On Location: Mrs. Doubtfire
Welcome to "On Location," a micro-feature taking you to little-known cinematic locations of SF and taking a look at the films shot in the city by the bay over the years.
A week ago the transgender community gained major ground when state regulators in Oregon and California put a number of private insurers on notice. They are now required to cover procedures like hormone therapy and breast reduction for trangender clients if they pay for similar procedures for their non-trans clients. Advocates are hailing the news as a huge victory in the ongoing fight for equality, so naturally, Fox News ran a typically snarky piece marginalizing the issue on their website Fox Nation, prominently illustrated with a picture of Robin Williams character Mrs. Doubtfire, cupping herself with some pot lids. Unsurprisingly, some people took umbrage with that.
The classic 1993 kids comedy itself isn't nearly as offensive as Fox's misappropriation of the image, but it definitely misses an opportunity to do any right by the trans community, playing Williams transformation for laughs and registering disgust from those who discover his "secret." Hindsight is 20/20, and given the time, that may have been too much to expect; we all know by now that Robin Williams doesn't make those kind of movies, and considering that the director, Chris Columbus, is the same guy the responsible for Stepmom, Bicentennial Man and (most importantly!) Home Alone, there probably wasn't room for any thoughtful moments with all the serious daddy issues clogging up the works. The typically negative stance on trans issues doesn't stop Mrs. Doubtfire from being a pretty good San Francisco movie though.
Robin Williams' character, Daniel Hillard, is the perennial child. Unable to hold down a job of any substance, he's an out-of-work actor more comfortable with his kids because he is, at the core, one of them. It shows in his wardrobe of varsity jackets, Tommy Bahama shirts and ill-worn shorts (come on, real San Franciscans know there's never a need for that) too. He's a classic case of what we now know as the SF Man-Boy. Sally Field, a freshly minted gay icon thanks to her outspoken support of her son, reads a bit gay herself here as a stern interior designer who's been imbued with some overweeningly "masculine" vibes but still bears the perpetually henpecked expression of Hollywood's version of a single working mother.
It's almost unfair to ponder the appropriateness of Daniel's gay brother, the character played by Harvey Fierstein, as he's mostly just portraying the character he's played for years, but it's an interesting footnote that the film finds nothing "weird" about his homosexuality. No one ever questions it and there's no indication of family strife because of it. As the one who takes Daniel in when his ex-wife has kicked him out and the architect of Mrs. Doubtfire's makeup effects, he's actually one of the film's heroes. I can't imagine that kind of outlook would have made it to the film's original setting of Chicago!
Like Home Alone, most of the action takes place indoors, primarily at 2690 Steiner Street in Pac Heights, at a grandly appointed Victorian that was bought only a few years later for 1.4 mil. Elsewhere the flick keeps it strictly Bay Area: The television studio where Robin Williams works is actually KTVU 2 in the East Bay, cheeky charmer Pierce Brosnan wows the family at Bridges Restaurant in Danville and Claremont Spa just outside of Berkeley, while Ms. Doubtfire fends off the advances of an arrogant bus driver on the late-night 22 bus and an overzealous purse snatcher outside of Jackson Square near the Transamerica pyramid.