5 Reasons Why Working Girl Is Still Awesome Today
3:00 pm, March 17th | by Meredith Lepore
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Mike Nichols’ film Working Girl. The film truly took America by storm, capturing the honest reality of the tricky social waters of business (and who can forget that amazing Carly Simon soundtrack. It made riding the Staten Island ferry seem like a glorious pilgrimage.) Though we work in this country where you can come from nothing and get to the top, judgement on your clothing, accent and hair will provide major upheavals for you long the way. Roger Ebert wrote in his 1998 review of the film:
“The plot of “Working Girl” is put together like clockwork. It carries you along while you’re watching it, but reconstruct it later and you’ll see the craftsmanship. Kevin Wade’s screenplay is sort of underhanded in the way it diverts us with laughs, and with a melodramatic subplot involving [Melanie] Griffith’s former boyfriend, while all the time it’s winding up for the suspenseful climax.
By the time we get to the last scenes, the movie plays like a thriller, and that’s all the more effective because we weren’t exactly bracing for that.
“Working Girl” is Nichols returning to the top of his form, and Griffith finding hers.”
Though the 1988 film had a bit of a Cinderella vibe, it was not your classic fairytale romcom. First of all, the heroine (Tess McGill) did want the guy but she wanted the corner office and to work in M&A more. We really don’t see female characters like that on screen very often. And though Sigourney Weaver played a bitch in her Academy Award nominated role as Katherine Parker, she showed us yet another strong woman who knew the meaning of executive presence.
But does this film still resonate with the working women of today? The film took place the same year it was made. A lot more women were working in business, especially on Wall Street, and weren’t fighting for as many rights as they had the decade before but things were still tough. The term secretary instead of assistant or executive assistant was used. But this movie was less about sexism and more about office politics, career strategy and of course, fashion which means it very much resonates today. These are just three of the reasons why Working Girl is an awesome film.
- In one of the first scenes with Katherine Parker and Tess she says, “Dress shabbily, they notice the dress. Dress impeccably, they notice the woman – Coco Chanel!” Katherine is a bitch but the girl knows how to dress so she will be taken seriously. The film makes a major point of showing that Tess is sabotaging herself by rocking the big rock star hair. Her hair is so big it is literally overshadowing her great mind. It makes her look cheap and she is too smart for that. When she cuts her hair off and starts wearing more sophisticated outfits, the woman is noticed. Plus, this movie makes shoulder pads look awesome!
- Katherine says, ”Never burn bridges. Today’s junior *prick*, tomorrow’s senior partner.” Now, it is not fun to hang out with pricks but she has a point. Always treat people with respect no matter their station. Tess often gets herself in trouble when she gets frustrated and it has prevented her from moving up. Katherine knows how to suck up people. If you can find a happy medium between those two you will do great.
- Don’t get rid of your femininity. In the 80s women were literally dressing like men with those power suits, but today we can be a lot more feminine in the workplace. That’s why Harrison Ford freaks out when he sees Tess wearing an actual dress at a work cocktail party instead of a power suit. “You’re the first woman I’ve seen in one of these things that dresses like a woman, not like a woman thinks a man would dress if he was a woman,” he says. We need to associate power and leadership with femininity not women dressing like men.
- Friends will always be there to support you when you decide to steal your boss’s identity. Joan Cusack is brilliant as Tess’s best friend, Cyn, who helps her with the makeover even though she is worried. She says, “You wanna be taken seriously, you need serious hair.” You have got to have that outside network to get through your career and a friend who is willing to cut your hair.
- Do fight for your ideas. Now, stealing your boss’s identity is a bit risque and lying about your job is probably not the way to do it, but Tess needed to fight for her stolen idea and we all need to learn to stand up for ourselves. It helps when you have giant heels, shoulder pads and young Harrison Ford by your side.