In honor of Labor Day, this month we have chosen to highlight films that portray the heroic efforts of women in the workplace. Now if we could just do something about that lousy minimum wage.
ERIN BROCKOVICH (Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu): Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her brilliant performance as a gutsy single mom who’s fallen on hard times. While working as a paralegal, she stumbles upon a corporate cover-up involving contaminated water which has led to serious illnesses among residents of California. This is an incredible true story of a woman going up against a corporate giant and winning. The heroic work of Ms. Brockovich undoubtedly saved lives and struck a blow against corporate malfeasance for a generation. Plus, as an added bonus she is actually monetarily awarded for her efforts. This film showcases some of the best work by both Julia Roberts and director Steven Soderbergh.
WORKING GIRL (Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu): The 1980s saw the rise of Reaganism and the Yuppie subculture. It also saw the rise of underestimated actress Melanie Griffith and films celebrating women in the workforce. Griffith scored an Oscar nomination for her portrayal of secretary Tess McGill, a working-class woman who dreams of greater things and wants a seat at the corporate table. No doubt, the film is problematic on several levels-the scene where Tess wakes up and blithely accepts that something sexual may have happened during a blackout and a storyline which relishes women destroying each other in the workplace come to mind. Turns out that women don’t hold each other back, but sexual harassment and discrimination do, and that we don’t have to put up with sexual violence (turns out Tess wasn’t the victim of sexual assault). Still, the film features great female performances and at least embraces the notion that women have a role in the labor force.
ON THE BASIS OF SEX (Available on Amazon Prime and Hulu): As we approach the anniversary of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, it’s worth watching the film which documents her personal struggles and professional triumphs in the courtroom. Her brilliant legal career forever altered the lives of American women and changed the trajectory of American history. Not bad for a girl from Brooklyn.
Sandra Oh is not only a brilliant thespian, she plays a diverse range of exciting career women from Cardiothoracic Surgeon to a British Intelligence investigator tracking a female psychopath to her most challenging role of all, the Chair of a flailing English Department at a prestigious Liberal Arts university.
THE CHAIR (series on Netflix): If you work in academia, you are likely to find this show either cathartic or painful—possibly both. But it is also fun and full of heart as Sandra Oh demonstrates why second only to being an adjunct instructor, being chair of a department is the most thankless job in academia. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you may just quit your day job if this one strikes too close to home. Best enjoyed with a nice single malt Scotch.
GREY’S ANATOMY (series on Netflix and Hulu): Granted, I myself would never step foot in Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, which appears to be located on a hellmouth for all the bad things that happen to so many who work and/or are admitted there, and yet, the female-driven medical staff are unquestionably top notch. If you still haven’t checked this one out, it really is a fun nighttime soap that has made incredible strides with embracing and normalizing diversity in the most wonderful ways.
KILLING EVE (series on Hulu): It’s already super cool that the lead Intelligence Investigator in this series is played by a woman of color, but the fact that the professional professional assassin she’s tasked to apprehend is a female psychopath that gives Hannibal Lecter’s charisma a run for his money, makes for twice the thrill. It’s gruesome at times, but often in a darkly comedic way with an almost comic book feel in the first season, the subsequent two get a bit darker and grittier and somewhat more grounded in approach.
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