The Fairest of Them All

     The legend of Pygmalion is the stuff of a typical male fantasy. As the story is told, a sculptor gets the chance to bring to life his "perfect woman" through favor of the gods. Although loosely based on this legend, Eliza Doolittle is not the epitome of any man's dream when she first appears on the screen in George Cukor's 1964 My Fair Lady, based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion. Yet, as the men in this film fall in love with Eliza (Audrey Hepburn), is it the creation she has become, or her own spirit shining through an illusion based on the values of the society in which she lives?

     I happen to think that this movie portrays Eliza as a force to be reckoned with rather than a figure that has been molded. What is it about Eliza that draws Freddy (Jeremy Brett) to her at the races? Is it her well-bred exterior? No, to the contrary, it is her outlandish story of her drunken father trying to cure her ailing aunt. The point is that Freddy falls in love with Eliza for herself and not the show that Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison) is producing around her.

     Henry Higgins does not fall in love with the woman he has created. Henry Higgins professes that he is a woman hater because of his disregard for the women of his times and society. It is through constant contact and battle with the headstrong Eliza that brings Higgins to love someone so unconventional. Therefore, the whole concept of the movie is not the transformation of Eliza but the changes she brings about in others. The twist in this film is that Eliza is unknowingly the one doing the molding rather than the "sculptor" of language, Henry Higgins.

     I compare this movie to one of my personal favorites, The Bride, with Jennifer Beales as the bride of Frankenstein. Her creator, Frankenstein (played by Sting), attempts to mold his perfect woman. However, Eva (the bride) retains her own human spirit and reflects Frankenstein's teachings of independence as she dares to love and feel for herself instead of falling into his arms. Eva finds love in her heart of a monster instead of in the warped mind of her creator.

     Both women in both films refuse to be molded into what men want them to be. These women instead bring to life the true natures of the men surrounding them, whether it be lover or dominator. The female spirit refuses to be suppressed.

David Martin

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