After watching the movie this past week, it’s hard to connect to those days when Joanna’s (Streep) decision to leave her child to “find herself” would have been so completely foreign and controversial. Although it’s still not that common for women to leave their children in the care of their fathers, it happens enough that we don’t view the mother as some form of aberration.
What might be most difficult for younger viewers to relate to, is the completely uninvolved roll that Ted Kramer (Hoffman) took in raising their son, Billy before the divorce. That is so foreign to the culture of parenting today that even those of us who grew up during that period or before, have probably forgotten what it was like.
I remember not so long ago, speaking with an elderly woman who wanted to spend a day shopping in the city. Her dilemma was that she didn’t have time to prepare her husband’s lunch before she left and therefore she doubted that she would go. Old customs die hard.
Many say “Kramer vs. Kramer” was key to getting millions of men more involved with child rearing. Others respond that it would be overstating it to say that this movie was a key element to the cultural shift in a father’s role in parenting. After all, the impact of the feminist movement was being powerfully felt through all facets of society of the day. However, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that this movie was one of the first to address the dramatic changes in the social makeup of roles within a family. We asked Tokii members if this movie was a key element of change, 50% of men and 23% of women felt that it may have.
Is it relevant today? Yes, it is important for young people to see how far society and family values have changed. Although divorce is always unfortunate, it forced a change in society that certainly improved the relationship of men and their children.
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