Dana, on your recommendation, I saw the scream-filled, sharply funny Drag Me to Hell this weekend, and I didn’t think the protagonist was punished for being a striving woman. I thought she was punished for trying to raise up from her humble farm girl origins. (Spoilers ahead!)
As you said earlier, the heroine is Christine Brown (Alison Lohman), a lithe blonde with an exceptionally innocent face. She is a former fat farm girl with an alcoholic mother and a dead father, who is trying as hard as she can to distance herself from her upbringing by getting promoted at the bank and dating a wealthy, upper-class boyfriend, Clay (Justin Long). She is cursed by Mrs. Ganush, an ancient, decrepit gypsy who becomes infuriated when Christine will not extend the bank loan on her home.
While one could read the movie as punishing Christine “for choosing to prioritize her job over human relationships (i.e., for not being ‘nice’ to the old woman),” as you astutely noticed, Dana, another reading could be that Christine is damned to hell because she doesn’t know her socio-economic place in the world. She barely speaks to her mother; she used to be fat and is clearly upset by her former physical imperfections; she wants to be more educated and is very ambitious. For these transgressions, her soul is eventually eaten by demons. Mrs. Ganush is a poverty stricken crone with a creepy yellow jalopy. When she tries to save her house from foreclosure, and resorts to begging, she is rebuffed by Christine, and dies shortly after cursing the heroine to hell.
The one wealthy character, Christine’s boyfriend Clay, is unscathed by the curse (well, except for his girlfriend getting damned to hell and all). In fact, it’s his money that even gives Christine a chance to beat the devil-he gives her $10,000 to pay a medium who has the potential to banish the demon forever. At the end of the movie, he and Christine are en route to his family’s cabin in Santa Barbara, when she realizes she made a fatal mistake and demons suck her down to Hades. The last image of the film is Clay standing on the platform of the train station, with tears in his eyes. But, the Santa Barbara cabin is still intact, as is his soul.