One of my favorite movies is Working Girl from 1988. Harrison Ford is handsome, Melanie Griffith looks fabulous (that navy velvet number with the embedded rhinestones is one of the great movie dresses of all time), and Joan Cusack has an epic line: “Sometimes I sing and dance around the house in my underwear. Doesn’t make me Madonna… never will.” The plot is a simple success story cleverly told. It’s a lot of fun.
But it’s dated, and I’m not talking about the enormous reading glasses. Working Girl glorifies rapacious corporatism. Tess McGill works in mergers and acquisitions at a company swallowing up other companies in the late 80s, the decade when, many economists posit, the government began to make laws so advantageous to business that the distribution of wealth has been shifting ever since. Working Girl never questions corporate acquisitiveness. Oh sure, the ruthless and unethical Katharine loses her man, her job, and her dignity, but once the devious schemer is purged (only one?), Trask Industries roars on while Carly Simon sings about the New Jerusalem.
Movies usually take a dimmer view: big business is manipulative (Trading Places, Network), money isn’t everything (You Can't Take it With You), a job isn't worth your soul (Office Space), it's more rewarding to raise kids (Kramer vs. Kramer). Except for The Fountainhead, Working Girl might be unique in portraying a behemoth corporation as a good thing, a more charming idea in 1988 than it is in 2010.
Still… Harrison Ford. I mean, come on.
Here are some recent books about our current economic woes: