The He-Man Woman Haters Club

     My Fair Lady, directed by George Cukor in 1964, contains its cast of characters men whose opinions of women are so low, it would make Spanky and Buckwheat proud. Henry Higgins (Rex Harrison), never ceases in his tirade of woman-bashing. Alfred Doolittle (Stanley Holloway) is one of the most classical chauvinists to ever grace a movie screen. What has fostered this distrust of women in these two men first seen in George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion?

     I believe in both cases that these men suffer form their own delusions about women because they are too insensitive to truly look into the soul of the woman closest to them, Eliza Doolittle (Audrey Hepburn). These men consider it their duty as men to treat women as inferiors. This is demonstrated in Alfred's sale of his daughter for personal gain and Higgins constant badgering of Eliza.

     Was this type of character fostered by the times in which the play was written? In the movie there are suggestions of rising feminism. This can be seen as a parade of women promoting the Women's Suffrage Movement pass through the streets while Alfred is singing "A Little Bit Of Luck." Alfred mocks these ladies as they pass through, and one whaps him with her sign. I believe the growing strength of women in our society promoted these roles as a type of hidden irony.

     Let us look at a more modern film and consider the differences of a man whose outlook on women is totally different. In the film Scent of a Woman, Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino) raves about the wonder that is woman. Frank thinks that women are closer to heaven than most men realize. He may be jaded about all else in life during the film, but his one comfort is the thought of being with a woman. This is in fact one of the last things he wants to do before attempting to end his life. Women are his quest that he seeks to fulfill to erase the evils of the world--quite a different outlook for a distinctly different time.

     These movies were released almost thirty years apart from one another. The role of men and their attitudes towards women have shifted immeasurably in these two films. I feel it is a statement on our society as a whole that women can go from being the basis of a joke, to being the basis of an unending quest for perfection.

David Martin

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