Check out all of the posts from our Ladies of the 1980s Week here.
We so often view films through the Male Gaze with camera shots that are more interested in capturing the way a woman’s body looks under the guise of “sex sells” that it’s become somewhat of the norm. While ‘Working Girl’ is appreciative of the beauty between Sigourney Weaver and Melanie Griffith, it employs a “female gaze” so to speak with Harrison Ford.
10 feminist comedies from the 1980s that focus on women and their careers, friendships, families, relationships, and journeys of self-discovery. Also, a look at how well these films do (or don’t) pass the Bechdel Test.
There is a deep nostalgia for the 1980s, especially the pop culture of the decade. … Stories with iconic women at their heart flourished in the 80s (‘Working Girl,’ ‘Sixteen Candles,’ ‘The Legend of Billie Jean’). The emerging breed of action heroine born in the 70s came into her own in the 80s (Sarah Connor from ‘The Terminator,’ Ellen Ripley from ‘Aliens,’ Leia Organa of ‘Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back’).
Perhaps the depiction of “the girl” in ‘The Girl in the Train’ will reassure my fears by allowing the woman to literally “grow up” on-screen. Yet, the title makes me very pessimistic. Presenting women as “girls” continues to fetishize women’s powerlessness in cinema. By situating this girlhood in a similar way to the male fantasy construction of the Final Girl, and by enforcing an infantilizing return to post-feminism’s “girliness,” these films offer ultimately disempowering images of female subjectivity.
‘Working Girl’ is a product of its time, when feminism meant a white lady achieving all the power and success normally reserved for white men. And what’s worse, the antifeminist backlash of the 1980s is paradoxically woven throughout. See, Tess isn’t like the other women who’ve made it in business, she’s a “real woman.”
Check out all of the posts for Women and Work/Labor Issues Theme Week here.
Because Katharine steals Tess’s idea, we automatically pull for Tess, the lower-class underdog; consequently, we are forced to view Katharine, the upper-class princess, as the demonized, selfish boss, determined to achieve success no matter what. Hurt, yet motivated to take control of her career, Tess is now forced to lie in order to have her voice heard. This causes her to be pitted against a boss who has clearly abused her power. Even though ‘Working Girl’ seems like a harmless, romantic drama, its female representation is firmly rooted in classism and sexism.