• Building Cars and Destroying Men: Working Class Representation as Christian Allegory in "Blue Collar" (1978)

    Sérgio Dias Branco (see profile)
    Cultural Studies, Film Studies, Religious Studies
    Item Type:
    Conference paper
    Conf. Title:
    Class Cultures: Working-Class Studies Association 2023 Symposium
    Conf. Org.:
    Working-Class Studies Association and the History Department and United Faculty Union of the University of Illinois in Chicago
    Conf. Loc.:
    Chicago, IL and online
    Conf. Date:
    16 Jun. 2023
    Permanent URL:
    "The company builds cars and destroys men" was the promotional tagline of one of the posters for "Blue Collar" (1978). Shot in Detroit and Kalamazoo, Michigan, the film stars Richard Pryor, Harvey Keitel, and Yaphet Kotto playing three Detroit auto workers in financial despair who break into and rob the offices of their own union. "Blue Collar" critically examines union practices in the automotive industry and the daily life of the working class in the Rust Belt. It marked the directorial debut of Paul Schrader after he had written screenplays for Sydney Pollack, Brian De Palma, John Flynn, and most notably Martin Scorsese in "Taxi Driver" (1976). The collaboration with Scorsese continued in other films with religious references and themes such as "Raging Bull" (1980). The spiritual cinema that Schrader studied in his book "Transcendental Style in Film: Ozu, Bresson, Dreyer," originally published in 1972 and reissued in a new edition in 2018, has often been the analytical focus of his film work. Yet, despite its acclamation, "Blue Collar", co-written with his brother Leonard Schrader, has been seen as an outlier, a social-realist drama supposedly more difficult to articulate with the Christian perspective present in the director and screenwriter’s other output. This paper argues that the film’s political narrative fleshes out the Catholic iconography seen in the Polish-American family home of Jerry Bartowski (Keitel) and can be read as a Christian allegory about class disparities (Jas. 5:1-4) and division (Matt. 12:25).
    Last Updated:
    9 months ago


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