Working class heroines in movies and TV
December 2, 2018 5:47 PM   Subscribe

I realized recently that I love movies and TV shows with working class heroines. For example, I loved Flashdance, The Legend of Billie Jean, and Educating Rita. The movie or TV show can be in any genre, time period, country, plot, level of realism, etc. I don't care at all if it has a reputation for being cheesy or silly.

The movie or TV show can be in any genre, time period, country, plot, level of realism, etc., as long as the main character is:
- female
- heroic in her actions and demeanor
- notably working class in some way

Preferred but not required:
- the heroine has a happy ending (even if the whole show doesn't)
- she is not saved by a man

Thank you all so much!
posted by 3491again to Media & Arts (48 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Norma Rae
posted by theory at 5:52 PM on December 2 [7 favorites]


Erin Brockovich
posted by Botanizer at 5:55 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Well, ‘it’s the season so would Prancer (1989) count? The main character is a child, but what a lovely story of bravery... and no man saves her. In fact, she saves everyone else. =)
posted by johnxlibris at 5:55 PM on December 2


Marion Cotillard in Two Days, One Night
posted by fluttering hellfire at 6:03 PM on December 2


Furiosa is a truck driver in Mad Max: Fury Road. That seems pretty working class, even if it is a post-apocalyptic hell scape!
Idk if you'd consider her cooperation with Max 'saving', however.
posted by PaulaSchultz at 6:07 PM on December 2


Jumpin' Jack Flash!
posted by tomboko at 6:09 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Call the Midwife is full of working class folks (mostly women as they are the main characters) being heroic, with a lot of strong but unassuming women. A lot of the show is about the inherent dignity of people regardless of social status.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 6:10 PM on December 2 [8 favorites]


Happy Valley (British TV series) - not so much on the happy endings front, but an outstanding working class female hero as protagonist.
posted by penguin pie at 6:12 PM on December 2 [5 favorites]


Julia. A ground-breaking tv series from 1968.

"Julia Baker is a young African-American woman working as a nurse. She is also a widow (her husband died in Vietnam) trying to raise a young son alone. It is notable for being one of the first weekly series to depict an African American woman in a non-stereotypical role." link
posted by the webmistress at 6:15 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


"9 to 5"

Heroic comes in all sizes and flavors.
posted by kestralwing at 6:38 PM on December 2 [5 favorites]


Desperately Seeking Susan
Akeelah and the Bee
Working Girl
Hidden Figures
9to5

(with help from Mrs. 4ster)
posted by 4ster at 6:38 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


DCI Miller in Broadchurch is a co-hero with her male boss, but I would argue she is the solo hero of her own story arc.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:54 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Winter's Bone. Queen of Katwe.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:54 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


The Closer
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:54 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


Seconding Call the Midwife big time. Chock full of working-class women, each heroic in her own way, so many stories, none of them saved by men, and all of the men in the series are supporting characters - each one good and kind without being treacly or perfect. All seasons available on Netflix.

Alice (TV show) is about three women working as waitresses in a diner in Phoenix. Based on the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore. All seasons available on Amazon Prime.

Angie (TV show) is about a working-class woman who meets a millionaire rebelling against his wealthy family. They fall in love, but he does not in any way "save" her. Available on DVD.
posted by tzikeh at 7:00 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


Also One Day at a Time, both the original (available on Amazon Prime) and the current Latinx reimagining (available on Netflix).
posted by tzikeh at 7:06 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


Also could you define "saved by a man" for the purposes of this question? Some TV shows and movies have working-class women who marry happily (usually near the end of the series or as the denouement of the film), but that doesn't necessarily mean that he has "saved" her.
posted by tzikeh at 7:10 PM on December 2


There can definitely be a man in the show and a happy ending that involves romance. I just want to avoid media where whole plot turns on the fact that a man comes in and makes it all better.
posted by 3491again at 7:14 PM on December 2


Grace Under Fire was a good (in my memory) American sitcom centered on a working class woman played by Brett Butler.
posted by ejs at 7:15 PM on December 2 [4 favorites]


Fargo.
posted by beccaj at 7:30 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Frozen River

Jackie Brown

The Silence of the Lambs (female protagonist is in training to join the FBI, but her lower-class background is emphasized)

(I consider Peggy Olsen, who starts out as a secretary, the hero of Mad Men, but not all will agree with that...)
posted by praemunire at 7:34 PM on December 2


+1 Call the Midwife - great great show full of strong women characters

Waitress is another favorite movie of mine, featuring a strong woman protagonist. I think technically a man helps her at the end, but definitely not in any of the ways I expected while watching the movie.
posted by ellerhodes at 7:37 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


The Nanny
posted by Dolley at 7:37 PM on December 2






It falls off the rails as the show goes on, but the early seasons of Good Times are legit.
posted by rhizome at 8:25 PM on December 2


There can definitely be a man in the show and a happy ending that involves romance. I just want to avoid media where whole plot turns on the fact that a man comes in and makes it all better.

Excellent.

Seconding Silence of the Lambs, Veronica Mars (TV show AND movie), Waitress, and Fargo (the movie, not the TV series - though that's good too, but not to the exact specifications you're looking for).

Brooklyn (movie)
Philomena (a hard film to watch at times, but she is working class and she is both heroic and happy at the end IMO)
The Hunger Games tetralogy of movies
Police Woman (TV series)
Alien and Aliens (movies)
The recent reimagining of Ghostbusters
Secrets and Lies
A League of Their Own
Saving Grace

(I could even make a case for the TV show Laverne and Shirley....)
posted by tzikeh at 8:27 PM on December 2 [2 favorites]


And I'll go to the mat for The Shape of Water.
posted by tzikeh at 8:30 PM on December 2 [5 favorites]


Silkwood. No happy ending, tho.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:33 PM on December 2


North Country
posted by stoneandstar at 8:36 PM on December 2




How about Pretty in Pink?
posted by rhizome at 8:45 PM on December 2


Came in to recommend Working Girl, a movie I liked at lot as a younger person. Things definitely speed up for her when she connects with Harrison Ford's character, but her skills and triumph are her own.

Furiosa is a truck driver in Mad Max: Fury Road
She's a high-ranking military leader, which is why she gets to drive the truck full of their only resource, but I'm sure as hell not trying to dissuade anyone from watching that movie.

posted by jeoc at 9:00 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


Made in Dagenham fits your criteria to a tee and is based on a true story.
posted by freya_lamb at 10:26 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


you really need to see 'My cousin Vinny'
posted by ouke at 10:27 PM on December 2 [6 favorites]


Everybody in Moonstruck is working or lower middle class. Cher is an accountant. It doesn't really matter in the movie context but it's fun watching Nic Cage be a sweaty Italian Baker.
posted by emjaybee at 10:38 PM on December 2 [3 favorites]


Joy (the movie with Jennifer Lawrence)
posted by sexyrobot at 11:34 PM on December 2 [1 favorite]


Some of my favourite Australian (and a sneaky New Zealand) ones:

"My Brilliant Career"
"Puberty Blues"
"Monkey Grip"
"Starstruck"
"An Angel At My Table"
"Somersault"
"Little Fish"
"My Year Without Sex"

Gillian Armstrong's series of documentaries about Josie, Diana and Kerry are amazing. The first documentary was filmed when they were 14 and the others follow them through their life, similar to the British 7 Up series.
posted by h00py at 12:20 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


Just re-watched, and better even than I remember: "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." The director, Martin Scorsese, has written about the strong influence the women actors had on this movie. Wonderful movie!
posted by kestralwing at 1:37 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


Huge Educating Rita fan here so first up is another written by Willy Russell:
Shirley Valentine

Nurse Jackie

I only saw the first two seasons but Weeds might fit the bill.

Happy Valley (superb but very dark) - anything written by Sally Wainwright or starring Sarah Lancashire is just about guaranteed to be excellent), for example, Last Tango in Halifax has a mix of strong female leads, working class (farming) and middle (headmistress) and is hugely recommended.
posted by humph at 2:04 AM on December 3 [2 favorites]


Sunshine Cleaning.
posted by gideonfrog at 4:03 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


Pretty Woman
posted by hepta at 5:32 AM on December 3


Current politics aside, Roseanne is the classic TV show for this.
posted by telegraph at 5:53 AM on December 3


Housewife, 49.
posted by paduasoy at 5:56 AM on December 3


And maybe Poldark, depending on your definition of main character (Demelza).
posted by paduasoy at 5:58 AM on December 3


Try to get your hands on the 1992 indie film Gas Food Lodging. It's one of my favorite movies of all time and definitely hits your "working class women" theme. It's sweet and funny and sad and heartwarming. It's my absolute favorite role of Fairuza Balk's. (I do feel that I need to warn that there is a verbal description of a rape about halfway through the movie. Nothing is shown, it's a memory a character is describing.)
posted by Aquifer at 6:52 AM on December 3 [1 favorite]


Little Dorrit will seem like it's going to turn on a man saving the day, but it doesn't.
posted by Polycarp at 7:54 AM on December 3


Bagdad Cafe is a good one, too.
posted by h00py at 12:08 AM on December 4


« Older Help me *extract* myself from Google’s search...   |   PDF or PNG to high quality JPG Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments