Matchup of the Day: The Toxic Avenger vs. Erin Brockovich
It’s a beauty and the beast taking on pollution double feature – The Toxic Avenger vs. Erin Brockovich.
Both films feature characters who are judged because of their appearance. In The Toxic Avenger, Melvin works as a janitor at a health club populated by beautiful physical specimens. Because he is dorky and awkward, they ridicule Melvin mercilessly. The title character in Erin Brockovich (played by Julia Roberts) has the opposite problem – she is a beautiful physical specimen (who won the Miss Wichita competition), but everyone assumes she’s not good for much else. It could be said that she is awkward in her dealings with others as well since she shoots from the hip and speaks rather bluntly.
Early in Avenger, four of Melvin’s worst tormentors decide to a play a trick on him. It has already been established that they are evil, as their favorite pastime is running people over for sport (al la Death Race 2000). When the prank leads to everyone in the club making fun of him, Melvin leaps out a window in a panic. He is unaware that a truck transporting toxic waste is parked below. Melvin lands in one of the barrels. This causes him to transform into a monster with the compulsion to destroy all evil-doers.
Erin Brockovich begins with Erin attempting to find work to support her children. No one is interested in hiring her despite her eagerness and positive attitude. The situation worsens when her car is hit by another vehicle that is speeding through an intersection. Erin contacts a small, independent law firm to handle her case. She ends up losing when the defense lawyer casts aspersions on her character (and she swears openly in court). The head of the firm ends up feeling bad for her and gives Erin a job at his office. Before long she discovers a corporate plot to cover up pollution that has been going on for decades. Erin makes it her crusade to seek justice for the people affected.
Melvin proceeds to pulverize criminals throughout the city of Tromaville, which has the distinction of being the “Toxic Waste Capital of America”. After beating up a group of thugs engaged in underage prostitution he declares “And you can tell all your scum friends that things are gonna change in this town. I’m not just another pretty face!”. People fear Melvin’s monstrous appearance initially, but he soon becomes famous for his heroics. He even finds himself a nice blind woman who loves him for his personality.
The real Erin Brockovich, who the film is based on, has been referred to as the “real-life toxic avenger”. The character uses her good looks and straight-forward, folksy personality to her advantage. The lawyers in the film have difficulty relating to the families who suffer myriad illnesses from exposure to the contaminated water supply in their community. Erin understands the victims and convinces them to band together against the corporate villains. While at first the other employees at the law office judge her appearance and personality as a liability, she proves them wrong.
The chief bad guy in Avenger is Tromaville’s mayor, who not only allows toxic waste dumping but also engages in other illicit activities. He attempts to portray Melvin as a threat to the community, but the citizens know that the monster is a force for positive change. They rally around Melvin and he disembowels the mayor. Erin, through hard work and dedication, helps to bring about a $333 million dollar settlement for the pollution victims. And also receives a $2 million dollar bonus for her efforts.