Megan Basham

Josey is Anita Hill.

From this statement, made by Josey Aimes’ lawyer (Woody Harrelson), one might be inclined to think that North Country tells the story of a young woman who becomes the willing pawn of a left-wing political group attempting an eleventh-hour judicial coup.

Fortunately, North Country’s actual plot is a lot more engaging and credible than Anita Hill’s testimony before Congress.

Josey Aimes’ (Charlize Theron) life is a study in feminine victimhood.

A horrific high school experience makes her a single mother at 16 and the shame of her blue collar parents. Fast forward 13 years and she’s now suffering punishing blows at the hands of another man (her husband). Her family still isn't supporting her though, implying that she probably had it coming by sleeping around.

Bruised and battered but refusing to take it anymore, Josey accepts a job at the local iron-ore mine that pays real money—men’s money—and begins to feel the empowerment that comes from paying her own way. She’s finally able to put food on the table and buy her kids a real home, but these necessities come at a higher price than just hard work.

As Josey quickly learns, most of her coworkers don’t want her or any other woman working there.

The men spare no effort to demonstrate their displeasure at the feminine invasion. Drawings of the women workers performing lewd acts appear on the mine walls. Sexual devices turn up in their lockers and in their lunchboxes. And they face a constant barrage of come-ons that are so physically intimidating, the threat of rape bubbles just beneath the surface. For months, Josey tries to keep her head down merely to get through the days, but when the harassment escalates to nauseating proportions and management refuses to step in, Josey decides to take the matter to court.

What does all this have to do with the Hill-Thomas matter? Not much on the face of it, except that director Niki Caro (Whale Rider) intermittently cuts into to her working-class-woman story with references to and clips of Anita Hill accusing Justice Thomas of sexual harassment.

Josey’s cause, we are apparently supposed to infer, is as righteous as Anita Hill’s.

The problem with this tactic is that at least half the audience won’t remember Anita Hill as righteous and another third may not remember her at all.

Megan Basham

Megan Basham is the author of Beside Every Successful Man: A Woman's Guide To Having It All

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