Erin Brockavich

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At the opening of the film we see Erin struggling: as a single mother, as a human being with potential, courage and individuality, and as a sexual being as well. Erin is a St. Joan of the white underclass, a Green Guerrilla, Mother Jones and Madonna all rolled into one. Unlike the image of second wave feminism which distanced itself from any robust sexuality it felt to be reductive at best or degrading at worst, Brockovich's iconic status is post-"third wave" feminist, that is, eroticized, as it borrows heavily from underground Grrrl culture, aware of being both a body and a mind, and utilizing both to their fullest. When we see her at the beginning of the film, she is filmed against a city using the imagery of 1970s U.S. realist cinema, and the explicitly socialist poetics of Ken Loach or the early Mike Leigh in the UK. Erin's allegedly outspoken comments express what many (women) in the audience feel, and her quips act as so many asides in the Brechtian sense. Throughout the film Erin explains how Capital functions. She needs to eat and take care of her children, and she wants to contribute to society. Unlike the characters in many a milquetoast Liberal film, she is a rather static character. She is not radicalized and her consciousness is not raised. She starts the film off as a radical. Her radicalness comes from her unique synthesis of theory and practice in a Leninist sense; her practice is her real, material situation; and her theory is her ability to translate that situation in ways that connect her to the victims of toxic industrial polluting as she organizes them. Everything Erin says onscreen from beginning to end is true, although a bit hyperbolic, which gives the film its distinctive, epigramatic wit. The one time she is wrong is when she fails to see the suffering of her lawyer boss (played by Albert Finney), a man only a few paychecks away from being in Erin's shoes with his ill health, medical and financial woes and a humble but stressful law...
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