The Role Of Gender In Pretty Woman

The role of gender and/ or ethnicity in modern day media, is very important. In a new aged society where everything revolves around the correctness of defining gender and racist views, leaves someone left accountable for being incorrect leading to extreme consequences, however if we look v

Back at some old films how one can be sexualised especially women has changed enormously over the years.

In the opening scenes of Pretty woman , we see the main male protagonist Richard Gere to be shown in full length to be surrounded by others however is always respected when with them, whereas on the other hand the first shot of Vivian ( played by Julia Roberts) frame parts of her body especially her lower body, focusing on her slender legs in the high knee black plastic zipper boots. Classically the camera presents masculinity for audience identification to be complete, meanwhile offering the female body something to be used for pleasure, something to be objectified not merely through the gaze but also through the direct representation of fragmentation. Hilary Radner points out, ‘the film offers various pleasures to female viewers by narrativizing Vivian’s progress from a ‘voyeuristic object’ to ‘fetishistic object’’ (Radner, 1993) Pretty Woman therefore investigates that process as to how women may become the fetish, to control the gaze of males, rather than being the one who is controlled, to earn money and whittle out for herself some small area for private pleasure.

Pretty woman is a film that can be seen to juxtapose the two gender narratives, one being the primary story of the ‘pretty woman’, Vivian who begins the film as a low-level Los Angeles prostitute and obtains both financial independence and a long-term relationship with a man of her dreams. However Pretty Woman also delivers a masculine narrative which parallels the female one. If we focus on Edward, who is played by the infamous Richard Gere, the film irons out masculine anxieties that revolve around economics. We can look at Richards character as an asset stripper, a morally and economically wealthy man. Someway through the film Vivian remarks, ‘we both screw people for money.’ During the course of his relationship Vivian, Edward reinvents himself as a male after meeting Vivian he decides to reinvest in the company instead of breaking the company for profit. We see that Edwards intentions and level of ‘goodness’ changes depending on Vivian femininity. Thus the narrative of masculine redemption is based on the identification of femininity with a relatively moral attitude to money, Vivian’s approach to wealth and morality makes Edward becomes accustomed to change his approach to them.

During the scene when Vivian is shopping down Rodeo Drive, the camera again positions viewers to enjoy her body albeit clothed, even though the pleasure this time round is the joy through consumption. Possibly more telling us that women enjoy the consumption on rodeo drive moreover a man, showing us how poignant the message of the film is that they are focussed on gender. While Pretty Woman clearly marks itself as a film on gender, it remains to an extent homogenous in its whiteness. Non-whites are very absent throughout the entirety of the film. However early on in the film we are shown a scene of Vivian having a conversation with her Italian American roommate Kit, where they are discussing the death of a fellow prostitute ‘Skinny Marie’. The ethnicity of Skinny Marie is never mentioned, nevertheless she is positioned to be a non-white, however in relation to her gender, her body is a warning of Vivian’s vulnerability although at the same time Vivian’s whiteness is what protects her. The growth of Julia Roberts character throughout the film emphasises that no non-white actress of comparable age could emulate. Especially if we look at real life cases of prostitutes in Los Angeles is most likely black or Latina, which therefore Vivian’s whiteness creates an invisible protective aura for herself. The film manages to supress the racial distinction, partly because they need the idyllic romance to work between Vivian and Edward, which has to be seen as if it’s happened due to her personal qualities. Otherwise after all the inner nobleness which dictates such ideal bourgeois’ responses as weeping at the profound opera is accountable to be read as being determined by her ethnicity.

Therefore Marie’s ‘blackness’ is thus implied but not acknowledged in the film, in order to secure the universality of white representation of gender and to articulate the story of the ‘pretty (white) woman’ and the ‘wealthy (white) man’.

07 July 2022
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