Saturday, July 13, 2019

Baby Boom, Revisited - 32 Years Later ...

This movie was on the Roku Channel, and I haven't seen it in years.  I was interested in how things had changed for women in the workplace since, and the answer is - not much.  Don't judge from the poster - it isn't exactly what it looks like.

JC Wiatt is a mid-to-late 30s marketing account executive in NYC.  She has lived her life exactly according to plan, graduating summa cum laude from Harvard with an MBA, making six figures, living with her boyfriend, an investment banker, Stephen (Harold Ramis).

They call her the "Tiger Lady."

She works 60 to 90 hours a week and takes no vacations - work is her life.  She claims she has no biological clock and children make her uncomfortable - they don't even have a pet or houseplants to care for - live is all about them.

Soon, the CEO asks JC about becoming a partner, but wants to be assured that she still had no plans for children in the future (which of course is highly illegal and would never be asked of a man, but is still asked anyway and never enforced).

 He tells her his wife handles the house and the kids and grandkids (and later reveals he doesn't even know their names) and decorates and "Hell, I don't even know what else she does" because he's never home - his wife is essentially hired help.

JC reassures him she has no biological clock, she's about work - period.

Then she receives a call in the middle of the night, telling her she has an inheritance coming from a long-lost cousin who died in a tragic accident.   Being that both her parents and his are dead, and neither had any brothers and sisters, his estate went to her.  The connection is bad, and she can't hear what the estate attorney is saying, but she accepts the inheritance and agrees to meet the attorney's rep at the airport to sign the papers.

A woman appears off the plane, holding a 14-month-old little girl, and asks her to sign for the inheritance.  JC asks if they can move this along, she has a business lunch to attend, and signs the papers without reading or asking what the inheritance is until after she's signed it, trying to rush this meeting along.

It is then that she finds out that - the 14-month-old little girl, Elizabeth - IS her inheritance.

Of course, this freaks her out, and the woman has to catch another flight.  JC agrees to take her temporarily until she can find suitable parents to adopt.

She proves she has no idea of how to carry a child, appearing almost disgusted with her, and you begin to worry because there are some women who truly aren't cut out to be parents.

She takes the child to the business lunch with an important account exec and pawns him off on the coat-check girl, eventually offering her use of her entire credit card, if she will just care for this baby for an hour.

Eventually, the baby cries so loudly the entire restaurant can hear, and the coat-check girl brings her to JC, informing her that she just threw up all over her and she needed to take her back now.

She signs Elizabeth up to an adoption-agency list, but is told that it will take several days. She assures her boyfriend they can handle, they are two summa cum laude graduates from Harvard and this is the simplest form of a human being, they can figure it out and handle it.

Famous last words.

Over the next few days, after attempting to feed her linguine carbonara (which of course ends up all over the house and she and her boyfriend), duck-taping her diaper on, bringing her to work with her in the frantic search to find a good nanny quickly, she believes that she definitely isn't cut out to be a parent.

Worse, her boyfriend assumes that because she's a woman, this will come naturally to her. Erm, no - not with zero experience.

However, Elizabeth likes her and is affectionate and playful with her, and she can't help but grow attached to her, no matter how hard she tries to be "business-like" with her.

After an unfortunate meeting with a shareholder, in which Elizabeth sprays her milk bottle on the chairman of the board, she realizes she has to do something and fast, or work is going to suffer.

It is then that she laments how women can even work at all with this going on?

It is then that she's just a little bit nicer to her secretary ;)

A call comes from the adoption agency that parents have been found and she breathers a sigh of relief - but with a surprising twinge of sadness and uncertainty.

Being that this was an open adoption, she insisted on meeting the parents before handing Elizabeth over.

Unfortunately, they are rural-America evangelicals, who make it clear right away that they wanted a white male child, but would take her because no others were available, but they'd raise her strong, just like a farm boy.

He asks his wife if "she'll do," and she answers, "Yes, sir.  Fern's gonna be a great farm hand to help our family."

"Oh,  hell no," says JC - and she walks out of the office with Elizabeth, undoing the agreement with the adoption agency and agrees to keep her permanently.

"Fern?  And she called her husband, 'Sir,' it just gave me the chills."

And how could you give up this face? :)

When her boyfriend finds out that she's keeping her - their relationship is over and he moves out.

After going through several irresponsible and scary nannies, JC decides that if she's going to do this, do it right, do most of her herself - read all the baby-care books she can get her hands on, research the best educational toys, and after hearing mothers lament their toddler babies not getting into the right preschool program at the park, she panics and decides to enroll Elizabeth in flash educational classes for her, after the mothers tell her it's too late for her to enroll Elizabeth into the right preschool unless she does this, and if she doesn't get into the right preschool, she won't get into the right prep, college, and so on.

I laugh because privileged white American moms are still like this today, actually worse - the pressures other women put on each other and their children to succeed, they go to ridiculous levels to over-schedule and over-educate their children - all work and no play.

Actually, I really wish it focused on other women more in the office, too, instead of just the men - because often women are worse on other working women than men, more competitive (see yesterday's posts). 

So she's now flexing her time.  Still working crazy hours, but also taking Elizabeth to classes.

 (LOL at the sign on the wall that says "College Begins at Birth.")

Soon, she discovers that her protege (played by James Spader, who is always good at playing a weasel) has essentially undermined her and assumed her office and all her accounts are given to him except one.

Humiliated, JC leaves, and decides to take all her savings and retirement money to Vermont to buy rural weekend farmhouse that she's had her eye on for a couple of years - sight unseen.

This is unusual for JC to take uncalculated risks, but that's why she's doing it - she felt that her calculations never paid off anyway. 

She moves with Elizabeth into the farmhouse, and discovers why she should've seen it first - the well for water has dried up, the roof caves in, and any number of other calamities that begin to eat through her savings.

Out of money and exhausted, she essentially had a momentary nervous breakdown in front of her plumber and passes out ...

... only to wake up in the office of Sam Shepard, whom she thinks is a medical doctor, revealing that she has no idea who she is anymore, nothing has gone as planned, and she hasn't had sex in almost a year or even seen another human being during the long winter.

It is then that Sam Shepard reveals - that he's actually a veterinarian lol.

Humiliated again, she storms off in a huff, and though he greets her in town, obviously interested in her, she avoids him or becomes very nervous, which leads to her often acting like the "Tiger Lady" routine, and him telling her she reminded him of a bull terrier, wound too tight, and then kisses her :)

Having no idea what she's going to do from Vermont, and with no money to move back to NYC, she decides to sell her homemade, organic applesauce (that she spent all winter making) at the local corner store - which people are buying up like candy.

It is then that she remembers the other side of herself - the brilliant marketing strategist.

With no money, and the surrounding stores refusing to sell baby foods, she begins a grass-roots level marketing campaign, buy one, get five free, in front of schools, grocery stores, parks, and street corners, and Vermont tourist attractions, and she publishes ads in all of the local papers, with testimonials (that was what you did, back then, before social media) :)

After doing so, requests come in to not only her booths, but local grocery stores are asked if they carry it - and begin to call her to ask for it.

At the time, distributing organic baby food to supermarkets was unheard of, it was an untapped market - so the story of her home-grown business marketing plan's success takes off and is mentioned in business magazines, is sold regionally at every grocery store, and she employs the whole town as her labor force.

It isn't long before her old company calls her and asks to begin negotiations for an acquisition, with her as a brand manager.

She says to herself, "I'm back" and goes to New York, and is offered a $3 million buyout, they create a better distribution center, $6-figure salary plus bonuses, access to the company jet.

Can you guess what she does?

If you want to watch the movie, stop here ;)

The Tiger Lady realizes - she's not the Tiger Lady anymore - and doesn't really want to be.

Now, she is 50% brilliant marketer and 50% mom, loves both and is great at both - and she shouldn't have to sacrifice one for the other.

Companies should allow you to do both by flexing time, providing childcare, and sick time for sick children without penalizing you - because those things help you perform your job better :)

She decides she's made enough money thus far to build her own distribution center and knows how to negotiate contracts - and she's going to do it herself, branching out into other organic products as she went.

And she happily returns home to Vermont with her new, loving family :)

The End :)

The point is, You COULD have it all and wouldn't HAVE to choose - if the both men AND women in the workforce could give women a little more, they'd get back double  :)

Can you tell me 32 years later why things aren't like that?

And why even though this isn't Oscar-worthy material, why we don't just make pleasant movies that make you smile anymore?

I mean, I love complex stories, I wanted to be a screenwriter.

But sometimes you just want to smile :)

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