jump to navigation

Working Girl is Not about Feminism, It’s About Classism March 7, 2007

Posted by Rob Anne in Working Girl.
trackback

Perhaps I am wrong, but it was difficult for me to see Working Girl as a feminist movie. There were just too many things that upset me about – the first being (and Matt was right on target about this) the two second clip of Tess vacuuming topless. I mean, what?! It’s her nudity itself that outraged me, it was just the fact that she was VACUUMING. I’m sorry, but it’s just not something we do topless and I thought it was gratuitous and…moronic to include it. I mean, we don’t need any more reinforcement to point out that Melanie Griffith is beautiful and sexy – there was enough of that already in the film without needing to see her breast bouncing up and down and she cheerfully cleaned Katherine’s apartment.

Secondly, I was disturbed by the scene of Katherine pretty much throwing herself at Jack (“Can Big Jack come out to play?”) and him fervorously rebuffing her. She, the villain, is made to look a fool because of her blatant sexuality. In contrast, Tess’ sexuality is more subtle and demure. Katherine, who’s need to make it in a man’s world by embracing her masculinity, is a joke because she wants “it” like a man would want it. Tess, though she knows she is sexy, needs to be seduced or convinced to have sex (the scene when Snake gives her the lingerie, Jack pretty much having to sweep her off her feet before she succumbs to him.) Katherine, bad. Tess, good. Katherine the evil, power-hungry Baroness vying for the Prince Charming’s affections, Tess, the humble-yet-clever maiden from peasant origins who wins his heart.

Instead of embracing feminism, I see the film as a testament to upward mobility and the American Dream. For example, the opening song, Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” is about all people achieving their dreams, unlike Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5”, which is specifically geared towards women.

Lyrics:

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Silver cities rise,
the morning lights
the streets that meet them,
and sirens call them on
with a song.

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.

We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

We the great and small
stand on a star
and blaze a trail of desire
through the dark’ning dawn.

It’s asking for the taking.
Come run with me now,
the sky is the color of blue
you’ve never even seen
in the eyes of your lover.

Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

[guitar]

It’s asking for the taking.
Trembling, shaking.
Oh, my heart is aching.
We’re coming to the edge,
running on the water,
coming through the fog,
your sons and daughters.

Let the river run,
let all the dreamers
wake the nation.
Come, the New Jerusalem.

Furthermore, in the scene of Tess crying on the ferry after Katherine exposes her to Trask’s board, the boat clearly flows past the Statue of Liberty, the ultimate symbol of the American Dream, a visual certainly not done by accident. Similarly, the end shot, in which the camera zooms away from Tess in her office to reveal she’s just one of many in a large office building solidifies that she’s made it, that she’s joined the upper class and that YOU TOO can be just like her if you’ve got the gumption.

I also found the contrast of the weddings really interesting, even if they were “minor”to the storyline. The Trask wedding is all about wealth and luxury – just look at the Tropical Paradise theme and the bride’s over-the-top poof of a dress. Then you have Cynthia’s wedding, which just screams “Working-Class Brooklyn” (those bridesmaids dresses!) My mind instantly flashed back to the fairytale aspect of the story and I pictured a peasant wedding instead, with everyone in medieval rag outfits instead. It was very striking – first you see Tess in the fur coat and white business woman attire, then she’s back to the borough in a garish turquoise mermaid getup. She’s caught between two worlds.

Lastly, the moment that Tess explained how she came up with the radio idea to Trask in the elevator solidified the low-meets-high theme. Of course, the low-class secretary reads Page 6 gossip and then uses her know-how to transfer that to the Society page. Kind of reminds me of our class – low art for the masses meets high art elitism. Just an idea, I guess.

Overall, I feel the only reason people might say Working Girl is a feminist movie is because the protagonist is a woman. I didn’t find it particularly empowering – it kind of made me roll my eyes how much Tess was shown to be a sex symbol and how much she used her looks and charm to gain “respect” in the business world. If she were smart and ugly and fat, this movie wouldn’t have been made. I’m not saying a woman shouldn’t be able to be beautiful and sexy AND a professional, but it just seems so TRITE that she used that asset to maneuver her way into the big leads.

Advertisements

Comments»

1. marinaw - March 8, 2007

That’s a really good point. I felt that way too – and so did Mick. When he saw Tess at the wedding shower, he said, that she looked “different” and “classy”. But the mechanism for her arrival there was manipulation (a classic “feminine wile”) since she knew she wouldn’t be offered a chance any other way. She forced her way into Trask’s daughter’s wedding and pretended to be an executive because she knew she’d be taken seriously that way. The message we are given by this movie is that it’s okay to cheat because the system’s working against lower-class women anyway.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: