Pretty Woman is a rags to riches romantic-comedy directed by Gary Marshall in
1990. It is a dark warning tale about class and sex work in Los Angeles. The
story centers on “down-on-her-luck” Hollywood prostitute Vivian Ward who is
portrayed by Julia Roberts, who is hired by Edward Lewis, portrayed by Richard
Gere, a wealthy businessman who wants Vivian to be his escort for various
social upper class events and businesses and their emerging relationship during
her stay with him.
The characters in the film goes as follows:
Edward Lewis, a rich corporate businessman and
womanizer from New York. He is shown to be assertive, prideful and egoistic
man. Portrayed by Richard Gere.
Vivian Ward, a “pretty woman” who is a “lady
of the evening” with a heart of gold but also independent and assertive.
“What’s your name”
“What do you want it to be”
discovers the striking dissimilarity between the social classes and the severe
struggle in bridging those gaps. The movie discusses till what extent does the
depiction of sex and sexuality are acceptable in social hierarchy. Vivian’s
empowerment is seen when she first steps in the car with Edward when he does
not have the enough knowledge about cars whereas Vivian does. Driving is
stereotypically seen as an masculine activity, hence this scene portrays an
amazing reversal of gender roles. It is also seen how Edward is taken a back by
Vivian’s confidence and independence, not traits stereotypically associated
with prostitutes. “Pretty Woman”
the tolerance of modern society to display of sexuality, drawing parallels
between sex and power. Throughout the film, parallels are shown between Edward
and Vivian’s work despite the fact that they are polar opposite social classes.
“Tell me why are we here again” (at a charity polo
the movie, it is clearly shown how Vivian is trying to immerse in Edward’s life
and culture. How she is being given a change in wardrobe, money and exposure to
anti-materialism, so that she can pass as an upper class woman. The movie is
not just about sex workers but is one of the most misogynist and patriarchal
films. There is a question whether “Pretty Woman” should be considered as a
feminist classic or not because of the display of the heroin in the movie.
“If you are afraid of
heights, why would you rent a penthouse”
“Because it is the best.”
considered as a movie to glamorize prostitution. Vivian’s individuality is
portrayed as she proves the stereotypes wrong. She does not do drugs but her
background story involves bad drama but no explicit trauma. Her intelligence
surprises people around her. When Vivian’s work is compared to Edward’s,
“Pretty Woman” tries to reinforce a message again and again that the assault of
sex-workers is an inexcusable act that reflects the doings of the doer. And for
that alone, it should be considered as a feminist classic.
“So how is it that you
know very less about cars”
“My first car was a limousine”
also a materialistic movie where the value of sex and companionship is
negotiable. The movie highlights performance of personal wealth where Edward
buys a penthouse that he cannot enjoy because he is afraid of heights.
shown as a patriarchal movie. What can possibly be more “patriarchal” than the
fact that it is mentioned in the movie about white knight riding up to rescue his princess, claiming her
love as his inevitable reward. The movie ends with the way how Vivian wanted
her man to end up as a knight metaphorically. “I like you the way you are, so
what do I care how you got that way?”, the quote clearly shows us the motional
complexity and romantic viability of a woman. A romantic “happy ending” only serves patriarchal goals if it
is a reward, conditional on female compliance and chastity. If it was just a
normal movie without the same message it would not be considered the same.
“I took the liberty of
ordering everything on the menu because I did not know what you like”
debate whether it should be considered as a feminist classic does cut the heart
of feminism itself because is it just a liberation movement that prioritizes
the freedom and agency of women above all or is an allocation to gender roles