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Friday, 23 October 2015

Battle of The Robin Williams Movie Comedy Characters: Why Mrs Doubtfire's Daniel Hillard Was No Saint & My Love For Fathers' Day's Dale Putley

When I was younger and watched Mrs Doubtfire on video, I was pretty much in Daniel Hillard's corner and rallying around him against a barrage of assaults launched by his 'difficult' (ex -) wife, Miranda, who wanted to divorce him (and had succeeded in her endeavours). But in viewing Mrs Doubtfire in my mid-20s to today, there were a few things that bugged me about this movie and of Daniel's behaviour and attitude: both in disguise as the Scottish nanny and as himself. As for Fathers' Day, it was never officially released in cinemas in the UK back in 1997 when it came out in the US. But based on the trailer and poster that I saw it a few years ago on the internet, I thought it would be too daft and stupid for me to care about it. That, and that I would take a disliking to Dale Putley. Well, I was clearly mistaken. It wasn't until years later I saw Fathers' Day for the first time and that I really enjoyed the movie and of Robin Williams' protagonist, Dale.

I know movies -unless they are based on a true story-, aren't real, and both Mrs Doubtfire and Fathers' Day are comedy movies with very silly farcical elements, moments and scenes, but by looking at & approaching it from a different angle, from a deeper and serious context, I came up with this post, because there are clearly a lot of people who are fans of Mrs Doubtfire and of Robin Williams as Daniel, and yet there are not a lot of people who are fans of the Dale Putley character in Fathers' Day, because most of them would not have seen or heard of this movie. & those who haven't and are a fan of Robin Williams, I suggest you take a look at it. 

So here are all of my explanations and reasonings as to why I feel Daniel was mostly in the wrong when a lot of people were defending and supporting him in Mrs Doubtfire, whilst they were also ignoring and/or mocking, loathing Dale in Fathers' Day


**notes: this post may contain spoilers**

A bit about Robin Williams's character Daniel in Mrs Doubtfire: Daniel Hillard is a (difficult) actor and husband who separates acrimoniously from his wife, Miranda (Sally Field) & receives a court order gag, meaning he can only see his kids a few days a week. As a result and unknowingly to Miranda, he dresses up as a woman and finds work by becoming a nanny so he can look after and take care of the kids. 

A bit about Robin Williams's character Dale in Fathers' Day: Two strangers in a married lawyer, Jack Lawrence (Billy Crystal) and an unsuccessful writer, Dale Putley each had a brief relationship with a woman named Colette Rashad, 17 years ago. He (along with Jack) has been told by Colette that he might be the real father to their son, Scott, who has run away from home. In teaming up with each other, they have to find out where he is and to uncover the truth. Dale is a suicidal and zany writer with a very kind heart. 

<< (Dishonest) Daniel verses (Dearest) Dale <<

Daniel doesn't apply for another acting or voice job -


Daniel has 3 kids to support, yet during the first 15 mins of the film, he quits his job over some tiny minor disagreement. I understand it's because the cartoon show was promoting smoking- and I speak as a non-smoker, but here, it is one of the few instances where Daniel gets it right, that he had a valid point. Hence, there are kids who watch cartoons & who might get the wrong ideas and they assume lighting up a cigarette at their age, is a good idea. 

And yet Miranda (who was just as much in the wrong as Daniel himself, but for other reasons) starts b****ing and complaining and throws a temper tantrum when she finds out he is fired, as well as throwing a birthday party for their son in their own house, without her permission. But the movie doesn't try to explain why Daniel can't get another job in his field, especially as he has worked in the industry for years and so, he should have built up a considerable amount of references/referees for his resume/CV. Instead, he ends up working as a shipping clerk for a TV production company, as well as a fake nanny.

Whereas in the movie, Tootsie, Michael Dorsey dresses up as a woman named Dorothy and lands a role on a TV show, because he can't find acting work as a male actor, here in Mrs Doubtfire, Daniel dresses up as a woman as part of the job as a housekeeper/nanny, and yet like Michael, Daniel is also an actor. And so the question is if Michael can find work in his field and whilst dressed in drag, why couldn't Daniel do the same? Well, actually, he does in the end when Mrs Doubtfire gets a slot on a kids TV show (& yet this happens right towards the end of the movie, and too little too late). Just like her counterpart, Dorothy in Tootsie.  

It is argued that Daniel takes advantage of so many people - 

His brother, his brother's boyfriend, the social worker, his boss. His ex-wife, her boyfriend and the kids. When one looks at it this way, this is in many respects true. He turns to the kids & brother, just so he can keep it a secret & that he can reap his own benefits and rewards, in his quest to spend more quality time with his children. Even if this is to his own, as well as Miranda's detriment. 

Daniel becomes mad towards Miranda for having him have supervised visits with the kids, once a week 

First of all, I think this ruling is harsh on Daniel and Miranda acted like a complete c** towards Daniel and treating him like dirt; but at the same time, even though this is a fictitious movie regardless, there is no excusing his oddball behaviour and acts of deception by dressing up as a woman and trying to get a job as a nanny, so he can spend more time with the kids. Sorry mate, but you can't always have your cake and eat it. As the expression goes. Ok, so Daniel becomes angry and upset towards her, but he is just as much at fault as his ex-wife is. 

As much as Miranda did him wrong, Daniel was flawed as a person, like she was -

Of the lesser of the so-called 'two evils' though, I'd still side with Daniel, rather than Miranda. Just. Nonetheless, I wasn't a huge fan of either character. There are not a lot of movies that I have seen with 2 protagonists that I find as equally self- loathe-able and of whom come across as uptight, as Miranda and Daniel Hillard. 

Instead of moving on and finding someone else, Daniel becomes jealous of Miranda's relationship with Stuart -

He should've been dating and seeing other people and be finding his ideal partner, instead of obsessing over his ex-wife and wondering what she has been up to and with whom. 

Dale's humour derives from his manic depression condition, whereas Daniel's humour comes from his immaturity as an adult & being a bad husband

Please hear me out on this: this is not about making fun of people with mental health problems.
 I am literately referring to the Fathers' Day movie itself: both in the context and subtext of the movie and the fictional events surrounding it. Indeed, the suicide references are, of course understandably unsettling (& particularly with Robin Williams, who died from suicide in 2014) and these are not things that I find amusing. There is nothing remotely funny about killing oneself. We are laughing with and along with Dale, - not at him or his condition. We are also supposed to laugh with Daniel, not at him. 

Yet in Mrs Doubtfire, Daniel's behaviour, on the other hand, was mostly juvenile and petty (let's not forget, he is also a parent to 3 children -, & some would add he should be setting an example); & thus, at times he is seen making inappropriate & unflattering comments, particularly behind other people's backs. Making sniping remarks at others. He was occasionally grouchy, cynical and rude.  

And yet the sad thing is, there are some people who would side with and feel sorry for Daniel (what with the popularity of the movie, Mrs Doubtfire), more-so than someone like Dale who is a manic depressive, & whose actions and outbursts can be construed as being erratic and would warrant incessant criticism and shaming, as a result of his medical condition. Not forgetting these people being labelled as 'wacko'. 

That's what bothers me the most.

This is a sign of crazy behaviour by dressing up as a woman in drag and conning and trying to deceive a social worker. 

Meanwhile below, this is a sign of behaviour that isn't (necessarily) crazy, rather one that he/she deserves sympathy & needs help.

Therefore, the point here is that both the humour and comedy in Mrs Doubtfire predominately stem from and by Daniel Hillard's immature and rude behaviour, whereas in Fathers' Day, a lot of the humour and comedy is centred around Dale's misfortunes and bad things happening to him, due to his mental health condition. So now, you tell me that as amusing as it is and looks, who are we to sympathise with the most? For me, no doubt it has to be Dale. 

Daniel was more of an idiot than Dale was - 

And this is coming from someone who dislikes his estranged wife, Miranda, who was frankly much worse and much more nastier.  

In Mrs Doubtfire, Daniel - whilst still intoxicated after all that excessive alcohol he'd been consuming at the restaurant, tried to kill and poison Stuart & all whilst dressed as Mrs Doubtfire by adding hot cayenne pepper in Stuart's Jambalaya, - whereas in contrast, Dale doesn't and didn't go out of his way to hurt anyone in Fathers' Day. He didn't wind up Scott, Jack's Wife, or Jack. And even when he did make fun of Jack, it was either as a joke or to set him straight on certain things. It was never intended or meant to hurt him or anyone else's feelings. 

He was arguably much more sensible. If we take away him committing suicide, Dale always tried to do the right thing by any means necessary (and I say try - as he and Jack later got into a fight with the drug dealers and they ended up headbutting them!) and under the given circumstances. & when he didn't or when things went wrong, he'd end up breaking down in tears. The poor thing. 

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Daniel though: just a few more examples from Daniel in Mrs Doubtfire that illustrate this very point include throwing fruit at Stu's head after he muttered to his friend that 'the guy's a loser' (Stu referring to Daniel as a 'loser' to his friend, was totally uncalled for however), vandalizing Stu's Mercedes by tearing off the hood badge, the food poisoning scene and the fact that Daniel's actions by spying on his kids & estranged wife in disguise, can be perceived as a form of stalking. Though it didn't help matters that the movie tried to set Daniel up as some kind of moron & Miranda as some holier- than- thou saint. But because this is a comedy, it appears that Daniel was and is able to get away with most of the things that he did and for as long as he did. That is until he got caught out in the end and was later referred by the judge for psychological counselling

Dale's comedy moments in Fathers' Day were arguably more humorous than that of Daniel's/Mrs Doubtfire 

This will stir the pot that's for sure, but after viewing Mrs Doubtfire countless times, the jokes, slapstick, humour as amusing as some of it is, it is like once you've seen it all, you've seen it all. That is it. I found the scene where Dale gets his penis scalded by hot coffee and running into the bathroom & jumping into a bathtub of water, to be much funnier than say, Mrs Doubtfire's fake breasts set alight by the stove. 

Daniel was stuck-up, moody and whining towards people most of the time (like seriously, how much more excessive whining can one take from him), whereas Dale's sudden outbursts & reactions are, understandable and medical - related - 

Being 12 years of age at the time in 1993, I stood up for Daniel and laughed at his antics. These days, I sort of find it difficult sympathising with someone like Daniel over his behaviour, whereas with Dale, especially given his condition, I do sympathise with him a lot. As I used to be depressed myself, so I can relate to his worries. 

I know Daniel is hurt about not being able to see the kids as much as wants to, and of Stu being a part of Miranda and the kids' lives, but c'mon, dressing up as a woman just to see his kids more often, is borderline insane in real life. When this movie came out in 1993,  I completely sided with Daniel over Miranda, 110%. Nowadays, it is like 20% (Miranda), 80% (Daniel). And the more I became fed up with his constant whining; I was like 'stop'. 

After Chris and Lydia find out their father is Mrs Doubtfire, Daniel explains to them he felt forced to dress up in drag, because he 'loves them' - 

I really don't know what to make of this, other than this reasoning sounds bonkers. Because it is. I know that people do all kinds of crazy things for love, not to mention crazy things for the love of their children. But man...

Dale was more screwed up emotionally, psychologically than Daniel - yet he still had a kind heart and didn't come across as being selfish & moody 

Dale had his emotional & psychological issues for sure, but he was much more caring, understanding, sweet and lovable, in my opinion.

Dale always had good intentions: his heart was always in the right place when it mattered, that it was always about other people, he was also worried for others, such as with Scott and in making sure that they were okay, even though he has his own flaws & problems. These are some of the reasons of why I loved him, - whereas Daniel, though at most he was okay, just came across as being a bit snarky, of an oddball, and as mentioned childish, and it was mostly about his needs. Yes, he loves his kids - but that doesn't take away from his immature antics. 

Whereas Daniel was the deadpan snarker (a character prone to being bitter and making bitter, sarcastic remarks), Dale was the so-called lovable loser.  

Final Verdict:

Partly as a result of the depiction of Daniel, Mrs Doubtfire is a bit of a misfire on the part of the writers. That movie was messed up when they tried to make Daniel look even more stupid & act and behave crazy-yet immaturely. It's still an entertaining film to watch, regardless and whilst it is due to Robin that he made it so watchable, I didn't like how the writers made Daniel to be such a fool and a loser and his wife as being so pure and innocent. Because of that, it did kind of have an effect on my perception of Daniel. So whilst Daniel Hillard was a bit of a crazy idiot & Dale in Fathers' Day was also delirious and had a few more screws loose, the main difference between himself and Dan the man, is that Dale was more sympathetic, kinder & came off to me as more likeable, and as of whom had a much bigger heart. Those qualities of his won me over, despite his suicidal tendencies. In contrast to the Mrs Doubtfire character, his crazy and off-the-wall reactions and behavioural issues are not down to immaturity, being irrational and acting like a 5-yr-old,- but because Dale is a manic depressive sufferer. 

(above: My reaction when someone says they prefer Daniel from 'Mrs Doubtfire' more than Dale from 'Fathers' Day' )

Daniel, who doesn't have manic depression (& yet of whom I'd prefer over Miranda), was still immature, irresponsible & compared to Dale is too much of a jerkass in my eyes. 

So out of the two D's in Dale and Daniel, Dale wins my vote.



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