A Cinderella Story

     Almost every girl in the world wishes and hopes that one day she will be swept off of her feet and carried away but "Mr. Right," a.k.a. Prince Charming. Almost from birth, we are told the story about Cinderella, about the way her wicked mother and stepsisters treated her, and about the way her Prince Charming came for her in the end and carried her away on his white horse for a "Happily Ever After" life.

     The first time I read George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion, I thought about the Cinderella story. When I was done, I could not help but compare the story line to the ones in both Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 musical play, My Fair Lady, filmed in 1964 by George Cukor, and Pretty Woman, directed in 1990 by Gary Marshall.

     However, I found the strongest similarities to be between My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman. Both Eliza (Audrey Hepburn) and Vivian (Julia Roberts) are women that are struggling to survive on their own, on the streets. They have virtually no support system, and live on a day-to-day basis. They go from rags to riches in an instant, and fall in love with the men that rescue them. Both women are bribed, one by chocolate, and one by money. Both are given new, expensive clothes. On a lighter note, both women are also seen screaming in bathtubs, though for radically different reasons.

     Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) and Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) are also similar characters. Both are wealthy, and serve as "rescuers" to Eliza and Vivian. Both are self-confirmed bachelors who can be grumpy and demanding about getting their way above all else. They also introduce both women to a way of life that they had previously only dreamed about. Both also tend to treat both Eliza and Vivian as though they are simply beneath them and not of any real worth, while at the same time showering them with gifts. The hotel owner in Pretty Woman plays the Colonel Pickering character (depicted by Wilfred Hyde-White in My Fair Lady) to Vivian, in that he truly treats her like a lady and helps her along without criticizing and chastising her. It is from these men that both women learn how to behave as "ladies."

     Another interesting aspect of both stories is that both Eliza and Vivian leave their respective men. Although they love them, they feel that they must leave because, if they stay, their self-worth will never be realized by the men. They will always be looked down upon unless they make a stand and prove that, while miserable, they can survive on their own...and without their men.

     In conclusion, Pygmalion, My Fair Lady, and Pretty Woman all have striking similarities. It is easy to see that there is an underlying "Cinderella" theme to the stories, and that the characters lead very similar lives.


Sarah Fuchs

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