Guest Contributors Searnda Marshall and Mary-Chandler Philpott weigh in on the cinematic classic “Norma Rae” and dissect its depiction of social change.
What is your opinion on the film as a work of art?
Searnda Marshall: Norman Rae was a great depiction of the everyday struggles of a women trying to make a difference. Whether the difference be at home, work or personal life. The film as a work of art paints a classic picture of those struggles being made manifested and tested. It is the greatest expression of liberation and freedom.
Mary-Chandler Philpott: I greatly appreciated seeing the true story of union-organizer Crystal Lee Sutton immortalized in the Oscar-award winning film Norma Rae. Reading a newspaper clipping about Crystal Lee Sutton’s achievements would simply not be the same as embarking on an almost two-hour journey with the fiery heroine dedicated to making her particular community a better place. In this regard, Norma Rae is a brilliant example of how true events can be a worthwhile vehicle for artistic inspiration.
Contributors Searnda Marshall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Mary-Chandler Philpott (email@example.com)
Comment upon the film’s political expression. How effectively do you think it got its “message” across?
SM: From a political perspective, I felt as though the message was lost. I mean besides being unionized nothing else really gravitated towards politics in my opinion.
MCP: I think the film did a great job showing the positive effects unionizing can have on a community. While I believe Norma Rae is, at its heart, a character study (for which Sally Fields thoroughly deserves her “Best Actress” Oscar win), the film also had a very deep political message. The world has been and continues to be extremely split on the opinion of unions and unionizing, and Norma Rae offers a self-confident, modern, and beautifully filmed contribution to the “pro-union” argument.
How does Norma Rae differ from reality?
SM: Norma Rae doesn’t differ from reality. A real women trying to overcome and shed light on real issues. This story has been acted out a million times . A woman hears something is inspired to create change. A man normally comes along encouraging her to continue this righteous path. This then brings conflict in other relationships, but doesn’t stop the women from going after what she believes will make change. Same story different person.
MCP: While Norma Rae is certainly based on a true story, it is still a Hollywood film, and Hollywood films have a tendency to exaggerate, over-dramatize, and distort/edit storylines to appeal to the widest audience possible. Despite this tendency, Norma Rae has been praised for its authenticity and heart, and I concur with this general sentiment. Choice is an important part of Walter Fischer’s narrative paradigm, and I believe Norma Rae makes it incredibly easy for moviegoers to choose to believe in the heroine’s plight and stand alongside her in solidarity.
How effectively does the film depict social change?
SM: The Film is effective in its efforts to social change: Equality, genderism and race .
MCP: Norma Rae clearly depicts a woman deciding (despite societal pressures to remain quiet and voiceless) to come out and advocate for herself and for her community of workers. The entire plot pivots on this depiction of social change.
What was your favorite part / aspect of the movie, and why?
SM: I feel as thought this a great film I adore the scene where Sally Fields gathers her children and explains to them who she is. It’s her most vulnerable scene in my opinion. I love how she was just open and honest with her children.
MCP: While overall I loved how the humor lightened the dramatic tension and made it an even more enjoyable movie, my favorite part was one of the final scenes when Norma was being asked to leave the premises. Instead she declared, “Forget it! I’m staying right where I am. It’s gonna take you and the police department and the fire department and the National Guard to get me outta here.” I loved Norma’s strength, empathy, and resolve throughout the film, and I think all of these qualities render her a role-model worthy cinematic character.