1979.

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IvyPanda. (2019, March 21). Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-structure-analysis-via-film-kramer-vs-kramer/

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"Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer." IvyPanda, 21 Mar. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/family-structure-analysis-via-film-kramer-vs-kramer/.

1. IvyPanda. "Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer." March 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-structure-analysis-via-film-kramer-vs-kramer/.


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IvyPanda. "Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer." March 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-structure-analysis-via-film-kramer-vs-kramer/.

References

IvyPanda. 2019. "Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer." March 21, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-structure-analysis-via-film-kramer-vs-kramer/.

References

IvyPanda. (2019) 'Family Structure Analysis via Film – Kramer vs. Kramer'. 21 March.

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