To Discriminate or Not to Discriminate>

         Musicals have become one of the most beloved forms of entertainment for many Americans within the century. One such musical is Alan Jay Lerner and Fredrick Loewe's 1956 My Fair Lady, a Broadway version of George Bernard Shaw's 1913 play, Pygmalion, which in turn is based on the Greek myth of Pygmalion. In My Fair Lady, which was filmed in 1964 by George Cukor, a common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn) is transformed into a beautiful well spoken duchess by a rather egotistical professor of linguistics, Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison). Yet the musical is not really about a person's speaking qualities but about discrimination towards others.

         For example, Professor Henry Higgins discriminates against everyone who is not exactly like him, those who are not rich, concerned with the spoken language, and male. He obviously likes Colonel Hugh Pickering (Wilfred Hyde-White) because he studies language, has a high ranking is society, and is male, while on the other hand, Higgins demeans and verbally bashes Eliza Doolittle who is poor, ill-educated, and a woman. Yet he also discriminates against others. Take, for example, Freddy Eynsford-Hill (Jeremy Brett). He is rich, male, and well educated, yet he does nothing with his life but follow his mother or Eliza around. This of course sets him up for ridicule in Higgins' opinion, so that Higgins continues to degrade him to Eliza.

         Then there is the opposite personality, Colonel Hugh Pickering. He treats all people the same, with respect and kindness. Never does he ever look down his nose at anyone throughout the play and movie musical version. In a sense, he is what mankind should strive to be, which is the reason that Eliza learns more from him about the world in general than she ever would from Professor Higgins.

Lynn Schentrup

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