Marriage Story: A Review of Divorce in the Media Over Time

Earlier this month, we published an article on Netflix’s movie, Marriage Story. In that article, we looked at the film from our perspective — a family that had been through the real-life version. We’re starting to see a big change when we think about divorce in the media over time. 

When we were reflecting on Marriage Story, we began to appreciate the fact that movies, TV, and other media are starting to look at divorce in a more authentic way. When we look at how marriage has been depicted in the media, we remember movies like War of the Roses, Mrs. Doubtfire, and Liar Liar — all of which show divorce as a “winning” battle. It’s interesting to consider what a momentous push Marriage Story made for divorce depictions in the future. 

Taking a Walk Down Memory Lane 

War of the Roses (1981) is the big one we think about when we think about a negative portrayal of divorce in the media. However, there is a twist at the end that we can learn from. In the beginning of the movie, a divorce attorney is advising their client in his divorce. He tells the story of one of his past clients who had one of the worst divorces we’ve ever seen, ultimately leading to both of their deaths.  At the end of the movie, the divorce attorney uses this as a cautionary tale to advise his client to go home to his wife and settle their differences properly. 

What can we learn: When we let our ego, spite, and hatred get in the way, no one comes out ahead. Leave your ego at the door, and try to approach your divorce in a healthy, positive way. 

Mrs. Doubtfire (1993) definitely shows the importance of putting children first in your divorce, however, a lot of shenanigans have to happen before the couple decides to share custody of their children. This movie portrays the wife in an extremely negative light, painting her as the villain that gets in the way of her husband seeing his kids. 

What can we learn: At the end of the day, things are better when a child has two positive co-parents involved in their lives. Remember, “love makes a family a family, no matter the distance between its members.” 

Liar, Liar (1997) shows the downfall of putting your career above your kids. In this movie, Jim Carrey’s character is initially shown as the anti-hero but goes through a change where he realizes he should have put his kids first all along. Throughout his divorce proceedings, Carrey’s character starts to learn the importance of family and approaching his relationships without a big ego. 

What we can learn: Always put your kids first. They are the only player in your life that has no say. We owe it to them to do what’s best for their future. 

What Marriage Story Does Better

What makes Marriage Story an award-winning film in our book is its authenticity. Marriage Story doesn’t skirt around the fact that divorce is hard. It definitely shows the negative spiral of divorce attorneys, custody battles, and putting your kids in the crossfires. However, what we really like is that it doesn’t paint either party as the bad guy. Both sides have flaws and faults, and that’s just human. It takes two to make a marriage work, and it takes two to break it. What’s important is that at the end of it all, you do what’s best for your kids, lose the ego, and settle your differences in a happy and healthy way. 

We hope that in the future, divorce in the media is less stigmatized. We hope that there are no villains in divorce stories, but real families trying to make it work for their children. You can be a good person and still make mistakes. You can have a rough start to your divorce. You also have the capability to pick yourself up from the ruble, forgive yourself and your ex, and start fresh with a positive, wise mindset. 

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