Monday, January 20, 2014

The Romance of the Lunchbox

I was trying and failing to untangle that mess of grey wool while I was watching Working Girl as part of my screenplay studies, noting camera shots and imagery, and gaily spotting plot points (Ooh, this is the Inciting Incident! Hey Dave, this is the Dark Moment! ) There was also a certain amount of lusting after a young Harrison Ford – but that wasn’t homework.

Anyway…the heroine, Tess, is a working class secretary who dreams of a career in finance, but she has the wrong voice, accent, clothes and hair, and is treated as a sex object by her bosses, and we are cheering her on in the pursuit of her dream throughout the film. At the end, she finally lands a job that suits her talents, and the audience is thinking Yay! Go Tess! And we’re shown her in her office, but then the camera pans away to show all the other worker bees in their small boxes with a window out onto a soulless cityscape and I was jolted out of the fictive dream. It was such a big shock that I looked on the internet to see if anyone else found it disturbing.

I found nothing, but I did find an academic paper by Jennifer Ailles, which deconstructs the film in terms of gender and class politics. The title – The Romance of the Lunchbox: Negotiating Success in Working Girl - refers to a scene near the end when Tess’s lover (Harrison Ford) hands her a new lunchbox he has bought for her and filled. The paper made me look at this scene and the film as a whole in a different way. It made me think. And it’s made me see how aware I must be of the subtext in my own screenplay.

28 Feb front cover

One person said of BUT I TOLD YOU LAST YEAR THAT I LOVED YOU that it didn’t have a very feminist message. I did not see it this way. And I still don’t see it this way. So I must make it clear in my screenplay - explicitly, or in the subtext.

Here endeth today’s lesson.


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