The other night my partner and I ended up watching the film Pretty Woman, which I hadn’t seen for many years. It’s a kind of modern fairy tale (knowingly?) in which the attractive prostitute, Vivien, played by Julia Roberts, is bought by the sophisticated millionaire tycoon (Richard Gere) and in this short space of time, said couple fall in love. When the millionaire offers to provide Vivien with an apartment, money, etc. and set her up as his lover, she turns him down, insisting that she wants the “fairy-tale ending” (full relationship? marriage?) which, of course, he ultimately provides.
It’s an entertaining story, and despite the main character being a hooker, there is little sex, the emphasis being on romantic comedy. I enjoyed seeing it, but the message still makes me uncomfortable. Deep down, do all women really want the “fairytale ending” (i.e. to be taken care of by a man). And not just any man. He has to be good looking and, more importantly, very rich. (a la Fifty Shades of Grey). If this is a universally shared female dream, is it wrong? It doesn’t appeal to me, so am I in the minority? It lies at the root of so many hugely successful stories so it must be a powerful fantasy.
Years ago, in another life, I was working with a group of grammar school girls as part of a careers day, discussing the life of a writer. I asked the girls to tell me what their career ambitions were and more than one replied, perfectly sincerely, “To marry a rich footballer and be famous and never have to work.” This made me feel rather sad. I suggested that a contingency plan might be in order, in case such an ambition did not come to fruition.
Fantasy and reality.