Happy Labor Day!
I’m sure a lot of you are barbecuing or heading to the multiplex and see Paranorman before the kids go back to school—thank GOD, am I right? However, if you’re kicking it at home and keeping it low key, maybe you’d like to honor the rebellious laborers and union activists that gave us this beloved three-day weekend. And you can do that the
best only way we at MamaPop know how – by watching movies about it!
Perhaps labor uprisings seem a little heavy for the end of summer, but remember that you owe this three-day weekend to those brave workers who rose up to fight for your right to grill brats and get awesome deals on sheets and towels on this fine September Monday afternoon.
1) Norma Rae
I mean, obviously, right? Sally Field won the Oscar and your approval for her performance as Norma Rae Webster, a textile mill worker who organizes a union in the face of harsh working conditions.
If you prefer a little song and dance with your labor strike, you can watch a young Christian Bale in a neckerchief sing about Santa Fe and also about seizing the day and taking money from Pulitzer and Hearst. The Paperboy Strike, by the way, really did happen, but I imagine there weren’t as many hitch-kicks during the real thing.
3) North Country
Okay, now that you have “King of New York” stuck in your head for the next week, let’s visit a Minnesota coal mine and deal with sexual harassment! Yay! North Country stars Charlize Theron as a mineworker who fights back against rampant sexual harassment and verbal abuse in her blue-collar, male-dominated job. Actually, one aspect of this movie bugs the shit out of me: the fact that it kind of implies that it’s only shitty how everyone treats Charlize Theron like the town slut because, as it turns out, she was raped. I guess if she had engaged in consensual sex at 16 and had a child, then it would be okay for everyone, including her dad, to treat her like a whore? Good to know. However, France McDormand is awesome in this, and that helps.
4) Office Space
Is this a labor struggle movie? I dunno, antihero Peter seems to struggle with the whole…labor thing. Okay, so this is not exactly a “labor” movie in the strictest sense, but for paper pushers the world over, it is a cathartic tribute to the ennui and frustration of a dead-end administrative job.
I have had some bad jobs in my day, but I am pretty sure none of them exposed me to nuclear radiation (though I never did get through the extensive list of ingredients in Jack in the Box’s tacos ). Meryl Streep portrays real life whistleblower Karen Silkwood, who exposed illegal work conditions and safety violations in a plant that manufactures plutonium-uranium oxide fuel pins (just like Homer Simpson, only a little more threatening and with far fewer donuts).
Okay, so this qualifies even less than Office Space, but it’s the last day of summer, and Silkwood‘s a bummer, so you deserve a laugh. Dante—who is not even supposed to be here today—and fellow clerk Randall deal with shitty customers, play hockey, attend a funeral, and unintentionally bear witness to necrophilia in this debut by writer-director Kevin Smith. Just try not to suck any dick on the way to the video store. Just kidding – like those even exist anymore.
What are your favorite labor movies?