North Country’s Hero and her Cinematic Lawyer: Can Lawyer Films and Women’s Films Merge to Launch a New Feminist Subgenre?.

North Country is a powerful Hollywood depiction of one woman’s painful yet triumphant struggle to establish sexual harassment in the workplace as “class action” and to compel a workplace to stop its harassing practices. The article compares the cinematic version to the historical event on which it relies but focuses on reading the film in the context of two prolific and popular, yet very distinct, Hollywood genres: “the woman’s film” (including the woman’s/maternal melodrama, battered wives films, sexual victims films, blue collar activist women films) and “the law and lawyers film.” Reading North Country along this complex cinematic context reveals how, by implementing unconventional references to familiar Hollywood formulas, the film opens up an innovative possibility, constructing a blue collar woman who, through her war on sexual harassment in the workplace, becomes a social activist and a community leader and prevails on all fronts: in her legal suit, in transforming her community’s values, and in regaining her family. By subverting traditional cinematic expectations, the film conveys some very “radical” feminist arguments, including that rape, domestic violence, and sexual harassment in the workplace are means of patriarchal domination and oppression of women and that a woman suffering abuse is not necessarily either a victim or an agent: she can be both. The article poses the question whether the film’s intriguing new statement, which yielded some box office success, will turn its formula into a Hollywood “sub-genre.”