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Head for Business and a Bod for Sin March 6, 2007

Posted by Liz in Working Girl.
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Two moments in “Working Girl” caught me off guard. Based on the reaction of the room of student’s watching the film, I wasn’t alone in my surprise when Melanie Griffith pranced across the screen, vacuuming topless. It seems unfitting that a movie that aims to be a modern-day, empowering Cinderella story would toss in a flash of gratuitous nudity for good measure. I was also surprised by the moment at the end of the film when Jack packs Tess a lunchbox, complete with a sandwich in a little baggy and new pencils, and tells her to “play nicely with the other kids”, or something along those lines. This act seems degrading and hardly the way to send off your girlfriend on her first day at an exciting new job.    That having been said, I did think that the film’s portrayal of a woman who is essentially able to have it all and be it all by utilizing her “head for business” and “bod for sin” was ultimately very empowering. Oftentimes, and not just in the case of working women, but of working men as well, personal lives get in the way of work and vice versa. But in Tess’s case, by slightly impetuously mixing business with pleasure, she is able to sustain control of both worlds at the same time- a lofty achievement.  

 

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1. jenniferlewk - March 6, 2007

I agree with your post on almost everything; however, I did get annoyed in the beginning of the movie with her mixing of business and pleasure. One particular scene in the movie really bugged me. On their first “business lunch,” the two are walking and eating sandwiches while talking about the radio plan. They pause in the otherwise hustling street to talk about trust and believing in one another’s business skills….but, Harrison Ford has mayonnaise (or some other white spec from his sandwich) on the side of his lip….FOR THE WHOLE TALK. At this point, the camera is filming from Melanie Griffith’s perspective–we as the audience see only his face in the screen. Thus, this white spec, this annoying little blob that could easily be licked away (and it was there for a reason, dear lord, no director would’ve let that one slide) is there for the entire spiel. I am thus assuming that we (and Meredith) were supposed to look at his mouth for the entire business speech …this sexual undertone in my opinion overrides the “business” aspect of the entire speech. Her character does prove that she is more than capable in the business setting; however, little reminders like this one prove that there are definite yet subtle sexual undertones on her way to the top.

2. mattwm - March 7, 2007

You guys make very good points. The only thing that I’m having trouble with is– why is Melanie Griffith topless necessarily at odds with an empowering message? Especially if it is that a woman can be sexual and smart– why shouldn’t her representation be sexy and smart? I don’t think that there’s a dichotomy here, and I’m not sure that I thought it was gratuitious. Maybe it’s just my viewing of it as a guy, but, I find the business-with-sexual-undertones gaze that Jennifer describes to be pretty empowering and probably the closest representation of how people actually function in mixed sex settings. . . though I’m probably implicating myself here again. Fuck it.

3. Gina - March 7, 2007

I can see the sexual undertones during the talk with Jack when he has the annoying speck of food on his face, but I saw that scene a little differently. His way of hurriedly speaking while still having food in his mouth and seeing the speck made me see him as a more boyish character in that he didn’t seem like the put-together man he tries to be. This reminded me how Tess is really behind the operation (granted she does need Jack for all the technical business that she can’t handle), but she is the one who comes up with the big idea as well as the one who is using her creativity to push things into action. I enjoyed the movie and found Tess to be a strong character because she does pull it off despite glitches in the process. She takes charge of her life and she does what she has to do to finally get her big chance.


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