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Written by Victoria Joss
The irony of Edward hiring a prostitute
At the beginning of the movie, as Edward picks up Vivian in Stucky’s car, he comments that her prostitution is practically ‘morally repugnant’. It is therefore extremely ironic that about ten minutes later, Edward decides to invite Vivian to his hotel room and spend the night with her. This irony means that the morality of the movie is incredibly confused. Edward is originally portrayed as a straight-laced lawyer with incredibly strict morals in his personal life. To then hire a prostitute suggests otherwise. Yet, this irony is almost bypassed as acceptable in the movie. Because Vivian is the more girl-next-door, endearing type of prostitute, it is acceptable that Edward hires her, as it is not stooping to the immorality associated with the more sordid type. Therefore, this is an irony that is only noticeable upon examination, and for a small part of the script.
The irony of the fairytale ending
This irony is associated strongly with the gender politics of the movie. Vivian has been ‘rescued’ from a life of prostitution by Edward giving her a home, and a large amount of money. However, when Edward offers a house and allowance as his ‘beck and call girl’, Vivian rejects him for the sake of her own independence. It is therefore gently ironic that Vivian so quickly accepts Edward back in to her life. This irony is drowned in Vivian and Edward’s happy ending. The grand gesture of climbing Vivian’s fire escape does suggest that Edward has changed his mind, but Vivian must also assume he has changed his whole mind set on ‘impossible relationships’. For someone who so adamantly chose independence, she assumes Edward has done a complete 180, and accepts her status as a girlfriend without identifying what the future has in store for her.
The irony of romanticising prostitution
From the opening credits of Vivian’s body getting dressed, to the light-hearted attitude of Kit, obviously high on drugs, prostitution is treated as a gentle matter, and romanticised from very early on. The only glimpse of any sordid lifestyle the audience get is skinny Marie’s body in the street, and even then we see the more comical tourists trying to take a photo. This view on prostitution is perhaps horribly ironic, as it presents a romanticised scenario that would be scarce likely to happen to a prostitute. This irony is also only approached from a safe environment. The audience do not see Vivian with any other violent clients; we only see her with the gentle Edward. This is therefore, perhaps the largest yet most subtle irony; prostitution is treated as a means to finding a husband, not a possibly immoral career path.
The irony of the homeless Hollywood man
At the beginning and end of the movie, we see the Hollywood man –presumably homeless –shouting ‘Welcome to Hollywood! What’s your dream?!’ Whilst he is assumed as slightly unstable and shouting nonsense, his words also carry an irony. Both Vivian and Edward came to Hollywood, presumably to also follow a dream, only for it to not go to their plan. Vivian came for love, and ended up working as a prostitute. Whilst it is not specified, Edward is assumed to have come for business, and ended up being unsure of who now is as a person. And this is irony that still holds in today’s reality: of those who associate Hollywood with finding and fulfilling dreams, only to arrive and have them dashed or changed without warning.
The irony of the shop assistant judging Vivian wholly on appearance
The largest sense of irony in the movie is situated in the Rodeo Drive scenario, and is much celebrated. When Vivian tries to buy an evening gown in her revealing clothes, she is asked to leave and that she could not afford anything in the shop. This well placed irony then highlights a main concept of the movie: that class comes from within, despite how much money the person has. As this bypasses the shop assistants, they in themselves are ironically more classless than the prostitute they just refused to serve. Yet, there is also an irony in judging someone wholly on their appearance. Whilst this movie does try to prove that a sense of class comes from within, this is only obvious and taken seriously when Vivian puts on classy clothes. Therefore, whilst the shop assistants are wrong to judge Vivian on her appearances, they also suggest it is human instinct.
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