Erin Brokovich-Corporate Crime

The story centres around a sizable electric firm whose operations pose an ecological risk to the local Californian population because of the seepage of a chromium 6 pollution. In this essay, the Erin Brockovich movie is discussed from many social angles. The analysis specifically makes use of conflict theory, functionalism, and symbolic interactionism.
Several social issues are brought to light in the movie from Erin Brockovich’s perspective (Arroio 133). As a single mother, Erin Brockovich spends most of her time investigating medical cases, which demonstrates the connection between Hinkley community and Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), a firm that put up a plant in Hinkley. The movie also reflects how different families in Hinkley suffer from numerous health issues, including miscarriages, headaches, and gastrointestinal cancer. Symbolic interaction is depicted by Erin, who, regardless her not having a law degree is in a position to unearth detailed facts about these cases through discussions with the families. In this respect, the movie highlights the views of Hinkley community and the law firm while demonstrating the relationship between health problems and hexavalent chromium that ends up in water bodies through the PG&E plant.
Furthermore, the movie depicts the corporate world in a bad way by using PG&E as the basis of controversy. According to the film, PG&E is at fault, an aspect that helps viewers to see different social problems based on its practices. For instance, functionalism perspective is evident: when PG&E discovers that Masry’s law firm is probing the use of hexavalent chromium, it then sends a representative to the law company to halt the investigation. The agent goes to the extent of buying Jensen’s family whose daughter is suffering from cancer and it is speculated to be associated with PG&E. The representative offers to give them $250,000, but he takes no responsibility for any medical expenses. The agent is not only heartless but also fails to take responsibility for damage his firm brought to the Hinkley families.
Another incidence of functional perspective is when PG&E worker threatens Erin and her children. She is threatened because PG&E knows that she has useful information that can prove that the company is actually causing damage to the Hinkley families. Apparently, this action represents corporate world in a negative way. In this regard, the movie portrays different social issues, such as environmental damage, deception, bribery, and inability to trust local firms as demonstrated by PG&E and its workers (Tener 57)
It becomes clear that PG&E workers were at the level of Kohlberg’s theory and were driven by selfishness. These workers did any job to make ends meet, such as cleaning PG&E tanks suffering continuous nose bleeding. Again, PG&E was not concerned about the community since it never thought of changing the use of hazardous chemicals. Nonetheless, Charles Embry is the only worker who was at the highest level based on the Kohlberg’s scale. Symbolic interaction is also evident when Charles Embry approached Erin at the end of the inquiry. He was important in this case since he had an important document that the company requested him to destroy. He understood that it was morally wrong to destroy evidence of hazardous chemicals. Charles Embry watched his cousin die after experiencing frequent nose bleeds due to cleaning cooling towers. It is clear that Charles Embry cared for others and went against his manager’s orders to do the right thing.
Again, conflict theory perspective is demonstrated in this movie through PG&E deception and its impacts on the Hinkley community. The company misinformed the Hinkley community and made them to believe that the source of water was safe for consumption. Throughout, the movie deception is represented. For example, the movie demonstrates how PG&E met with 200 individuals from Hinkley community to demonstrate the benefits of chromium 3 in its plant. Chromium 3 is not like hexavalent chromium or chromium 6, nevertheless, the deception is evident whereby the movie illustrates how the company is using chromium 6 and not chromium 3. Chromium 6, or hexavalent chromium, is considerably dangerous to human beings.
It is highly scarring strong oxidizing agents that hardly can be found naturally. Chromium for instance, leeches into the soil; however, it has an adverse effect when ingested by humans. The negative impact is witnessed in form of skin irritation, dermatitis, work-related asthma, nasal cancer and liver damage among other ailments (Tener 58). Apart from causing breast and colon cancer, the organization was deliberately misinforming its working-class neighbors, citing that the chemical leach was good for them. Erin realizes the worrying trend between cancer and other disastrous ailments in the locality spewed by the facility. The firm went ahead to procure the entire neighborhood in a bid to circumvent the anomaly. The deceitfulness continued to the extent that the community believed that children could play in the pool and as it was safe to consume water from the faucet. At the end of the movie, it was demonstrated that such actions were deceptive, since the company’s 1966 reports explained how it could be better for all by not discussing the reports. Sadly, this problem was not addressed in the movie because the company continued with its dishonesty practices to the very end. As such, it lost the lawsuit and it was resolved with about USD 333 million that was compensated to the Hinkley people. In any case, the PG&E could have addressed this problem by removing chromium 6 from its plant, which could help prevent all health issues from emerging. As such, the film portrays PG&E in a destructive way.
Moreover, the functionalist perspective is portrayed in the movie through bribery. The aspect of bribery was represented in a bad way. There are two incidences in the movie where PG&E attempted to bribe Hinkley community members to drop the lawsuit against the company. In the first instance, the company offers Jensen’s family USD 250,000 to drop the charges against PG&E. The movie depicts this inappropriate action, and Erin informed Jensen’s family not to take the offer. This is rather an insulting act that the PG&E should not have committed.
Another instance of bribery is where the company paid doctors, which is the underlying social issue. In essence, the companies bribed Hinkley members, and were booked with particular doctors who in turn informed them that their health issue was not associated with PG&E practice. This is a significant unethical practice since it compounds not only the adverse effects of bribery, but also deception, as well as dishonesty. While this issue is not addressed in the movie, the PG&E could have compensated Hinkley community, especially people with health issues to see a physician of their choice. Moreover, the company could have apologized to the community and encourage them to seek medical assistance immediately.
The conflict theory is also represented through environmental harm. The chromium 6 is very harmful, particularly to the water bodies. The company is depicted as an irresponsible entity that was not concerned about environmental sustainability. Sustainability involves meeting the needs of the present generation without necessarily compromising the capacity of future generation to fulfill their needs. Nonetheless, PG&E failed to enact policies that guarantee water safety; hence it compromised the future of Hinkley community by polluting water sources. In Erin Brockovich, the focus was on the PG&E that overlooked adding a liner to water source near its plant to prevent chromium 6 from leaching. This was considerably risky to the ecology as it compromised with sustainability.
Symbolic interactionism perspective is evident when Erin and her boss search through public records to gather enough evidence for confronting the corporation. Furthermore, functionalism theory is evident when Erin Brockovich helps the neighborhood to affirm their rights before the court of law against the organization (Tener 59). On the other hand, conflict theory is also applicable when colossal amounts of money is seen to flow into their campaign and individual accounts from main corporate respondents. Moreover, conservative legal theorists hold the view how these ordinary Americans should be vulnerable. Furthermore, the shattering of the federally financed attorney services was an aspect of exploitation that was earmarked to usher class-action lawsuits against PG&E on behalf of a poor neighborhood that could not afford to pay for their own attorney. Again, conflict theory stems out when consumer enforcements, workplace safety, and ecologic got weakened by the federal organizations. In reality, they were determined to strip away the safety statutes at the expense of the poor.
The retributive damage that resulted in the loss of millions owing to pollutants is a persuasive approach of encouraging better organization conduct. The relationship between the punitive damages and how it corrects the social aspect is a perfect example of the functionalist perspective. Conflict theory is depicted in the film, when the company mutilates all the evidence, fabricates to the local populations, attempts to procure the community for contrived reason, compensates the doctors to reassure the victims, and endeavors to settle out of court for negligible sum, notwithstanding threatening phone calls.
The functionalim aspect in the movie becomes apparent, especially with the complexity of tracing the affected population that has shifted into different places from where the pollution happened. This makes it even difficult to effect compensation. In the use of legal standing to reveal an ecological health aspect, and push compensation for victims, the movie adopts the functionalist perspective.
The community around Hinkley was exposed to a chemical threat, where Erin Brockovich was given the case. This resulted in a multi-billion legal battle. Upon investigations of the actual causes of death and sickness, traces determined just how the chemical seepage was behind it. This reinforces the conflict theory, where multi-billion corporations exploit poor communities. The movie records, in some way or another, the ongoing process of disenchantment with organizational culture and present-day society in entirety (Arroio 131). Regrettably, the way it navigates around that and the sort of lessons it intends to convey puts at risk the pertinent truths it has to tell. Conflicting impulses stem from the movie’s publicity campaign.
The preview for Erin Brockovich, in somewhat distasteful and trailblazer fashion, abuses lead actress Julia Roberts outward appearance. The gullible spectator would have no idea when it comes to, how the movie deals with the tragic consequences of industrial pollution on an entire neighborhood. In the end, Erin Brockovich brings into light social problems the community of Hinkley was facing due to PG&E bad practices. The film is also portrays health problems families was suffering as a result of the company’s unethical actions.

Work Cited
Arroio, Agnaldo. Context Based Learning: A Role for Cinema in Science Education. Science Education International 21.3 (2010): 131-143.
Tener, Sara. English 781 Prof. Buell. The Possibility of Environmental Justice in Soderbergh’s Erin Brockovich and Sinha’s Animal’s People. 22.5 (2013) 57-73

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