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Female Power: Standing in Masculinity’s Shadow April 10, 2007

Posted by kblack10 in Girl Power, La Femme Nikita, stereotypes, Tomb Raider 2, Working Girl.

Women have long been thought of as strong, matriarchal characters, but from the films we have watched in class, it is apparent that as time progresses, the actual “power” that a woman can posses is always in relation to power already existing in their male counterparts. In Imitation of Life, Annie is seen as a strong character because, aside from the issues with her daughter, she manages to take on the “male role” in a rather unconventional “family”. While Annie did not necessarily adhere to typical profile of the strong female as being attractive, beautiful, and catering to the idea of the male gaze, her character proves that there is far more to being a strong woman than appearance. For that time period when the ideal family consisted of a working father, doting wife, two children and a puppy, Annie represented the fact that a woman can not only raise, but also run a family just like the stereotypical ideal husband. The movie Working Girls displays a break through in girl power for its time because (more…)

the oppressed working-class woman March 12, 2007

Posted by sindhub in bad girls go..., class, race, stereotypes, the color purple, Thelma and Louise, theory, Working Girl.
1 comment so far

So I noticed that most of the movies we’ve been looking at have dealt with the problem of the oppressed working-class woman, e.g. The Color Purple, Working Girl, and now Thelma and Louise.  Actually, let me rephrase that–it’s more that the men they’re oppressed by are working-class.  From Mick in Working Girl to Mister in The Color Purple to the truck driver (can’t get a more blue collar occupation than that), the men from the ‘masses’ are almost unanimously brutish, abusive, piggish, boorish, and explicitly sexist.

 This got me thinking of the Walkerdine article, “Subject to Change without Notice: Psychology, Postmodernity, and the Popular.”  She spends a lot of time talking about how ideology about the masses/the working classes has always thought of them as of inferior intelligence, of a more primitive mindset, and how they can only be transformed by ‘upright’ middle class values (Protestantism, hard work, gumption, etc.).  So the portrayal of the men of different classes in these movies is truly disturbing to me for this reason.  It seems a little bit too easy (more…)

Working Girl Pet Peeves March 7, 2007

Posted by rachaelg in betrayal, careerwomen, deception, Female Power, Power, Working Girl.

1. The response to Mick’s infidelity.  I assumed that when Tess stormed off their relationship was over.  When she sees him again at the party, I applauded her for managing to be so civil, then groaned when they started dancing and it seemed like she was having trouble moving on.  I felt sorry for her.  Then, when he had the nerve to ask her to MARRY HIM after what he did and all she did was say MAYBE?!  I was appalled.  And then his reaction… how did he think he had the right to be so furious?  And HE was the one who walked away.  At least if it had been her, it might have been a symbol of SOME kind of agency, but no, she gets dumped after he cheats on her.  That pissed me off.  Where is the female empowerment?  I wanted Tess to (more…)

What is it about Cinderella anyway? March 7, 2007

Posted by erinsull in general considerations, Working Girl.
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From the first frames of Working Girl (the crowded Staten Island ferry carrying the workers to the elite part of the city) it is clear that class issues are going to take center stage. We learn early on that Tess is a working class woman who has scrapped together and education. She has big hair, gaudy jewelry and an accent she feels she needs to overcome to get ahead (the now familiar Eliza Doolittle scenario). Despite all this (and of course her “bod for sin”) she has a “head for business”. Every review I read of the movie referred to it as a modern Cinderella story. So this story has a familiar pattern but what exactly is this story trying to say about class relationships, particularly when it comes to women? Throughout the movie all those who underestimate Tess (Catherine, her boss in the beginning) because of assumptions they made based on her class are left humiliated. So I guess it can be seen as the don’t judge a book by its cover cliché, that we shouldn’t assume that class and intelligence and business savvy are correlated. Still, I’m having trouble buying that the movie is really saying something more general about how we see the lower classes. Tess is presented so clearly as an exception to her class. We are shown that Tess has more going for her then the rest of her Staten Island crew; she is smarter and more driven. This is why she deserves the high-class life and the high-class man.

Jack sees something different in Tess that he falls in love with, just as Prince Charming falls for Cinderella because she has something different from the rest of the maidens at the ball. There is something about their class that makes them so alluring, something that a simple external makeover can’t hide. In her review for the New York Times Janet Maslin states that Tess has “an unbeatable mixture of street smarts, business sense and sex appeal”. A Washington Post review commented that Tess was “Equal parts vulnerability and fiduciary pluck”. Yes Tess has got the smarts and she knows it but something about her station in life makes her humble, vulnerable and skeptical of her worth. This is in a direct comparison to the brazen, self-assure; high class all her life Catherine. This vulnerability makes Tess somehow more feminine in the eyes of Jack, for instance when he sees her at the bar and comments that she “dresses like a woman, not like a man thinks a woman would dress if he were a woman”. She oozes an overt sexuality that is not present in the uptight and polished Catherine, the woman Jack is desperately trying to leave. This is evident in their body shape as well; Tess is curvy and sensual, while in the end Catherine is ridiculed for her “bony-ass”. Maybe its an East Coast thing but I had it indoctrinated in me growing up that high class woman were covered up, proper and streamlined, which can often be seen as rigid and almost masculine. In Tess Jack sees that femininity and sensuality he has been missing in his high-class world.

This Cinderella cliché is a prevalent one in depictions of females and class in popular culture. It is the working class girl with the heart of gold whose brains elevate her past her class. Still because of her class she is somehow more feminine and alluring, maybe because no one has taught her not to be. Pretty Woman, which came out just two years later, is a lot in the same vain. A more modern Cinderella could be Joey Potter from Dawson’s Creek, I admit rather important example in my adolescence. Joey was the girl from the wrong side of the creek whose smarts elevate her out of her “rough” background (her Dad is a drug dealer after all, and her sister has a child out of wedlock). Joey’s insecurities prevent her from realizing how beautiful and alluring to men she is. I know it is a rather silly example but I think the fact that it appears in everything from Oscar nominated films, to late 90’s teen melodramas shows how prevalent the Cinderella scenario is.

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

Posted by Rob Anne in Working Girl.
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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. (more…)

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

Posted by Liz in Working Girl.

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.