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What He Said: Female Founders in Film

How Does Hollywood Portray Female Founders? Who Are My Faves?

In case you missed my other blog on the topic of strong women in the movies, you may ask. “What is he doing on here, writing for sheBOOM?” If you check out my last post, you’ll find the detailed answer.

Nancy, the sheBOOM Publisher, believes that women who exclude men from their businesses are no better than men who exclude women from theirs. If women are going to really make progress as founders, they need to respect “girl code” and share their stories with other women, but not shut the door on men who have advice, sweat equity, or funding for them! Or blog contributions!

How have the movies portrayed female founders? Who are my faves and why?

  1. You’ve Got Mail, under the category of “Struggle Mightily and Lose,” featuring Meg Ryan as Kathleen Kelly, who owns “The Shop Around The Corner,” a little bookstore being menaced by big box store, Fox Books, which is run by Tom Hanks’ character, Joe Fox. Kelly digs into her customer-centric children’s book-focused store and fights to hang on, but, as in real life, heart and effort sometimes end up on the losing side. The struggles and pain of watching her try to save her long-time, family-run business is heartbreaking.
  2. Chocolat, under the category of “Struggle Mightily and Survive,” featuring Juliette Binoche as Vianne Rocher, the single mother owner of a magical, whimsical chocolate shop in France. Though her chocolate has the power to change lives, Rocher faces challenges and resistance from the small town’s mayor and some of the townspeople because she is both an atheist and the mother of an “illegitimate” child. Threats and a low level of violence prompt Rocher to consider giving up and moving, but she digs in and stays, finding a permanent home for her daughter and earns appreciation for all her business brings to the hamlet.
  3. Baby Boom, under the category “Struggle Mightily and Win Big,” featuring Diane Keaton as J.C. Watt. Watt, in her late 30s, is a “you can have it all” woman of the ‘80s who works 80 hours a week as a New York consultant, before “inheriting” six month old Elizabeth, the daughter of a cousin who recently passed away. Watt’s life is thrown into turmoil as the introduction of the baby into her life causes her to lose her boyfriend and job, but also re-evaluate her path. She moves to Vermont and, on the brink of financial ruin, eventually turns to entrepreneurship via the natural baby food she has made from scratch for Elizabeth. Through uphill problems on many levels, Watt’s business takes off and she spurns an offer to buy her company for millions – choosing her lifestyle, Elizabeth and her business instead.
  4. Joy, starting Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano, under the category of “Struggle Mightily and Win Bigger.” Based on a true life story, Mangano’s character, a divorced mother of two, creates a better mouse trap (in this case a better kitchen mop), but faces ever-mounting obstacles including fraud, family lawsuits, ever-chiming in family doubters, and repeated production issues and sales failures. Against all odds, Mangano hits success though grit and perseverance and an almost inhuman toughness. She becomes incredibly wealthy and mentors other entrepreneurs like herself, who need a break and someone to believe in them.
  5. Coco Before Chanel, under the category of “Struggle Mightily and Win Ginormous,” featuring Audrey Tautou as Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. The story follows Chanel from her youth in an orphanage, through her teen years when she worked in a bar, making ends meet by tending bar, acting as a seamstress for the performers, and a nightly singer, with her sister (which is where she got her nickname “Coco”). Stubborn, street tough, and resilient in a cold capitalistic survivor-mode as she starts her hat designing business, a relationship with a wealthy Frenchman opens a door for her to pursue her passion (the hat business, that is). A later relationship with an English businessman helps her find love and a path to global fame and success.

If you agree or disagree, let me know! And enjoy the Oscars, February 26th!

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