Pretty Woman: The Line Between Misogyny And Chivalry

"I Want The Fairy Tale."

· 5 min read
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Pretty Woman is a fantastic movie of the 90s known to mark a date for an audience who want to watch women lead, however, even then the film was not as feministic as we thought it was.

Julia Roberts is known to be an ardent feminist, all her movies are amazing and usually revolve around striving ladies reaching the top but this movie, in particular, stands out in the light of the knowledge we have today.

The 90s was a time when America witnessed its second-strongest wave of feminism. It should be pointed out that this is not what feminism looks like.

The concept of the movie talks about how Vivian Ward, a sex worker falls for the man, Edward Lewis, and he falls for her as well, but the in-betweens are a little not so feministic.

Vivian Ward is treated like a second-class citizen all the way even by the store employees but as soon as she dresses up she is treated like a queen.

The concept of dressing up in a certain way makes a women's life easier or difficult, a certain haircut defines her family background and the size of the diamond on her hand describes her importance in her husband's life.

Time and again women are told to dress, maintain a haircut, remain hairless top to bottom, and get a good-paying husband rather than wearing things that a lady would like on herself, giving herself a good haircut once in a while and finding a fine husband who loves her enormously and most importantly who she could love, all of this well portrayed in the movie.

Still, the problem is that rather than showing the other side of the mask the movie makers remained with the notion of wifing up a lady who "looks like one".

Getting the support character to start the plot

a man in a suit sitting on a chair

We all know this movie could not have been what it is today without Julia Roberts as Vivian. This was her movie from start to finish.

Richard Gere as Edward Lewis was given a support role in the form of a secondary protagonist to the plot.

That being said, the film does not show any sign of Vivian's character getting any sort of growth without Edward's inclusion into her life.

Romance stories often make it so that the two would be destined to meet somewhere in their lives even if it was not in their early phases of life.

However, Vivian shows no progress toward any growth without the help of Edward feels like a cheap shot at how women were seen as people who needed help in reaching their goals and would not be able to reach them themselves if given the chance.

It is not Edward's fault for waltzing on into Vivian's life, it is mostly the writing that has made it so that the man can make the plot run while the woman just follows through with it, whether she is the protagonist or not.

The darker version is being shelved for a more polished plot

a couple characters standing side by side

In 2017, Richard Gere revealed that the film had a much darker tone set for the world before being molded into the classic it is today.

It was originally titled 3000 in reference to the amount that Edward would pay Vivian to spend the weekend with him.

Fortunately, the majority agreed that perhaps the title could be a little less demeaning.

Even the plot was not something everyone would have been able to stomach.

The film would have originally aimed at showcasing the dark side of a prostitute's life and have Julia Roberts's character be addicted to cocaine for a good duration of the film.

“It was a dark movie, but I think Jeff Katzenberg saw something in it and didn’t want to make that movie, but he saw this other movie in it.”

After thinking about how they wanted to spin this dark and grounded plot which would have made the audience face the reality of the lives the ladies on the streets had to face into something more fairytale-like, they ended up with what we know as Pretty Woman.

“You think a movie like that is fun and breezy, someone writes a script you make the movie. We were continually rewriting and adding stuff and rethinking. We were all working hard to make it feel as breezy as it was, but still, have some kind of mysterious undertow to it that would give it weight and longevity.”

An argument can easily be created that the world was not and may still not be ready to face the grim reality some ladies still have to face in today's society to get to that 3000 checkpoint in their lives.  

The classic misogynist formula

 a man presenting a necklace to a women

Let's not forget about how the movie would have definitely left Vivian's character slowly drowning in depression and poverty if Edward did not come to the rescue and ended the film on a positive and romantic note.

Quite convenient for the man, but extremely inconvenient for the woman.

Of course, this formula did not originate from this movie and did not get solved until Frozen gave the women an ending everyone has been waiting for by making the hero of the story a woman with a familial bond rather than a man with a romantic interest.

Edward's life has been shown to be quite full of wealth and glamor while Vivian's is shown to be the exact opposite, however, if the same movie were to be made in today's time, the roles should be reversed and let's observe the world burn together as they riot for having the female lead be the protagonist she has always meant to be rather than building her up to a point where she becomes relevant to the plot.

What the movie got right

a couple smiling at a photo

With all of its criticisms given so far, obviously, Pretty Woman is far from being a movie that is unwatchable.

The few things that it did nail on the head with the dynamic of the relationship between the two characters are their attitudes, expectations, and chemistry.

The film definitely holds a lot of romantic themes and delivers on the reality of polar opposites attempting to exist in each other's lives.

It gave a heart-melting climax with the fire escape scene as the music swells to reveal the credits and it was definitely an interesting take on the Cinderella concept within the time the movie was made.

One can only hope that films continue to shape and twist the classic concepts into modern times in their own intricate ways in which one would never expect and have it hold such deep and provoking thoughts while addressing the issues we face in the real world in the form of a fairytale-like scenario.

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