The real Erin Brockovich speaks to us about life after the movie and feminism
For a couple of years after the film Erin Brockovich released, the environmental activist used to identify herself to people she met as, “Hi, I am Erin Brockovich. Not Julia Roberts.” “It was a strange experience,” says Brockovich in a telephone conversation with us. “People who didn’t recognise me would recognise my name. I would tell them that Julia Roberts only played me and that I was the real Erin Brockovich, and they would go, ‘no, there is no real Erin Brockovich…’,” she says with a laugh. But all that attention would have no doubt, been overwhelming. “For me, it was never about me, but about the people involved in the cause. My work, my message, and my beliefs, however, continue to be exactly what it used to be back then,” she insists.
In the film, Brockovich is a fiery single mother who will go to any extent to make herself heard. We wonder if that is how she really is? “I am passionate. I am respectful. I usually will have to hear what the other person has to say before I talk. But if I am talking on behalf of a community of people, I will make sure that I put my hand up and say, ‘let me talk’. When I started at Hinkley, I was 31. I was young, I had children and these people were getting sick. And over that, they were being lied to. That really touched my heart, and I wanted their voices to be heard. So, yes, I was fiery and I did not want to be sidelined. Today, I am 57. The same things are happening. And yes, I will continue to speak up,” she says.
This brings us to the topic of feminist movements like #metoo and #timesup, both of which are causes that Brockovich supports. “In the early ’90s, I felt very alone, especially since I was in the activist role, and speaking up for people. With movements like these, I realise that we have not come as far as we think we have. I think we should understand that in a new world, things that used to work are not working anymore. We need to rise above for true equality. We have a voice, so we shouldn’t be afraid to use it. Collectively, we can set the ball rolling and find solutions that work in today’s world,” she elaborates.
Providing a world where there is access to clean water, will always be on her list of things that she remains devoted to, but Brockovich is a part of other philanthropic causes as well. One that she feels passionately about is working with children who are victims of drug abuse. “With kids, it is all about giving them a safe and healthy environment to live in. We aren’t doing enough, and I wish we could do more,” she rues, adding, “The Hinkley case was a microcosm, I did not realise then that these problems were global. Every case is important to me and I am aware that it is going to talk all of us to fix this problem.”
Currently, Brockovich is busy writing her fourth book, The Truth about Water, which she hopes will come out by next spring. That apart, she is busy with a project called Community Health Book, a platform where people can self-report problems in their community.
Erin Brockovich will air on March 31 at noon on AXN.