Pretty Woman

Pretty Woman Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How do gender dynamics work in the film?

    Gender dynamics between Edward and Vivian are often unexpected. Where he is tidy and clean-cut, she is brash and earthy. While he can barely operate the car he takes from Phil's house, Vivian has an encyclopedic knowledge of cars from studying automobile magazines. Going against gender stereotypes, Edward is elegant and Vivian is crass. In other ways, however, the characters fit more tidily into gender stereotypes. Vivian is a victim of her circumstances, having always longed for a man to come and rescue her. Edward is a corporate shark, mercenary and unfeeling, driven solely by profit. These characterizations are somewhat stereotypical when it comes to gender expectations, and the ending of the film fulfills these stereotypes, by having Edward rescue Vivian from her "tower." The wealthy man saves the prostitute from her life in poverty. However, Vivian was already about to save herself, preparing to travel to San Francisco and finish high school. This shows that Vivian doesn't need Edward to save her, and is not actually dependent on a man to improve on her life. Additionally, when Edward asks what happens in her fantasy after the Princess is rescued, Vivian tells him, "She rescues him right back." Thus, the movie seeks to complicate typical damsel-in-distress narratives, and depict a more empowered woman, who chooses love and upward mobility.

  2. 2

    Whilst Vivian is forever changed by meeting Edward, Edward himself also changes. What are some of these changes in him and why do you think they occur?

    Edward is a very successful businessman, but is renowned for taking struggling companies and breaking them up, selling their assets and ignoring issues of personal loyalty and human relations. His method is designed to avoid personal interaction and sentiment, and his dealings with James Morse and his son, David, highlight this coldness. Because Edward's own father was remote and unavailable, he repeats this behavior in his own business. However, after their dinner with Morse, Vivian points out that Edward seems to like Morse. While he dismisses this observation and tells her that emotion has no place in business, by the end of the movie Vivian's influence has had an effect. After Vivian breaks down his walls and teaches him to express himself honestly, he feels more ambivalent about breaking up Morse's company, and chooses instead to help Morse and build up his company. As Edward allows himself to fall in love, he discovers a softer side of his personality and his eyes are opened to the value of human relationships.

  3. 3

    Vivian does not go back to her old life of prostitution after her time with Edward appears to be over. To what would you attribute this?

    Just as Vivian has taught Edward to listen to his heart more by the end of the film, Edward has awakened Vivian to her own potential. Throughout the movie, he marvels at how special and bright she is. While she assures him that "the bad stuff is easier to believe," by the end, she is changed and believes the best of herself. Edward's gift to Vivian is self respect. At the end, Vivian feels strong enough to leave prostitution and seek a better life. Ironically enough, Edward's lesson is also what teaches Vivian to respect herself enough to not take him up on his offer of being a "kept" escort in New York. Vivian realizes that she is entitled to a better life, and goes in search of it.

  4. 4

    What is the difference between Edward and Phil?

    Edward and Phil are business partners, and at the start of the film, both of them are depicted as cold-blooded profiteers, anxious to land a good deal, no matter how ethical it is. However, as the film progresses, we see the vast differences between the two men. Firstly, Phil is anxious and paranoid, and gets touchy about losing the deal. Edward, by contrasting, is cool and collected, never faltering or letting his worry show. As Edward becomes more intimate with Vivian, he begins to feel more ambivalent about making a deal that would hurt Morse's company; meanwhile, Phil has no qualms with it—a billion dollar deal is a billion dollar deal. Finally, the greatest difference between the two men is that while Edward is respectful of women, even though he does seem to have commitment issues, Phil is a raging misogynist, and has no respect for women. When he learns that Vivian is a prostitute, Phil takes immediate liberties with her, treating her poorly and asking to hire her. Later, he goes so far as slapping her and attempting to rape her. As Edward points out, "Not all men hit." While Phil hits, Edward would never.

  5. 5

    What are some of the surprising qualities of Vivian and how do they serve to mobilize the romantic plot?

    The first surprising thing about Vivian, and the one that initially catches Edward's attention, is her wit and her knowledge about cars. He is surprised to learn that she knows the ins and outs of the fancy Lotus Esprit that he drives, and she eludes his expectations of what not only a prostitute would know, but what a woman would know. Additionally, back at the hotel, when he thinks she is doing drugs, she is actually flossing. Edward would not expect a prostitute to care about dental hygiene, but Vivian is not like other prostitutes. She is also surprising because she is so wholesome and innocent. Lying on the carpet with a pile of snacks watching I Love Lucy, Vivian looks like a child, giggling and relishing in the joy of the moment. Vivian's innocence, joy, savvy, and surprising instances of self respect are what intrigue Edward, and are what lead him to fall in love with her.