Erin Brockovich Movie Analysis

Whose Values Matter More?

In 2000, Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for best actress in the film, Erin Brockovich. Roberts plays a young mother of three, struggling to keep a job and feed her children, while simultaneously proving to herself and others what she is capable of in a corporate setting. Brockovich is an uneducated single mom who, after losing a court case where an irresponsible driver hit her car, she decided to take matters into her own hands and force herself into a job. She ends up working for the lawyer who oversaw her car crash case, and finds herself looking over the files of a real estate case that has some unlikely components. In the small town of Hinkley, California, the electric and gas company, PG&E has violated their environmental standards and allowed toxic chemicals in the form of Chromium six to leach into ground water supplies and affect the surrounding areas. Brockovich decides to take action and condemn the company for the havoc they have wreaked in so many lives. Through the different value frameworks that each of the characters posses throughout the movie, I was able to weigh the focus on family, health, money, place and prestige in relation to this environmental case.

Though Brockovich claims that her sole focus of getting and keeping a job is for her three kids, once she submerges herself into the lives of these other families and their various problems, her own family almost falls by the wayside. She obviously values them enough to fight constantly to give them a good life, but the few people who love and want to help her, like her next door neighbor George, become those who get the least of her attention. I would argue that while Brockovich’s intentions are good, she is slightly hypocritical by wanting to help these families when her own is void of a present mother.

One of the main values in this case is human health. The amount of chromium six that has seeped into these residents water supply has rendered them with fatal illnesses ranging from cancer to internal organ deterioration. It is easy for humans to feel sorry for another human when their health in in decline, and especially easy when there is someone to blame. Therefore, Brockovich uses the empathetic approach to appeal to the judge, getting over six hundred affected people to sign a waiver and state their health issues relating to the case.

Another very important value that some may claim they do not hold, yet most rely on, is money. Despite money not being the key to someone’s happiness, it is usually the key to pay the bills. Brockovich valued money because she could finally feed her family and not worry about financial security. Her firm valued money because without a winning case, they would become deeply in debt. Finally, the plaintiffs valued money because many had to spend all of theirs on medical bills and payments. At the end of the movie when those residents who were affected got paid, and Brockovich herself received her bonus, the highlight of the film was not nabbing the corporation that allowed chemicals to ruin hundreds of lives, but the large sum of money that was sure to change these peoples lives for the better.

Another value that many do not consider in this case, is the value on a place or a home. PG&E bought many of the houses of the sick residents, surely to help their own legal security when they realized what they did wrong. However, this displacement created a sense of loss and sadness in the already sick victims. Though the homes of these residents were unsafe and could not provide a chromium-free living space, the residents were understandably attached to their roots and many did not wish to move.

Finally, I believe the most important value in this movie is that of prestige. Brockovich as a teenager had been a beauty queen. She obviously values being wanted, admired and respected. She throws herself not into her work just out of the hope to make money and provide for her family, but because she wants to be a respected, hard working woman who earns what she receives. Instead of being looked down upon and scoffed at, by the end of the movie, Brockovich has gained the self-confidence and self-love that finally allows her to love others in return.

Kate Meeks

Dr. Bullock

25 April 2016

ENV Movie Response


“Erin Brockovich | Netflix.” Erin Brockovich | Netflix. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

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