Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How Pretty Woman Does Not Hate Women

Okay, so Cracked.com did this list of seven chick flicks that actually hate on women. I've seen only four out of the seven movies on the list (I'll let you ponder over what the other three are, as one will soon become readily apparent), and I tell ya - I have to agree with their analysis. Except when it comes to Pretty Woman. Because their reason for it being a woman-hating film is this:
By tying 100 percent of a woman's self-worth to her clothes.
To which I ask, has the author actually ever seen Pretty Woman? Because it seems like that would be a 'no'. Especially when it continues on by saying:
During a 45 minute makeover scene Vivian walks into a Rodeo Drive boutique all pouty-mouthed and gangly--a big-lipped, shamefaced fallen woman who knows she doesn't belong in the same room as regular folk. Give her some expensive clothes, some flattery and overt groveling from the service caste, and she walks out of there like the honest-to-God Queen of Sheba. Her posture is straightened, her gait is elegant...
45 minutes?! The movie is only 119 minutes long! If there were truly a 45 minute make over scene, there would only be 74 more minutes left of the film for Richard Gere and Julia Roberts to fall in love! The whole opera scene would have to be cut! As would the polo scene!

Here's the other thing: yes, Vivian receives a make over. Yes, she walks out of there happy and secure in her new wardrobe. You know what she does with her new wardrobe? Walks right into the shop that had originally turned her into "a big-lipped, shamefaced fallen woman" (which, no), reminds them of who she was and how they refused to wait on her the previous day, and then tells them, "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge." In other words, the clothes do not make the woman, and the woman who's money was not good enough for them one day is going to remember her treatment and act accordingly. The salespeople of that store got pretty well shafted (and shamed) for their treatment of Vivian.

So. We learn Vivian had self-worth before, retains self-worth during, and then employs that self-worth while in her new outfit to defend the person she was in her old outfit. It's just that she's human, and can be hurt by people's callous responses to her based on her outward appearance. Hey! That sounds like a pretty decent message about not judging a book by its character.

Seriously, Cracked. Fail.

4 comments:

wiesengrund said...

Really? You complain about the "45 minutes" exaggeration as being unrealistic? On Cracked.com? ;)

As for the post-makeover scene: It always did strike me as pretty much defining Vivian's new-found power-position and revangability by her new outward appearance and the clothes. The film clearly isn't spelling out that Vivian's mindset was changed due to the makeover, but it is implicating that a woman's worth (if not her self-worth, but those two might be intertwined) can be upped by a makeover. So, even if it's not talking about self-worth, it is talking about worth.

DaisyDeadhead said...

That scene has been quoted to me about a hundred times by working class women/girls of my acquaintance who have been ignored in similar circumstances: "It was just like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman!"
Interesting that not a single one of these women was a sex worker, they just had the words "working class" (or worse, "poor") scribbled on their foreheads... as I do too. And similarly, they needed something for a special occasion and needed some help. And were judged not good enough.

As I also work in retail, I took that scene as a lifelong lesson, never to ignore a single person or assume you know how much they are going to spend. And it is true, you can't tell as much as you think you can. (It WAS a valuable lesson for me!)

That scene spoke to so many women from so many backgrounds, I think it's telling that this writer DOES NOT GET IT... maybe she comes from the class of people doing the snubbing? Hmph.

Wiesengrund: The film clearly isn't spelling out that Vivian's mindset was changed due to the makeover, but it is implicating that a woman's worth (if not her self-worth, but those two might be intertwined) can be upped by a makeover.

See, I didn't see it as the makeover; the makeover was a means to an end. I saw it as Vivian being able to do her job to the best of her ability, and she felt proud she was able to pull it off. It is the same way I feel about blogging when I have no college degree and have PhDs commenting on my blog... I am proud I am able to do that. Vivian felt proud she was able to deliver what was asked.

But we are NOT allowed to talk about sex workers who are proud of their work, so never mind.

Anyway, enjoyed your post, as you can see. :)

petpluto said...

Really? You complain about the "45 minutes" exaggeration as being unrealistic? On Cracked.com?

I know! I know! I just couldn't help but expect that if your whole reasoning for woman-hatred is "clothing makes the woman", that you try to make your supporting arguments just a teeny bit realistic! Crazy, innit?

The film clearly isn't spelling out that Vivian's mindset was changed due to the makeover, but it is implicating that a woman's worth (if not her self-worth, but those two might be intertwined) can be upped by a makeover. So, even if it's not talking about self-worth, it is talking about worth.

See, I always saw the movie as recognizing the problematic nature of the make-over=worth. Because who does she need to be worthy of? The people in Edward's group who are, on the whole, kind of skeezy people. Sure, there's David, who might not have taken notice of Vivian without the killer outfits, but there's also Stuckey. And the movie makes it clear through Vivian's "It's easy when you've got money (paraphrased, possibly) in response to Kit's "You clean up good". Right there, I see the class implications addressed. Because Vivian and Kit could be seen as more, if they had money. It's the fact that they don't and have to do what they have to do (in this case, sex work), that makes them "worthy" of being looked down on. And I think we're supposed to see that as wrong. That Vivian and Kit are just as good as those of Edward's class, but since they are poor they are seen as "less".

Anyway, enjoyed your post, as you can see. :)

I'm glad!

John said...

I'm willing to give cracked.com the benefit of the doubt and assume that the "45 minute makeover" was one of a few possible typos: either they meant "4-5 minute makeover", or that the makeover scene takes place 45 minutes into the movie, or that the makeover took 45 minutes in the movie universe (summed up by the filmmakers into only a few.)

The rest of your assessment sounds spot-on, though. It seems like the point of the scene was that other people judged her differently when she wasn't fabulously put-together, but that she was the same person all along. Sounds about right for Rodeo Drive, I'd think.