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Film Journal on Norma Rae

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Film Journal on Norma Rae

Film: Norma Rae

Director: Martin Ritt

Year: 1979

Stars: Sally Field

Brief Plot: Norma Rae doesn't have much going for her in her life. She has two children that she's raising on her own, lives with her parents, has lots of problems with men, and works in a textile mill in the south. The conditions of the mill are deplorable. The wages are pitiful, and workers are on their feet all day, with barely a break, working in a loud and hazardous environment. But it is the only job in town for most of the locals. When an organizer from the Textile Workers of America Union comes to try and convince the workers to unionize, Norma Rae is the only one who is really for it at first. Norma Rae’s works non-stop for the union and in the end her perseverance and hard work leads to the workers unionizing.

What does it say about labor and working; workers in America?

The film does a wonderful job of showing a true working American. The working poor shown in the film all work hard at their jobs (they are constantly sweating) and seem to have a strange devotion to their job even though it pays them poorly and are forced to work in horrible conditions. They don’t want to cause any trouble for fear of losing their job by talking against their bosses yet they understand how they are being mistreated. The film also shows how everybody works; all ages and races. The film does a great job of showing the working poor: they work hard all day and come home to small homes with meager dinners and hardly any comfort. The scene where Norma Rae’s father washes up by taking water from a pot and splashing it on his face and arms is very sad to watch yet there are people who have to do this in real life. Also, the scene where Norma marries Sonny does a good job of showing how poor this working family is; they can’t afford to have a large wedding.

The film also does a good job of showing how the workers take comfort in the small things such as a softball game. Also, the film shows how alcohol plays a large role in the life of the working poor; Sonny telling Norma Rae how he drinks to get rid of the unpleasant thoughts and feelings he has is perhaps why so many drink.

How is this a women’s film?

This fits the Career Girl category of Women Films as the movie is all about the working Rae working hard to succeed in the workplace. Also, the scene where she is talking with her children about their fathers is very emotional; emotional scenes like this are prevalent in women films. The dramatization of the moral dilemma faced by Norma Rae, career (unionizing the workers) v home (Sonny and the kids), also makes this a women film. The use of extensive close ups to show the emotion and to connect the character with the viewer also makes this a women’s film.

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