Julia Roberts, Pretty Woman and the Meaning of Morality

By | May 26, 2017

The other day my girlfriend and I were deciding which movie to watch when she suggested “Pretty Woman”. I said, “Why?” She said it was her favorite movie. I said, “Why?” She said it was because it was so romantic. I said, “You do know it’s about a hooker don’t you?” There was dead silence on her part. This was probably not the smartest thing that I have ever said. With a sentence of only nine words I had managed to insult her favorite movie; question her morality and/or call her stupid. As I sat next to her I just hoped that I could somehow manage to recover.

There was a long uncomfortable silence. She looked at me rather perplexed by my statement and then, she responded “I know, so what?” Every voice in my head was screaming “Don’t say anything, Stupid!” The voice was screaming so loud that it hurt and yet my mouth had an agenda of its own. Despite myself I just blurted out, “that movies evil.” I knew I was in deep now.

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Stop talking” says the voice in my head and yet I proceeded to expand upon my theory. I told her how I thought that the movie glamorized being a hooker and that none of the “Johns” that real life hookers encounter look like a young Richard Gere. I questioned how many young women became strippers, porn stars or hookers thinking that these “careers” were a pathway to living out their Eliza Doolittle fantasy. She said that she liked “My Fair Lady” too. Unfortunately, I felt the need to continue. I said that there are probably a bunch of hookers, call-girls and strippers who could file a class-action lawsuit against Julia Roberts for making a movie that made being a hooker seem like a good career choice.

My girlfriend responded, “It’s just a movie.”

“Is it?” I said. I talked about how children’s fantasies for girls whether they be Snow White or Cinderella or stories like My Fair Lady and Pretty Woman have always depicted young women being rescued from dire circumstances by a charming prince.

“So” she said.

Feminists and women’s groups are always coming down on Barbie. At least Barbie has a job. She’s a teacher, a pilot, a lawyer and an astronaut. I told her that most girl fiction wrongfully indoctrinates young girls into expecting some guy to rescue them instead of achieving things on their own. Disney is making a fortune promoting their line of “Princesses” to little girls. All of whom expect to grow up to be Ariel,Belle or Aurora. With Pretty Woman,however, things took a nasty turn for the worse. Pretty Woman made it clear that women should use sex to attain their Prince Charming and that no matter what you had done in your life as long as you have “a heart of gold” everything will work out fine. Womanhood took an even darker turn with “Sex in the City”, a show about slut empowerment. More damaging then the years of amoral behavior displayed by the lead characters was that at the end of the show they all got their “Mr. Right” despite (or because of) their decadent lifestyles. There were no lasting consequences for anyones behavior on the show. Sarah Jessica Parker may have done more damage to young women than any other person in history because no matter how fun Julia Roberts made it look to be a hooker it is still a pretty big line to cross, while the Sex in the City crew were just out having fun and empowering themselves.

My girlfriend thought that I was attributing too much power to a movie and a TV show. She said they were just shows and had no effect on real life. I countered with the phenomenon of the sex tape and explained to her that Paris Hilton’s and Kim Kardashian’s talents were their ability to have sex on video. Pamela Anderson, Tonya Harding, Amy Fisher, Kendra Wilkinson and others have had tapes “leaked” to the public. If these tapes were unauthorized than the person releasing the tapes was not only in possession of stolen property but was violating copyright laws by making copies of the video or releasing it on the internet and yet no one has ever gone to jail. It seems like at least some of these tapes were released in attempts to either start or rekindle an entertainment career. Lawrence Fishburne’s daughter, Montana Fishburne, has even acknowledged that Kim Kardashian was an inspiration for her to enter the porn industry.

It is such a condemnation of American culture that Kim Kardashian is a “star”. There was a time in which she would be infamous but now she and her whole family are rich and famous. We live in a country where the highest goal anyone can aspire to is to become famous or even infamous (the distinction between these two states of being having been lost on the American public). Why should anyone work to become a doctor or a lawyer when they can just get themselves on a reality show and if that doesn’t work they can put videos of themselves having sex on the internet? In a country that no longer produces or manufactures anything is it a surprise that we can’t even make celebrities with real talent anymore? This country has been in a downward spiral that began with the release of Pretty Woman in 1990.

My girlfriend asked if I was saying that women needed to be the guardians of morality. I clarified by acknowledging that it is unfair but “that a society can be judged by the behavior of its women” because men are in essence unprincipled and that laws were created to keep men in line (women account for approximately 7% of the prison population in America. Currently, however, they are the fastest growing segment.) and that as women acquire the vices of men society as a whole suffers.

My girlfriend then mocked me by asking me if I was blaming Julia Roberts for the economic downturn; the real estate collapse; high medical and high education costs. I said, “No, I’m blaming Pretty Woman for the creation of the Jerry Springer show which debuted one year after the movie in 1991.”

That last factoid caused her to pause.

“Pretty Woman” does seem to be a divining line in the mores of Americans. MTV’s the Real World was first broadcast in 1992. The show that first taught Americans that you don’t have to be accomplished to be famous, outrageous would be sufficient. In 1994 the Howard Stern Show began being broadcast on the E! network and thus made it socially acceptable to know the name of porn stars. In 1998 the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke and Bill Clinton,the President of the United States, explained to us that oral sex didn’t count as sex. Many teenagers took that message to heart. Morality has been engaging in a free-fall ever since. In 2003 Paris Hilton’s sex-tape was released one week prior to the premiere of her TV show “the Simple Life”. In 2007 Kim Kardashian’s tape was “leaked” and a few months later she had a TV show. Sexting is rampant among teenagers. Pornography is available free on internet 24 hours a day. “This country is going to Hell in a hand-basket” I said.