Thus, the heroine of this movie is Tess McGill who is not simply
one of the tired, poor, and huddled masses, we see on the Staten
Island Ferry in the opening scenes of the movie. "I am not steak,"
she insists. "You can't just order me." Tess is intelligent,
plucky, and, in the parlance of 1980's Wall Street, "hungry." She
sets her sights on the firm's entry-level program, but it is
restricted to Ivy Leaguers who don't need the money. Tess, who
looks, talks and walks like a blue-collar Staten Islander,
initially doesn't fit the bill. Once she is unceremoniously fired
from her job working for a pompous executive, who sexually harasses
her, Tess seeks a secretarial position under Katharine Parker, an
uptown rich girl currently navigating a successful ascent on Wall
Street. Katherine is a woman of almost exactly Tess's age, but with
a different set of accessories. For example, she talks in a low,
modulated voice, and wears more businesslike clothes, and has
serious hair. "If you want to get ahead in business," Tess muses,
"you've got to have serious hair." Tess gets along fine with
Katherine at first. Katherine plays a game of just-us-girls
and pretends to help Tess. She says "Bring me your ideas and we'll
see what we can make happen." She serves as a role model for Tess,
who takes off her tricolour eye shadow. junk jewellery and
patterned hose in favour of a more businesslike look. However,
despite Katherine's encouragement to make business suggestions so
that Tess can get on, Tess is restricted to running the errands and
pouring the coffee. "I'd love to help you, but you can't busy the
quarterback with passing out the Gatorade," Katharine says.
It shows that, with the right attitude, a girl from Staten
Island can overcome prejudices relating to gender, education and
class. Tess says poignantly 'I'm not gonna spend the rest of my
life working my ass off and getting nowhere just because I followed
rules that I had nothing to do with setting up'.
Working Girl comes in at eighty-seventh on the American Film
Institute's list of the "100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time"
(Goldsmith, 2006). Thus, Tess McGill became an icon, or at the time
a woman of the future. Working Girl deals with many of the 21st
century challenges that faced America at the end of the 80's. At
this time many questions were asked. How will the working class be
educated to survive and thrive in the computer age? And also, the
focus of this movie, what role will women play in the computer age?
This intoxicating movie provides the answer.