Off-campus University of Miami users: To download campus access theses, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your University of Miami CaneID and Password.

Non-University of Miami users: Please talk to your librarian about requesting this thesis through interlibrary loan.

Publication Date



UM campus only

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Motion Pictures (Communication)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

William Rothman

Second Committee Member

Christina Lane

Third Committee Member

Barbara Jones


This thesis proposes that the female social activist is a new genre in American cinema. The four films chosen in this paper: Norma Rae, Erin Brockovich, Silkwood, and North Country are argued to be representative, and form the narrative construct of this genre. The argument uses Stanley Cavell's theory of genre composition as presented in Pursuits of Happiness: The Hollywood Comedy of Remarriage and Contesting Tears: The Hollywood Melodrama of the Unknown Woman. There is growing recognition in the American film industry that a series of films portraying women as activists addressing social concerns is forming the basis of an emerging new genre. The social concerns addressed in the above films are: environmental pollution and its toxic health effects, sexual harassment of women in traditional male work places, radioactive contamination of nuclear plant workers, and unionization of textile workers. In this genre women are presented in a new social role. Future directions of this work suggest that the female social activist genre can encompass effectively all areas of social concerns as gender is demonstratively not a barrier.