Ideology Film Analysis – Pretty Woman


Ideologies refer to certain belief systems that all individuals have, systems which function based on principles and ideas that are usually unquestioned. Most films made and especially the classic movies made around the 90s presented some ideologies that were key issues in the society including feminism, high class and low class citizens, racism etc in the social, political, cultural and religious grounds(Woman, 1990). A good example of a film that brought about vivid ideologies was Pretty Woman. The film is based in a number of ideologies but has two ideologies coming out with a lot of weight. The two social ideologies from the movie that cannot pass without being noticed are feminism and social classes. While the film mostly focuses on the feminism ideology, it also brings about the disparity between the high and low class citizens, what it takes to rise to high status and what one goes through on a daily basis in each class. We define feminism as a social movement with political and cultural aims that focus on the equality and empowerment of women. It is purposed to encourage women and especially the young to empower themselves in life.

Pretty Woman

The film Pretty Woman is a 1990 romantic comedy starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. The movie is directed by Garry Marshall with Arnon Milcahn and Steven Reuther as its producers(Woman, 1990). The movie is mainly centered on the two characters Vivian Ward a hooker played by Julia Roberts and a wealthy businessman called Edward Lewis played by Richard Gere. After a break up with his girlfriend and being bored by a party Edward leaves the party and gets lost. He starts asking for directions where he meets the prostitute – Vivian who not only shows him direction but also drives him home. With the need for an escort to business events and parties, Edward hires Vivian for the weekend for $3,000. The two would later fall in love.

In the movie, Vivian the hooker from the poor background represents a low class, poor and helpless but kind hearted morally upright and valuable woman who has been brought to prostitution by need. Even though she is a hooker she is portrayed as a woman of good values as we see in her conversations with her roommate, another hooker by the name Kit (Laura San G.) where she cautions her about her spending rent money on drugs. She further asks her “don’t you want to get out of this?” which implies she doesn’t like what she is doing  herself and provides a way she would get out of prostitution. In the movie, Vivian rises from a poor hooker to a respected woman therefore representing women and the poor. Through her encounters with men and the rich we are able to see the inequality between women and men and the discrimination low class citizens have to go through in their daily lives. She struggles through it all and with the help of Edward she manages to conquer both challenges.

Using Louis Giannetti’s Left-Centre-Right Model we can see how a number of characters in the film are able to depict the ideologies in the movie implicit as the method used is. The movie makers used a number of characters to pass on the ideology – there are three types of people in the film. These are, Vivian’s, the others hookers and low class citizens, the affluent likes of Phillip and other businessmen and women who look down on women and the poor and finally people like Edward who are rich but have a sense of equality and heartedness towards the poor though a little biased towards inequality due to their way of life, social class and environment they have been exposed to. While Vivian represents the common, poor and disregarded lot including women, Edward represents the few elites that help them in their struggle. On the other hand we have Phillip and his likes that oppress and disregard women and the low class citizens.

From the movie Pretty Woman we see Vivian going through many situations that we would consider as going against equality of women and the difference in treatment between the rich and the poor. We start to see it when Edward and Vivian walk into the hotel, the glances thrown on the two and the look on Edward as he notes the amazement on Vivian’s eyes. This depicts the difference between the two in terms of class. It is obvious that Edward expects Vivian to be awed by the affluence of the hotel. Later on we see him paying her for the week and there is some sense of authority in his voice which proves that he feels he has some sort of control and power over her due to her gender and needs.

When Edward later gives her money so she can shop for ‘appropriate’ clothes, she walks into the store. The sales woman wouldn’t serve her even bluntly pointing out that she doesn’t think there was anything that would fit her (Vivian). This is prompted by how Vivian is currently dressed which the woman based to judge that there was no way Vivian would afford anything in that shop. She was in the wrong place. It is not the place for a hooker or a low class citizen. When shopping for a dinner and appropriate clothe becomes impossible she heads back to the hotel, the manager clearly indicated that they would not allow or have ‘people like her’ in the hotel. He indicates that she is there only because she is in the company of Edward Lewis. A man and a rich person – this shows they look down on people like Vivian, the hookers and the poor. It also shows that Edward, a man, could change this case easily simply because he is a man. That indicates male dominance(Woman, 1990). We can see the contrast when Vivian goes shopping with Gere, the many people that attend to her to the extent that she is bought pizza as she waits to be served portrays the difference in treatment between the categories of people under discussion.

Philip Stuckey is an oppressor and demeanor of women. After learning what Vivian was from Edward, he starts making advances on her. He does not even respect that she is in the company of Edward. It shows that he regards her as cheap and just a simple toy that is available for use by everyone. However Vivian does not entertain him showing her fighting and values she possessed. This gives some sense of feminism and the struggle. Later on he even goes to the height of hitting her. In this scene when Edward turned down the deal he was making with Morse Phillip became very furious at both Edward and Vivian. He blamed and condemned Vivian for the change in Edward. He was furious to see that the poor hooker was changing the rich Edward who he believed had power over her. Him (Phillip), Edward – men and the rich had control over women and the poor. To this, he rebukes Vivian and at one point hits her then tries to take advantage of her. Luckily, Edward the fighter for the demeaned comes in and throws Phillip out. Here he acts as an encourager and fighter for the less fortunate which is inspired by Vivian. His life with her has made him see life differently realizing money and power is not everything. Vivian, a woman and a poor one for that matter, was changing people. She has changed Edward for better. Women and the poor can. They still have qualities that can change many.

There is a scene where Vivian goes to visit her old friend and roommate. Even though she has shifted from poor to a lavish lifestyle she breaks the norms and provides empowerment to women (Woman, 1990). This in feminism can be seen as incitement to women in high points of influence and wealth to step in and help those below in their fight to equality. Whereas most women who are where she is now are dehumanizing, she is not. Throughout the film we can see some emotions and expressions that indicate that Edward feels more powerful than Vivian. During dates we can see that he examines and expects Vivian to be impressed by the things she see and things done for her by him(Woman, 1990). Close to the end Vivian even points out to him that he also treats him like a prostitute. When Edward tells Vivian that he would like to see her again and that he would call her the next time he gets a chance, – he will call her and spend time with her when he has time. This gives the feel that Edward has power over Vivian and that he feels he would have her anytime he wants and that he has the say in it. Not her. He doesn’t intend to make it seem like that but due to his lifestyle and past, it comes out automatically. It is the way he is. He doesn’t ask for her opinion. When he states that he had never treated Vivian like a prostitute she replies back “you just did”. He had unknowingly dehumanized her. However, despite all these Vivian still triumphs.

The film uses an implicit technique to present the ideologies. We don’t see or hear the dominant people expressing the disregard in an explicit manner most of the time but we can be able to see it by considering the message depicted by artistry methods and components enforced by the film crew. The plot, camera and photography, the lighting, locale, environment, tone and the sound during different scenes clearly shows the differences between the two subjects. The lighting for example helps us note the downiness and disregard associated with the environment where the hookers reside in comparison with that of the elite. It also helps us note the facial expressions and resulting emotions from characters from people like Edward as he examines whether Vivian is impressed, fury and disapproval in Phillips face when he is scolding Vivian and in the instances like when the sales woman is telling off Vivian.


The film very well depicts these two ideologies with feminism taking the lead. The troubles and degradations Vivian goes through as she rises from a simple hooker to the appealing woman Edward ends up with is a perfect display of feminism. Her good qualities are complemented by her beauty and the support from Edward. She represents the struggle and her triumph indicates that it can be won. We just need to be focused, determined and of good morals.

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