This paper is aimed at discussing the film Kramer vs. Kramer directed by Robert Benton. In particular, it is necessary to examine the way in which the concept of family is portrayed in this movie. Much attention should be paid to such issues as gender roles, the responsibilities of parents, and other questions that are of great interest to sociologists.
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This analysis will be based on books and scholarly articles which can throw light on the contemporary understanding of family. One can say that this film is aimed at challenging many of the stereotypes about the roles that men and women are supposed to play. Moreover, this cinematographic work reflects some of the main changes that took place in post-industrial societies.
For instance, one can refer to the growing economic independence of women. Certainly, this movie can be viewed as the only source of information on the transformation of family. However, the questions explored by film-makers are of great importance to sociologists. This is why it can be examined more closely.
On the whole, the film highlights the idea that modern families are not governed by specific gender rules according to which partners have to stick to some specific tasks or responsibilities that can be imposed on them by the society.
For instance, the conflicts between Ted Kramer and his wife Joanna indicate that both spouses should take equal parts in the education of children. The film-makers present a dramatic and emotional portrayal of a modern family. However, they also attempt to question many of the traditional perceptions of this notion. Overall, this notion can be described as a group of people who feel attached to one another.
However, they do not want to disregard their ambitions and self-interests. This is the meaning of family that can be derived from this cinematographic work. The film-makers want to show that the conventional stereotypes are not applicable to the contemporary families. For instance, the authors show that males are able to act as effective parents.
Additionally, this movie demonstrates that the members of a family are not necessarily oriented toward some common goal. In most cases, they are driven by the need to fulfill their talents and ambitions.
These are some of main messages about families are made explicit in Kramer vs. Kramer. Currently, these messages are examined in many empirical or theoretical studies that are supposed to examine the effects of social or economic changes on the experiences of individuals or households.
It is possible to discuss several important scenes which can throw light on the roles and responsibilities within families. At the beginning, it seems to the viewer that this movie will portray a conventional nuclear family. One should bear in mind that Ted Kramer is an advertising executive, while Joanna is primarily responsible for the upbringing of their child Billy (Benton 1979).
Ted is concerned with an important task to which he is assigned. In turn, he is utterly astonished by the news that Joanna leaves him. This scene is an important element of this movie because at this point, the viewers can see that this family is no longer a nuclear one. To a great extent, Joanna’s decision can be explained by her discontent with the idea that her life can be reduced to the role of a housewife.
This is one of the details that can be identified. One can say that this situation illustrates the changes that began to take place in the post-industrial world. As a rule, researchers focus on the conflict between family well-being and equality (Gerson 2009a: 226).
In turn, the idea of equality includes the ability to achieve personal fulfillment. Joanna does not want to be deprived of this opportunity. This is one of the motives that affect her behavior and her perceptions of family.
Moreover, scholars argue that women are much more concerned about the psychological and economic risks depending on their spouses (Gerson 2009b: 160). These are some of the issues that are frequently overlooked by men many of whom do not want to reject conventional stereotypes about gender roles (Gerson 2009b: 160). This is why Ted fails to understand why Joanna chooses to leave him.
The main characters can be described as ‘the children of the gender revolution’ or people who were born during the period when many gender roles were re-evaluated (Gerson 2009d:103). Many of these people aspired for equality, but their expectations were often disappointed (Gerson 2009c: 189). Thus, family members should be able to place themselves in the position of their relatives in order to help them and resolve conflicts.
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Additionally, one can look at the scenes that depict Billy’s relations with his parents. It should be kept in mind that Ted has to assume the role of a single parent, while Billy does not understand why his parents are no longer able to live together (Benton 1979). This is the question that he asks his father. This boy believes that he is the underlying cause of their divorce (Benton 1979).
This scene is also important for the discussion of this movie because it can show how children can be affected by divorce. Very often, they blame themselves for the quarrel of their parents. In the long term, these self-accusations can result in significant psychological problems. Thus, this movie shows that parents must make sure that their ambitions do not produce adverse effects on their children.
This is one of the responsibilities that should parents should be aware of. If they overlook this issue, they will face various problems in the future, especially at the time, when children or adolescents begin to think more critically. This is the main pitfall that should be avoided by parents who consider the possibility of divorce.
This film can also throw some light on such an issue as parenting responsibilities of men and women. Much attention should be paid to the courtroom scenes during which lawyers of Ted and Joanna attempt to show that one of them is more suitable for the role of a parent. These scenes can represent some of the arguments related to the functions that both parents have to perform.
To a great extent, this movie shows that both men and women can be suitable for the role of parents. In many cases, the degree of their success depends on their ability to sacrifice their self-interests. For instance, Ted has to search for a different job because he cannot reconcile his role of parent and his role of a senior advertising executive. Yet, one should bear in mind that at the beginning, Ted feels very enthusiastic about his work.
In fact, he can be described as a workaholic. So, the parenting success of a person depends on his/her attitudes, values, and knowledge. This argument is supported by empirical studies which can show that the gender of a parent does not affect the psychological wellbeing of a child (Biblarz and Stacey 2010: 3). At present, this issue is also closely examined by sociologists and psychologists.
Additionally, this film shows that many individuals find it difficult to establish the work–life balance. For example, one can mention Ted’s conversation with one of the senior executives who forces him to choose between his son Billy and his career (Benton 1979).
These difficulties are encountered by a great number of people nowadays. By focusing on this conversation, the authors show that people should attain the equilibrium between their need for professional growth and the need of their children. However, this goal cannot be easily attained. This is one of the challenges should be taken into account.
The conflicts described in this movie can be viewed as indicators of significant social and cultural changes in the community. For instance, for a long time, it has been argued that a family has to include two heterosexual spouses and a child. However, this conception began to be questioned when spouses became economically independent of one another.
Moreover, the relations between characters show that equal educational opportunities can also change the attitudes and values of family members. One should keep in mind that Joanna is a college graduate (Benton 1979). Yet, her knowledge and skills are not applied in any way. So, the improvement in the quality of education can affect many families. This trend is also examined by modern sociologists.
Moreover, one should focus on the transformation of conventional gender roles. This process can be attributed to the growing importance of the feminist movement in the United States. As it has been said before, Joanna is dissatisfied with the role of a person whose activities are related only to household chores and the upbringing of children.
Her attitudes can also be explained by the influence of feminism which implies that women’s roles cannot be reduced only to one particular domain. Additionally opportunities became available to women. As it has been said before, the main characters of this movie can be regarded as “children of the gender revolution” (Gerson 2009c: 189).
These people do not believe in the conventional stereotypes about family. Yet, they do not know what kind of rules or patterns they need to follow. This is one of the details that should be taken into consideration by the viewers.
Overall, Kramer vs. Kramer can be regarded as an excellent dramatic representation of the problems that modern family can encounter. This film shows that the roles and responsibilities are not allocated according specific standards such as gender roles. More likely, the movie shows partners should share their burdens or responsibilities with one another.
For instance, they should take equal part in the education of children; otherwise they will find themselves in conflict with one another. Additionally, this cinematographic works shows that personal or professional fulfillment should be reconciled with the needs of the family. So, this film demonstrates how social changes affect the experiences of individuals. This is why this film is interesting from a sociological viewpoint.
Benton, Robert.1979. Kramer vs. Kramer. Columbia Pictures. DVD. New York: Columbia Pictures.
Biblarz, Timothy and Stacey, Judith. 2010. “How Does the Gender of Parents Matter?“ Journal of Marriage and Family 72: 3-22.
Gerson, Kathleen. 2009a. “Finishing the Gender Revolution.” Pp. 214-226 in The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
——. 2009b. “Men’s Resistance to Equal Sharing.” Pp. 159-88 in The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
——. 2009c. “Reaching across the Gender Divide.” Pp. 189-212 in The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
——. 2009d. “High Hopes, Lurking Fears.” Pp. 103-23 in The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.