How the aspect of money has been appropriated from George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, to the modern film Pretty Woman.

Essay by murali October 2003

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No matter what they say: It's all about money. Right from the start of the texts Pretty Woman and Pygmalion, the idea of money is focused upon as one of the central elements, and assists in creating a sense of social class and social hierarchy. Both texts follow the rise of a young lady in social class, essentially driven by the desire for money. They escalate from a life of work and being financially challenged, to one of high esteem with all the riches they would ever desire.

Money is shown, in both texts, and indeed most stories, to be the key determinant of social class, as well as a symbol of power and authority. The professions of Higgins from Pygmalion and Edward from Pretty Woman can both be associated with the "higher-class" individuals in the particular societies at the time of each text, being a phonetician and businessman respectively.

This underlines the idea that money has similar values in both settings. However, Pygmalion poses more contrasting values in relation to how the money is obtained.

While in the day and age of Pretty Woman (Los Angeles in the 1990's), it doesn't really matter how you come by the money or what immoral means you use to get it, at the time of Edwardian England in Pygmalion, this was much the opposite. Respectability was quite highly valued, and any immoral activity would be much criticised by society, and looked down upon. An example of this can be seen where Doolittle is criticised by Higgins for seemingly "selling" his daughter for a sum of money.

In these texts, both Eliza and Vivian undergo a journey initiated by their desire for money and social class. In their respective societies this greatly changes their attitudes, and makes them richer, both literally,