Mrs. Doubtfire Was a Total Jerk in the Original Novel

Mrs. Doubtfire Was a Total Jerk in the Original Novel

Mrs. Doubtfire is one of the most beloved comedies of the 1990s — so much so that when Robin Williams died, the real life San Francisco house seen in the movie became a makeshift shrine to the actor, with fans piling bouquets of flowers in the driveway. Which, in retrospect, was probably some sort of fire hazard. 

But watching the movie today is a decidedly different experience. For one thing, our protagonist, Daniel, is kind of a giant dirtbag. He doesn’t just split up with his wife because of typical marital difficulties, he splits up with her because he lets a small army of kids go full Woodstock ‘99 on their beautiful home.

So he immediately defrauds her in order to defy a court order. But since said fraud involves old lady makeup and a cute accent, an entire generation of kids were 100 percent on board with his every decision. 

But as bad as Daniel may be in the movie, he’s far worse in the original novel, Alias Madame Doubtfire by author Anne Fine. When the book begins, Daniel and Miranda are already divorced, and Daniel casually tells his kids that he fantasizes about murdering their mom. Specifically, he wishes he could “cheerfully slit her throat.” Even the ever-charming Robin Williams couldn’t get away with that line.

Penguin Random House

In the movie, Daniel, as Mrs. Doubtfire, actually becomes a good homemaker, and evolves from the irresponsible slob he is at the beginning of the story. In Alias Madame Doubtfire, Daniel forces his kids (who clue into his secret immediately) to perform all of his “Madame Doubtfire” tasks for him while he smokes cigars and complains about his ex-wife. His justification for exploiting his children’s unpaid labor? The money Madame Doubtfire gets paid goes to their child support anyway. What a guy.

Penguin Random House

Daniel, like in the movie, is an out-of-work actor. But while the movie character is fired from a voiceover gig and forced to take a job working at a TV station, the book’s Daniel is a nude model for an art class. Of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with nude modeling, but we can’t help but imagine that the movie would have been way different if, instead of making silly voices, Williams kicked off the movie by showing his junk to a classroom of amateur painters. 

In fact, Daniel is modeling for a class during the climax of the book, at which point Miranda discovers his discarded clothes and figures out that he’s really Madame Doubtfire. She’s pissed, but somehow Daniel is even angrier, and starts yelling at her for forcing him to deceive her. Not cool, Daniel, just take the L.

Penguin Random House

Astonishingly, at the very end, Miranda actually offers this man — who just duped her into paying him to loaf around while his children worked their butts off — a job. She doesn’t want him to resume his role as her housekeeper, so instead, she asks him to become her regular gardener. And, really, it is somewhat galling that neither version of this story ends with Daniel Hilliard in handcuffs.

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