During the tail end of the afternoon and early evening, forced inside from the fog and cold, I sat on my leather chair and watched Pretty Woman for the first time in about ten years. Michael was making gazpacho in the kitchen, and I sat there enjoying this modern Cinderella tale that has held up. Sure, everyone looks slightly robotic and big-haired in that 1990's way, and the portable phone that Richard Gere holds to his ear is the size of a brick.
But the elements remain: down-and-out girl with a heart of gold meets her prince, who saves her from her squalid life. In this version, though, Vivian saves Edward right back, making him slightly human in his dealings with the character played by Ralph Bellamy.
In any case, it's the feel good movie of the year. Julia Roberts is lovely, the movie charming. I remembered why I used to use it in my Cinderella unit. My freshman composition students read many versions of the tale from around the world, and we capped it off with this film. A wonderful time was had by all.
After gazpacho, I went into my office, clicked on Redroom for one last look, and found, to my surprise, two naked women on the member page. One was quite a substantial woman who was advertising her rear, and the other an average looking woman, who wanted to proclaim her bold penchant for walking around the house naked.
For a second, I wondered what it all meant. I often have this lack of savvy when confronted by pictures out of context. One time, one of my sons during his teenaged years left a pornographic shot on his computer, and I stared at it for a good long time before I could figure out who was doing what and to whom and with what body part.
As I stared at the two photos last night, I thought how strange that these two women thought this might be the place to sell their wares. Or maybe not. Maybe this is a good demographic. Then I thought about selling bodily wares, and thought back to Pretty Woman, a movie about a woman who does just that. Lucky for her, Richard Gere picks her up. But the movie very quickly glosses over that aspect of Vivian's life, as I so often have while watching it. All the bad stuff has happened off screen and before the movie starts. We don't see her degradation into this life. We don't see the other men who have hit her. She tells us she is familiar with being hit after the Jason Alexander character wallops her. We don't see the daily and nightly sex she has to have in order to survive.
No, we see her in her Pretty Woman moment, and because it's a Disney movie and because it's Julia Roberts, even when she's wearing her thigh high boots, she looks amazing. Her life changes fast enough so we don't have to dwell on the idea that at one point, she was like the women who posted those photos last night on Redroom. Desperate, sad, degraded.
In the written versions of Cinderella--those from Germany and from Native American lore--we learn exactly how degraded Cinderella is. In the Algonquin version, she's even scarred from her time sitting by the fire. She's lost her hair. Her skin is puckered. In Aschenputtel, her sisters are much worse than we see--again--in the Disney cartoon that made the tale familiar to most American children.
When she is redeemed and saved at the end, we appreciate it more because her suffering is clear as are her smarts.
Maybe the women who posted last night would say they don't need to be redeemed. Maybe they would tell me that they are using their bodies for their purposes. Maybe they would say this is a free market, baby, and I need to mind my own damn business.
But their photos reminded me that no matter how beautiful the lead character is, prostitution and exploitation are just exactly what the words mean, nothing shiny, nothing that should be serenaded by Roy Orbison.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org