***Warning: There are spoilers in this post***
Last weekend I watched the movie, “The Intern,” starring Anne Hathaway and Robert DeNiro. The film was written and directed by Nancy Myers (you know her from The Holiday and The Parent Trap). When I selected the movie to watch, I was expecting a light-hearted comedy, witty humor, and a good laugh. I got all of that, but I was surprised by the deeper theme of discrimination that appears throughout the movie. The Intern addresses the themes of sexism and ageism in the workplace right from the first scene. For the purpose of this blog I’m going to concentrate on sexism and how Anne Hathaway’s character, Jules, is portrayed in the movie.
- In the first scene of the movie we see Jules, the founder and CEO of a very successful clothing company, doing her job extremely well. She is clearly very busy, but she is shown as successful, smart, and well-liked. She bike rides past a small office birthday party and the other employees wave her in, wanting her to join the fun. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jules is a kind, good-natured successful businesswoman. It seems that in most Hollywood movies with a successful businesswoman character, she is portrayed as harsh, unkind, and for lack of a better word, a bitch. (Picture: The Devil Wears Prada, The Proposal). Jules does not fall into that category. Rather, she is portrayed as a good CEO and also as a good mother and wife, who despite being extremely busy at work, still makes time for her family and cares about them deeply. By the end of the movie, we see that Jules is adequately balancing work, family, and other commitments. Also, despite pressure to hire a new CEO, she and others ultimately realize that she is best equipped and suited to run her own company, rather than bringing in a male CEO to do it for her. YGG. As a side note, at one point in the movie, Jules mentioned that her husband gave up a successful career in marketing to be at stay-at-home dad for their daughter. This is revolutionary for Hollywood and for most American families today. Usually when a parent is called to give up their career to raise a family, the wife is the one to do it. Here, the dad gives up his career and is shown doing a great job taking care of their daughter while Jules is at work. This is one of the first Hollywood portrayals of a husband sacrificing his career so that his wife might pursue hers.
- The Intern gives very mixed messages about whether or not a woman can actually “have it all.” Can a woman be a CEO, raise a family, and still have time to grab dinner with friends? Jules is trying to do all of this, but throughout the course of the movie her life appears to be falling apart. She is stressed at work, working extremely late, her husband is cheating on her, and she barely has time to eat, let alone go out with friends. Jules receives very little support, especially from the other women in the movie. Her mother constantly has derogatory things to say about her job. The other moms at school snicker about her both behind her back and to her face. All of this adds up. While it may seem like the movie is finally portraying a admirable female CEO, at the same time the message seems to be that this life is impossible. In order to get here she has sacrificed her friendships, her relationship with her mother and daughter, her marriage, and her health (sleep deprivation, no time to eat lunch). While all of these are real struggles and certainly aspects of what makes it hard for a woman to succeed in business today, the movie makes it seem impossible. Watching the movie made me glad that I am not a CEO because all of the “side-effects” in Jules life seem like too much to handle. The end of the movie ties things up a little nicer, but I still left feeling like I had received many mixed messages.
Overall, I think the point is that our culture does not make it easy for a woman to succeed in business. It points out that women should be supporting and encouraging other women who are trying to do so, rather than bringing them down and criticizing them for the sacrifices they have had to make. We see that despite hardship it is possible for a woman to run a company and have a family at the same time. So, although there are some mixed messages in the movie, overall I think this movie was the first of its kind portraying a well-liked and successful female CEO. She is competent, organized, creative, smart, and caring. Definitely worth a watch, both for the comedy and the deeper themes that will give your mind something to chew on.