Pretty Woman vs. Pygmalion

Topics: Social class, George Bernard Shaw, Sociology Pages: 3 (1013 words) Published: August 24, 2012
In the history of literary texts, many original tales have often been appropriated decades later with a different message or purpose in the mind of the creator. The ideas, values and plotline are redefined in a new context to appeal to a different audience. Like all texts, both Pygmalion, written by George Bernard Shaw and Pretty Woman, directed by Gary Marshall, reflect values, beliefs and attitudes of the time, nearly 80 years apart.

The use of different forms highlights the different intended audiences. On one hand, Pygmalion was a play intended for the upper echelons on society. Pretty woman was created with the intention to blockbuster so it was consequently made into a film intended for the middle class. In both texts we see that perceived social class is judged wholly on appearance, including dress and behavior. However a key difference between the two contexts is the varying degrees of importance placed on speech accents and money. These values act as restrictive barriers that limit social mobility. The first sentence of dialogue in the film is “It’s all about the money,” which perfectly surmises the core value of society in an era of Reagonomics and the development of free market system. Eliza’s speech was described by Prof. Higgins as “the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days”.

Due to the initial unkempt appearance of Vivienne, she receives degrading looks from passer-bys and is even refused service in a shop on rodeo drive. Towards to climax Vivienne reveals to Kit “It’s easy to clean up when you got money” referring to the amounts of clothes purchased. This highlights the stereotypes posed against Vivienne’s social class created by her profession and its dress and behavior. Similarly in Pygmalion, Eliza’s uncouth language and cockney accent prevents her from working in a flower shop. “But they won’t take me unless I can talk more genteel.” Thus due to the stereotypes posed, the main characters are frowned upon by...
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