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Articles by Ken Eisen

Ken Eisen has written for Cineaste, Film Quarterly, and other publications, and teaches film at Colby College, the University of Southern Maine, and the University of Maine at Augusta. He is president of Shadow Distribution, a small, independent film-distribution company, and Railroad Square Cinema, a small, independent theater in Waterville, Maine. He himself is small and independent.

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“A working-class hero is something to be,” said John Lennon. But for Hollywood, it’s more likely to be a working-class heroine — at least when environmental issues enter the picture.

Charlize Theron in North Country.

Photo: 78th Academy Awards®

This year, Charlize Theron’s crusading miner-activist in North Country garnered an Oscar nomination, following in the footsteps of such Academy-lauded turns as Sally Field’s in Norma Rae (1979), Meryl Streep’s in Silkwood (1983), and Julia Roberts’ in Erin Brockovich (2000). While Theron didn’t win (in part because it’s been only two years since she took home a statue for her portrayal of another kind of working-class activist, murderous prostitute Aileen Wuornos), the nod still raises the question: What does Hollywood see in poor women fighting the establishment to save the environment?

The women in these four films are themselves forces of nature, righting man-made wrongs, with the emphasis on “man.” All inhabit the American heartland, from Oklahoma to Minnesota, from Alabama to small-town Cal... Read more

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