A movie loved by most, Mrs. Doubtfire, starring the late Robin Williams, as an actor who’s life is basically falling apart: he recently quit his job, he is just divorced, and because of said divorce, he his now homeless. In order to turn his life around, the main character Daniel, dresses up in granny drag as a 60-ish year old woman playing the part of a nanny in his ex-wife’s household.
Filmed in 1992, Mrs. Doubtfire was a prime example of what gender norms of the 90’s were supposed to be. The cultural panic about divorce and the decline of men’s roles at home lead to insecurity about masculinity. Playing on that, in Mrs. Doubtfire, the mother wears the pants in the family, so Daniel has to prove his worth by wearing a dress.
In the process of trying to get the job of his ex-wife’s nanny, Daniel pretends to be a few different characters to throw her off. During one of the phone calls, his ex-wife informs the character that she has two daughters and a son. With this the character replies “oh, a boy. I don’t work with the males, ‘cause I used to be one.” His ex-wife immediately hangs up with a disgusted look on her face that implies “I could never have someone like that in my home!”
When looking at this joke from a perspective of audience members in 1992, it worked well. Now, it appears to be transphobic and insensitive. Although, during that time it was probably not intended to be offensive to transgender people, it did come out that way. In today’s society, especially, with famous transgender figures such as Lavern Cox and now Caitlyn Jenner make it difficult to make such gender-bending comedies without seriously offending someone. Some people even compare Caitlyn to Mrs. Doubtfire.
Later in the movie, Daniel goes to his brother and brother in-law’s house in order to transform into a 60+-year-old woman, introducing drag into the movie. Although they don’t outright call it drag in the movie, nor does Daniel go all out while doing his makeup like some drag queens we see such as Bianca Del Rio, we are able to get a taste of what drag queens might go through if they are going in and out of drag in a bathroom somewhere where it might not be accepted.
Towards the end of the movie, Mrs. Doubtfire agrees to go to dinner with his ex-wife’s family as well as meet a television producer at the same restaurant on the same night. At one point, Daniel forgets which table he’s going to in which costume, so he accidentally goes to the television producer’s table dressed as Mrs. Doubtfire. With this the television producer is surprised as questions why he’s dressed as a woman. Daniel, thinking on his feet, decides that it would be a good idea to make a television show about her, using his granny drag to help his career as an actor.