Oscar Roles: Streep, Meryl in Kramer Vs. Kramer

In the late 1970s, the new American screen woman is concerned not only with her career, but with asserting herself as a worthy human being whose status neither derives from nor depends on her marital and familial roles. Meryl Streep won the 1979 Supporting Actress Oscar as Joanna Kramer in Robert Benton's family melodrama “Kramer vs. Kramer,” playing a woman who walks out on her self-absorbed husband, leaving him the responsibility of raising their young son alone. Joanna is depicted as a confused woman, deeply dissatisfied with her mother-wife chores.

“Kramer vs. Kramer” was the first major Hollywood movie to deal with a married woman who deserts her family in order to “find herself” and regain selfworth. In sharp departure from previous conventions, Joanna gives up her son willingly. After winning a cruel custody battle, she tells her ex-husband: “I came here to take my son home, and I realized he already is home.”

This movie also changed the traditional image of the husband-father, played by Dustin Hoffman, who won the Best Actor Oscar for his part. Ted Kramer starts out as an egotistic advertising executive, so engrossed in his career that he neglects his family, forbids his wife to work, and is completely oblivious to hr feelings. But he is capable of changing and, by the film's end, he has transformed into a loving, caring father who learns basic lessons about responsible parenthood.