The tenant of the movie “Working Girl” is that the ends justify the means. It is a movie that asks what are you willing to do to get to a position that you genuinely deserve to be in.
The main characters of this film are Tess, Katherine, Cyn, Mic, Jack. Tess works for Katherine as her secretary. Jack and Katherine were formerly dating. Cyn is one of Tess’s coworkers who also shares Tess’s social-economic culture. Mic is Tess’s boyfriend. Tess is actively trying to better her self. She comes from a blue-collar background. She is taking night classes and working on her speech so that she can fit in and move up the corporate ladder. Mic is also of a working-class background, but he does not understand Tess’s drive. Unlike Tess, Cyn is perfectly happy in her little mold and is even gently trying to hold back Tess. Cyn questions why Tess is trying to break out of her mold, and even questions Tess’s ability to achieve her goals. Katherine, on the surface, is a “outwardly affable yuppie whose grinning visage hides a wicked and larcenous propensity for exploiting the ideas of her employees” (Erickson) . She offers to mentor Tess and goes so far as to say that she would be the type of person to make sure Tess will be credited for business concepts that Tess creates. So Katherine goes on a trip and is hurt causing her to be out of the office for a while. While Katherine is gone, Tess steps into Katherine’s executive position without permission. She orchestrates a large business deal, transforming herself in the process, from working-class to executive style. As she organizes this deal, she starts collaborating with Jack and they begin an intimate relationship. When Katherine comes back, she realizes that Tess has usurped her position by orchestrating a tremendously successful deal, taking her man and on some level even becoming a better “Katherine”. It all comes to a head when Katherine points out that Tess is only a secretary. Tess is fired from her job and Katherine tries to take credit for Tess’s success. It is eventually discovered that the business deal was Tess’s idea, that she does have the capability regardless of her background. This recognition allows Tess to be hired as a junior manager at Jack’s company allowing her to continue working her way up the corporate ladder, as well as allowing the couple’s relationship to grow.
This film deals with gender by showing a variety of women. First we see a woman in power who is a lying, manipulative b*tch. Next it shows a woman who is content to stay where she is: the character of Cyn shows a limited model of women’s experience as she does “not consciously view [themselves] as part of an oppressed group seeking liberation” (Christ 8). The most positive female image is Tess because she believes in herself. Yet this is really not that positive as she has to lie, cheat and steal to reach her goals. As a whole, this film shows both positive and negative representations. The positive is that if you work, you will eventually have the opportunity to prove yourself.
I really don’t consider this a feminist film. Now that I think about it, it shows women in a limited stereotypical light: the powerful b*tch, the contented peon, and the underhanded heroine. All of these women find their meaning, not necessarily in themselves, but in their comparisons to the men.
I enjoyed the movie, but it is funny as now that I am analyzing it I wonder why as it is quite negative. Other than the one aspect of the character who, by negative means, comes to the point that she can possible move forward.
This movie relates to my experience as I have seen a lot of b*tchy women in power and I have seen a lot of people who are afraid of where they think society expects them to be. In my field of IT, women are not usually thought of as executive material, therefore, like Tess, I have had to believe in myself and prove my skills repeatedly. Unlike Tess, I don’t believe in lying and cheating and stealing when proving myself!
Christ, Carol P. “Preface.” Womenspirit Rising. New York: HarperCollins, 1992.
Erickson, Hal. “Working Girl Synopsis”. (http://movies.msn.com/movies/movie.aspx?m=144891&pkw=PI&vendor=Paid+Inclusion&OCID=iSEMPI&mp=syn)
“Working Girl.” Dir. Mike Nichols. Distrib. 20th Century Fox. Released December 21, 1988.