Why look at Kramer vs. Kramer?<br />Kramer vs. Kramer reflected a cultural shift which occurred during the 1970s and the period of second-wave feminism, when ideas about "motherhood" and "fatherhood" were changing. <br />The very title of the movie, Kramer vs. Kramer, suggests that gender lines are drawn. The film depicts a battle over Billy, but even more fundamentally it becomes a battle over fathering and mothering, over how men and women should lead their lives<br />
Kramer vs. Kramer launched a new genre of male parenting films that depict the difficult transformation of “masculine” men forced to take on roles and tasks assumed to be feminine.<br />
Why the film was considered to be ground breaking:<br />Under the Hays Code, divorce was rarely if ever portrayed on screen. <br />The Hays Code stated: “the sanctity of the institution of marriage and home shall be upheld”. If portrayed it must be “only for sound reasons, as a last resort, and never lightly or flippantly.” <br />Hence Code films in this genre used annulment, had happy endings where couples got back together, and had bad marriages ending in death (if by murder, then the murderer were punished under the Codes “compensating values” rule). <br />Therefore, in films from the 1930s to the 1960s people rarely if ever got divorced. <br />
Three Waves of Feminism<br /> <br /><ul><li>1st Wave: 1920s and before.
3rd Wave: 1980s onwards.</li></ul>Second Wave Feminism <br />First wave feminism was about political equality: women should be treated the same as men. <br />Second wave feminism: a rejection of gendering, a critique of how women are represented – and brought to represent themselves – in society. <br />‘The Women’s Movement.’ <br />Germaine Greer (1939-) wrote The Female Eunuch (1970). <br />Domestic life in capitalist, nuclear family effectively ‘castrates’ women. <br />Girls are subjugated from childhood by being ‘feminised’. <br />Change should come about by revolution. <br />
Key Cultural changes<br />The social stigma of divorce declined as women’s rights increased. Ultimately divorce was seen as a positive step for women trapped in a patriarchal, loveless, suffocating marriage. <br />Hence the twin factors of personal fulfilment and women’s rights led to the highest divorce rates in American history by the end of the 1970s: ½ of all first-time marriages ended in divorce, with subsequent marriages ending in divorce at even higher rates! <br />
How is married life constructed through the mise-en-scene?<br />Cinematic choices made: <br />The picture’s look is meant to evoke a sterile, standoffish feel. <br />High-powered, impersonal Manhattan is used as a backdrop. <br />The sparse Autumn and Winter seasons are employed just like the barren walls of the Kramer’s apartment to portray life as a joyless, by-the-book struggle rather than happiness of family-photo-filled walls or the more upbeat spring and summer months. <br />
Close analysis of characters<br />How is Ted Kramer represented at the start of the film? <br />Career-driven, stereotypical man who expects his wife to raise their child and does not appreciate her until it is too late. <br />When his wife leaves, he must face a challenge that many women face every day: running a home, caring for a child, and holding down a demanding job. <br />He is inept in the kitchen using a coffee mug to make French toast with shells for extra crunchiness and burning his hand. <br />He has taken little if any interest in his son’s schooling as he has to ask little Billy what grade he is in and then hands him off to a stranger so that he can get to work. <br />He is late picking Billy up from the birthday party and Billy tells him “the other mothers” were already there. <br />
Close analysis of characters<br />How is Ted Kramer represented at the end of the film? <br />Ted gets to know and falls in love with his son. He realizes that their relationship is the most important thing in his life as they bond over the loss of Joanna and the daily trials of life. <br />Although Ted loses his job, he is prepared to make sacrifices in his career to secure employment almost immediately hence not jeopardizing Billy’s financial security. <br />When Joanna returns, he invests large emotional and financial resources in preserving his role as primary caretaker, knowing it will be an uphill struggle. <br />
Close analysis of characters<br />How is Joanna Kramer represented in the film? <br />Young, married, gave up her career to be a stay-at-home mom with a small child. <br />Married to a domineering, career-driven man who does not appreciate her. <br />She leaves to “find herself.” <br />She “finds herself” by returning to her career, getting a divorce, and seeking sole-custody of her son. <br />
Gender in the Courtroom<br />Having established gender as the key, the movie then goes to court, where proceedings are seen from a distinctly male perspective.<br />Laura Mulvey - the “male gaze” e.g. Phyllis Bernard in her birthday suit!<br />Margaret Russell (film critic), has derived the phrase "dominant gaze" from Mulvey's "male gaze”: <br /> “the dominant gaze subtly invites the viewer to empathize with its viewpoint as natural, universal, and beyond challenge; it marginalizes other perspectives to bolster its own legitimacy in defining narratives and images.The perspective of the popular film, in other words, can effectively project bias as truth.” <br />
The Dominant Gaze in action<br />We see legal developments in Kramer vs. Kramer almost exclusively as Ted sees them. We are invited to accept his perspective. We gaze on what happens in the lawyer's office and in the courtroom from a masculine perch.<br />For example:<br />In the interview with his Lawyer Ted is warned that the court will favour his ex-wife in the custody battle. We resent the news. Ted, after all, has struggled before our eyes to learn how to parent. <br />In court, we find it unfair when Joanna's attorney asks Ted on the stand about his move from one advertising agency to another for lower pay. We are angered by the suggestion that it was Ted's negligence that caused Billy's playground fall. But somehow, it does not seem quite as bad when Shaughnessy questions Joanna about her sexual liaisons since the time of her divorce from Ted. <br />We are impressed by Ted's gaze at the legal proceedings seems. With Joanna wilting on the stand from a brutal cross-examination, Ted shows no vindictive pleasure. With Joanna struggling with the question "Were you a failure at the most important personal relationship of your life?" Ted establishes eye contact and supportively shakes his head no. <br />After Ted loses custody, we continue to reflect on developments from Ted's perspective. When Ted asks Shaughnessy about an appeal, Shaughnessy warns that it would be necessary to put little Billy on the stand. Ted realizes how destructive this would be. The viewer shares his appraisal of the legal process' twisted ways and seconds his decision to back off for Billy's sake. Ted continues to win our sympathy. <br />
Ideology: what key questions about gender does the film raise?<br />
How have gender identities evolved?<br />Ted Kramer has achieved some balance in his life; he is still working in the Madison Avenue sector of the public sphere, but he is also caring and attentive to his son. <br />Joanna Kramer is also now at work, and even earning more than Ted. However, in refusing to accept the custody that the court has awarded and that she so desperately wanted, Joanna has also shown the willingness to sacrifice what we have traditionally expected from mothers. She has put the welfare of her child before her own. "How do I look?" Joanna asks Ted before going up the elevator to tell Billy he can stay with Ted. "You look terrific," Ted declares, and we agree, as the elevator doors close. <br />
Critique: Krameras Anti-Female <br /> There has been much criticism that the film demonizing women. What evidence can you find to support this?<br /><ul><li> Joanna is an emotional wreck, abandoning her child and husband and then trying to steal the child back, despite his happiness, by using the legal system.
The film glorifies the abandoned father, making him out to be the hero while his wife is the devil.
Margaret is a traitor for becoming Ted’s friend when she stood by Joanna for years – furthering our sympathy for the abandoned father. </li></li></ul><li>Wider Research<br />http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC26folder/KramervsKramer.html<br /> Interesting article on how the film is “fraudulent”<br />
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