What Pretty Woman Says About Money


“Vivian, I have a business
proposition for you.” “Sales? That’s terrific, that’s
good. What does she sell?” Vivian Ward and Edward Lewis are drawn
to each other because they’re the same. “You and I are such
similar creatures, Vivian. We both screw people for money.” While Edward
the corporate raider is at the top of the capitalist
food chain, and Vivian the sex worker is at the bottom,
both are consummate professionals who don’t get emotionally
involved in business. “But I don’t kiss
on the mouth.” “Neither do I.” Actually though, what this
movie comes to reveal is that everyone in this
society is a prostitute. “Edward’s our most eligible bachelor.
Everybody is trying to land him.” “Yeah, like those sales girls
in Beverly Hills aren’t bigger whores than she is.” “[Laughing] Haha I know.” And despite her profession,
Vivian is the one person Edward meets whose
deeper self isn’t for sale. So back in 1990, what was
Pretty Woman really saying about wealth, and whether you
should live your life for love or for money? Before we go on, we want to
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below, to sign up NOW. The very first line we hear
in Pretty Woman is: “No matter what they say,
it’s all about money.” And we open on visuals
of coins changing hands. We’re watching a magic trick– which plants the idea that
money itself is an illusion, based on what you can
get people to believe. We’ll later see that Edward’s
business is a similar kind of illusion. “Well I don’t sell
the whole company. I break it up into pieces
and then I sell that off. It’s worth more
than the whole.” This fancy party we’re
witnessing is lubricated by money, and lacking
in personal feeling. “Great party, Philip.” “Well, my wife went through a lot
of trouble. She called the caterer.” Once the camera finds Edward, he’s
on the phone, treating his girlfriend like an employee receiving
a poor performance review. “Maybe I should just move out.”
“If that’s what you want, yes.” “Alright, when you get back
to New York, we’ll discuss it.” “Now is a good a time as any.” Edward flees the stuffy party in his
lawyer Philip Stucky’s hot new car, and then we get more
scenes of exchange, this time on Vivian’s turf–
Hollywood Boulevard. “Hey baby you looking for a date?” Through these parallel introductions,
the movie is setting up that, fundamentally, Edward’s and Vivan’s
societies both boil down to the same core drive: commerce. This is a money-obsessed
world in which everyone is defined by where they fit
on the financial totem pole, and all relationships
are transactional. Within this context, when
Vivian and Edward meet, they almost immediately
see themselves in each other. Both are pros who face this
reality with their eyes wide open. “I never joke about money.”
“Neither do I.” They always remember
that business is business. “I will not let myself become
emotionally involved in business.” “That’s why no kissing.
It’s too personal. It’s like what you’re saying, you
stay numb you don’t get involved” These two also enjoy
the art of business and respect each other’s
professionalism. “You could get a million girls free.”
“I want a professional.” In their first meeting,
she impresses him with her talent for making a sale
to someone who’s clearly not interested in hiring her. “You can’t charge
me for directions.” “I can do anything I want
to, baby. I ain’t lost.” As they get to know
each other better, they continue to flirt through
the language of negotiation. “I would’ve stayed for 2,000.”
“I would have paid four.” By underlining the ways that
Edward and Vivian are the same, the movie is telling us,
it’s the rich corporate raider who’s the real prostitute. “So, it’s sort of like um stealing cars
and selling them for the parts, right?” The most used definition
of “prostitute” is of course a person who has sex for money. But a second definition
of the word is someone who puts their talents toward
a base or unworthy end, for money. Edward is the one in this story
who’s using his skills and capital to hurt people and to actively prevent
companies from doing positive things for society like employing people
in the practice of making things. “We don’t build anything, Phil.
We don’t make anything.” “We make money, Edward.” Vivian has sold out a lot less
and retained more of herself than the rich people
in Edward’s circle. “These people your friends?”
“I spend time with them, yeah. “ “Well no wonder.” These sharks worship money and they
appear to be totally lacking in love. “You could freeze ice
on his wife’s ass.” Their value system is represented
by the reprehensible Stuckey, who lives to hurt and humiliate, “Morse’s jugular is exposed.
It’s time for the kill.” and doesn’t see worth in anyone beyond
how they measure up in the hierarchy. “You know, you’re the only millionaire
I ever heard of who goes looking for a bargain-basement
streetwalker, you know.” Pretty Woman was first
conceived of as a response to the “Greed is Good”
mantra of Wall Street’s iconic finance tycoon,
Gordon Gekko. “Greed, for lack of
a better word, is good.” Edward’s “corporate raider”
profession was a rising phenomenon in the 70s and 80s as corporate America
began to prioritize shareholder profits beyond all other metrics of success
to an unprecedented degree. “Make the stockholders richer.” “Are you going to liquidate
New England Wire and Cable? And if so, what about
the people who work here?” “My obligation is to
the stockholders.” The screenwriter, J. F. Lawto,
was inspired by the idea of taking a Gordon Gekko figure,
and making him realize the human consequences of his actions. “I’m not thrilled at the idea
of your turning 40 years of my work into your garage sale.” Vivian suggests that Edward
didn’t just find her by chance– he was looking for her. “No wonder why you
came looking for me.” And that’s exactly what
the movie begins with– Edward urgently running away
and blindly even desperately seeking something else.
Something more. As perfect as his life
appears, it’s empty. And he exemplifies how
if you live for money alone, there will never be enough of it. “I know about wanting more,
I invented the concept.” Edward’s drive
for more money, actually stems from hurt over
his father abandoning him. “My father, was president of
the third company I ever took over.” Yet the more he amasses,
the further away he feels from love. People look at him and see his
net worth, trades to be made. They want things from him.
It’s all more business. “It’s the kill you love. Not me. [Shouting] I made you a very rich
man doing exactly what you loved!” By seeing him as the person
he is underneath all the money, “I think you have
a lot of special gifts.” Vivan helps him remember
how to feel life. “Why don’t you not go
to work tomorrow?” Edward’s position and
a lifetime of wealth, “My first car was a limousine.” has made him very
used to feeling in control, as money buys the power to get others
to do exactly what you want them to. “People always do what
you tell them to do? I guess so.” The movie keeps returning
to Edward’s fear of heights, “Would you rescue me if I fell?” “Vivian, I’m serious come–
I’m not looking.” which represents his
fear of falling in love, of feeling and thus
giving up control. And while the impossibly rich Edward
seems like some women’s fantasy, really it’s Vivian who’s
Edward’s fantasy. “I’d like to hire you as an employee.” The sexy and fun woman who doesn’t
ask anything of him emotionally and doesn’t take it personally
that his work comes first. “You just think I’m at
your beck and call.” “I do not believe that you
are at my beck and call.” “I will pay you to be
at my beck and call.” “Look, I’d love to be
your ‘beck and call’ girl.” Edward’s and Vivian’s
connection begins as an explicitly
transactional relationship. She’s the Pretty Woman. He’s the traditional male
equivalent of that, the Rich Man. And this trade or
business partnership between a man’s wealth
and a woman’s looks is a very common one
in our society to this day. “Don’t you know that a man being
rich is like a girl being pretty?” You might not marry a girl
just because she’s pretty. But, my goodness, doesn’t it help?” Yet the human triumph
at the center of this movie is transcending the temptation
to reduce every interaction to a transaction. Over the course of their week together
they’re so transformed by love that both decide they can no longer
continue to sell themselves. Fueled by the warmth that
Vivian brings to his life, he reconnects with a stifled desire
to create instead of destroy– to put value into the world. “Mr. Lewis and I are going
to build ships together.” It may be a cautionary tale about
the emptiness of living for money alone, but Pretty Woman is at the same time
a shameless capitalist fantasy. “Wake up time to shop.” It celebrates the power of having money
and how good it feels to spend it. “We are going to be spending
an obscene amount of money in here. So we’re going to need a lot
more help sucking up to us Because that’s what we really like.
You understand that?” It contains not one but two of the most
iconic shopping scenes in cinema, “You work on
commission right?” “Uh yes.” “Big Mistake. Big. Huge.” “Edward would love that tie.”
“Would you give her the tie?” “The tie?”
“Take off the tie.” which are widely
beloved in our culture. “You made a big mistake. Huge!” “There it is.” “I just get really happy when
they finally let her shop.” Everything Edward does for Vivian
has money at the center of it. “If you were gonna buy this,
how much would it cost?” “Quarter of a million.”
[Laughing] “Hahaha.” The opera seats and
the dress and the plane– all these are positioned
as so dazzlingly romantic because they’re expensive. “If you’re afraid of heights,
why do you get seats up here?” “Because they’re the best.” In the end, Edward’s redemption
arc doesn’t require any sacrifice. So the message of this movie is:
do choose love over money, but if you can, it’s
better to have both. “Exactly how obscene an amount
of money were you talking– I just, profane or
REALLY offensive?” “Really offensive.”
“I like him so much.” In 1990, Pretty Woman followed
in the wake of a number of romantic 80s movies that have this
love-plus-money happy ending. The plot might be about a wealthy
character becoming better for venturing outside
their rich person bubble, falling for someone who’s
not spoiled by money, yet in the end, the couple decides,
while money isn’t everything, it’s always nice to be rich, too. “If you like, we can
give it all up now.” “Naah!” “I took the money,
I mean I’m not crazy.” “The boat, the money,
everything. It’s all mine!” The double whammy
happy-ever after is the rom-com version
of the American dream. “Welcome to Hollywood!
What’s your dream?” To the movie’s credit,
unlike in many rom-coms, there’s a certain honesty
to Pretty Woman’s acknowledging that
money does matter.” “It’s easy to clean up
when you got money.” Edward may have suffered
internally up to this point, “It cost me $10,000 in therapy
to say that sentence. I was very angry with him.” but it’s nothing like on the level
of what Vivian has endured. “I just saw a girl pulled
out of a Dumpster.” There’s also a behind-the-scenes
reason Pretty Woman has a split personality when it
comes to capitalism. “I couldn’t make the rent, I
was too ashamed to go home.” The concept actually started as a dark,
gritty story about prostitution and class, originally titled 3000. “Three thousand.”
“Done.” “Holy shit! Hahaha” Early drafts ended with Vivian and Kit
sadly riding a bus to Disneyland. But when Disney took on the project,
they asked for Pretty Woman to be reworked as an uplifting rom com. Vivian’s drug habit, “What is, what do you have in your
hand there? What are you hiding?” “Nothing.” was scrapped to make
her clean and responsible. “This is dental floss.”
“Yeah? So?” I had all those strawberry seeds.
And you shouldn’t neglect your gums.” And the addiction went to her
comic-relief-providing friend, Kit. “I can’t believe you bought
drugs with our rent. What is going on with you, Kit?” “I needed a little pick-me-up.” Sure, it sounds a little crazy to give
the Disney Happy-Ending treatment to a story about a John
hiring a prostitute. “Forgot where I was.”
“Occupational hazard?” This set-up that probably
should not work, does thanks to the undeniable
charisma and chemistry of Julia Roberts
And Richard Gere. “Oh! Hahaha!” Thanks to the director,
Gary Marshall’s unmatched talent for spinning wacky premises
into irresistible romantic comedy gold. and thanks to the fact that every
Moment between Vivian and Edward plays out like a storybook romance. “I took the liberty of ordering
everything on the menu.” “I didn’t know what you’d like.” The movie explicitly
compares Vivian to, “Cinde-[Bleep]-rella.” According to Marshall, quote, “My vision was a combination
of fairytales. Julia was Rapunzel, Richard was Prince Charming
and Hector was the fairy godmother. “ Viviam explicitly challenges
Edward to give her the fairy tale “I want the fairy tale.” as she recalls her girlhood
game of make-believe. “And he would climb up
the tower and rescue me” Edward shows up to rescue
her when she’s being attacked by Stuckey. And of course, he at last takes on
the role of knight and shining armour, to deliver the picture-perfect ending. “Princess Vivian! Come down!” There’s something charming about
these Disney princess vibes mixed with a story that’s sexy
and decidedly not prudish. Vivan and Edward have
a sexual relationship before the emotional
one develops, which is unusual for a rom-com,
let alone a fairy tale. We also see a twist on
the classic true love’s kiss from Sleeping Beauty
or Snow White. Vivian won’t kiss Edward
for most of the movie, until finally she does to
express that she’s fallen in love. “I love you.” Pretty Woman is strikingly similar
to another story of an upper class man who takes a working class
woman under his wing. “The rain in spain stays
mainly in the plain.” My Fair Lady, based on Pygmalion by
George Bernard Shaw. The man meets the woman
on the street, and seems to relish how coarse and low-class she is. “She’s so deliciously low.
So horribly dirty.” “Well, colour me happy.
There’s a sofa in here for two.” “First time in an elevator.” He becomes a kind of mentor to her “Teaching Eliza, talking to Eliza,
listening to Eliza, dressing Eliza.” “What? You’re a pretty pair of
babies playing with your live doll.” “Stop fidgeting. Get rid of your gum.” We get extensive scenes of the man
and those who work for him educating the woman in the etiquette
and culture of the upper classes “Say cup of tea.”
“Cup of tea.” “No no no.
A cup of tea.” “Four tongs.
Dinner fork.” Both couples attend a posh
event centered around horse where they try to pass her off
as an upper-class lady “She’s to keep to two subjects.
The weather and everybody’s health.” “What if someone recognizes me?” “You look great you look like a lady.
Okay..Don’t fidget and smile.” And throughout the story, her
working-class manners provoke humor. “Slippery little suckers.” [done her in dialogue] “Whatever does it mean?”
“Uh that’s the new small talk.” While her kind warmth
wins over hearts. “Bravo Eliza.” “It’s been a pleasure
knowing you.” Clothes play a key role
in the lady’s transformation, And there’s at least some question
over whether she’s allowed to keep these clothes
when she leaves. “Do my clothes belong to me
or to Colonel Pickering?” “You get to keep the clothes?” By the end, the woman is
wholly transformed. But the man is too callous
to immediately understand his responsibility for
how he’s changed her. [Crying] “What’s to become of
me? What’s to become of me?” “How the devil do I know
what’s to become of you? What does it matter
what becomes of you? “I’ve never had anyone make me
feel as cheap as you did today.” “Somehow I find that
very hard to believe.” Emotionally she’s been set adrift,
made over for a new existence and then left without
a clear future. “What am I fit for?
What have you left me fit for?” “Now everything is different
and you changed that and you can’t–change back.” Not surprisingly, while the British
My Fair Lady is about class, the American spin on this
story is about money. In My Fair Lady, the education
centers especially on correct speech. In Pretty Woman, it revolves around
understanding how to behave like a rich person. “Stores are never nice to people.
They’re nice to credit cards.” My Fair Lady and Pretty Women
both have titles that essentially mean “Attractive Female.” “Wherever did you find her?”
“976, babe.” So what is it that makes
Vivian such a Pretty Woman? “It must be difficult to let go
of something so beautiful.” Her name, “Vivian. My name is Vivian.” comes from the Latin root
vivus meaning “alive”, or life. “How was your day dear?”
“Nice tie.” And in this story,
vivacious Vivian represents a vigor
and zest for feeling alive. “You know your foot’s
as big as your arm from your elbow
to your wrist?” “Man, this baby must
corner like it’s on rails.” At the end of My Fair Lady,
the smug, insufferable Henry Higgins gets a wake-up call. “She’s gone.” “Well, of course, dear.
What did you expect?” And it’s clear that, in fact,
his Eliza Doolittle was already a lot more special than he realized
before he started fixing her up. She, the fair lady,
is the treasure who’s brightened up the lives
of everyone around her. “She almost makes the day begin.” Like Eliza, Vivian also has
a certain wisdom that comes from having been at
the bottom of the social hierarchy. She understands
what’s valuable In a person even when
they don’t have anything. She treats the hotel
manager as a friend. “I just wanted to say thanks.” While Edward, despite being
such a great customer, doesn’t know the man’s name. “Thank you, Mr…” “Thompson, manager,
manager of the hotel.” And she uses her generous heart to
change people around her for the better. “We think you got a lot of
potential, Kit de Luca.” “You do? You think I got potential?” So does this escapist yet seductive
romance with its mixed messages have anything to teach us today? “Greed clarifies, cuts through,
and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.” You might say the bottom-line-fixated
world of this story is tame and sweet compared to today’s society
which is indisputably ruled by capital, an ocean full of sharks. Watching Edward’s journey of
becoming a better human being, we might go yes that’s nice
and of course he should because he already has
so much money that he really doesn’t
need to take any more. But the lesson here isn’t just
for predatory hedge funds. It also applies to all of those
other “professionals” in mid levels between
Edward and Vivian — are we living for money, shutting
ourselves off from what we feel and calling that good business,
when just maybe we could actually make something and still get by? “I got this beauty course
I’m looking into.” “You gotta have a goal.
Do you have a goal?” However naively
optimistic it may be, perhaps Pretty Woman
is onto something: what if we do too easily give up on
impossible dreams because we assume it’s necessary to make the rent. What if we can get
everything our hearts desires — if we only hold out for the fantasy? “I want more.” “She rescues him right back.” This video is sponsored
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