Festivals Reviews TV & Film

Austin Film Festival 2016: “The Big Flip” Review

Gender roles have been a hot topic for decades and deciding on what roles men and women should have in a family are still being questioned. “The Big Flip” is a documentary directed by Izzy Chan that follows four American families navigating the trials and triumphs of being at-home fathers while mothers are the main breadwinners. What is the social impact this new dynamic will have?

Filmed over 18 months, we follow the lives of four “flipped” families.

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With baby number four on the way, Portlanders Bonnie and Chip work through a delicate transition when they decide that Chip should step back from his flailing business to step up at home and support Bonnie as the main breadwinner.

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Chuck and Amy live in Washington, DC, where Chuck experiences a layoff and is forced to be creative in caring for their first child.

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Julee and Ross are moving from Nashville to Los Angeles, where bigger jobs beckon.

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In Seattle, Robyn and Fred are stuck in a rut, with Robyn feeling trapped as the sole income provider.

The question Chan poses in this gender-flipping documentary is “what happens when mom has the big job and dad stays home with the kids?” It’s crazy to think that in 2016, the role of mothers and fathers are still cemented in old-school thinking that a woman should take care of the children and the man should be working. We have come a long way since those 1950s stereotypes, but still have a long way to go.

We learn that 40 percent of working wives in the U.S. are out-earning their husbands and this is expected to grow. With the emphasis on the wage gap being a hot topic, it’s interesting to note that by 2028, women are expected to close the wage gap and out-earn men.

As a married woman, the statistics presented in the documentary are startling. There is a 40 percent higher divorce rate among “Big Flip” families. Marriage is already tough, but adding this tension seems to be a recipe for disaster for couples in Big Flip situations, unless we start discussing and learning more about role reversals.

The four families we follow seem to have a gage on what works for them, and listening to the husbands and fathers was interesting. They understand the situation and work the best they can. The thing that strikes me is that women that stay at home never have this identity crisis in a sense. Their role in the home is seen as normal, so no one questions when this is the case. If I have to nitpick one thing in this documentary is that we aren’t shown more of the negativity or tension that this role reversals has caused within a marriage.

Chan’s documentary is eye-opening and tackles an issue that is usually only talked about through statistics and not through a human lens of what a family goes through every day. Being the thorough researcher that she is, Chan did a survey of 323 families in Austin and found that 46 percent of women are breadwinners (they make over 60 percent of the household income), which makes Austin a great example of a new normal emerging. Although she found that there was no discernable difference in happiness in the families surveyed, compared to the 11 percent gap nationally, there were some disparities.

Although Austin is shifting towards the new normal, traditional thinking still lingers and the survey found that women, although they are breadwinners, seem to feel more pressures of earning and more likely to desire equal sharing of that responsibility than men.

I recommend watching “The Big Flip,” because it’s important to learn more about the social change that is occurring among families in the gender switch. I know for myself, being newly married and looking to have kids, the Big Flip may be something we’ll face and with social stigmas in place, it may be hard to get to where some of these families we’ve seen on screen have gotten to. It definitely makes you think if you’re in the situation you see on-screen or will be.

Chan does a great job at showing us different families, in different situations, and puts the audience in a place to continue to want to learn and think after the documentary is over.

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