Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

My Gary Marshall Story



Gary Marshall, the director of Pretty Woman, has died. This is my Gary Marshall story.

I taught Hispanic, low income 7th graders (ages 13 and 14). Before a test day, when we wouldn't be able to teach but still had to control 150 kids while others tested, I reserved a VCR and tv from the school library. (Yes, it was very long ago.)

I passed around a sheet of paper and told the kids to write down the name of the movie they wanted to see, which I would rent for them as long as it was not rated R. Almost all of the boys wrote down American Me and almost all of the girls wrote down Pretty Woman, despite the R ratings. (I ended up renting My Bodyguard instead.)

It bothered me to see the young girls ask for Pretty Woman. A wealth fantasy about a gorgeous, clean, street hooker being rescued by a gorgeous, clean, businessman was not the sort of example I wanted them to have. Wealth fantasies are not good for anyone, and neither are fantasies of being rescued from poverty and degradation by a Prince Charming. I spent my time encouraging them to enrich their lives, to help them learn about the world around them, and to learn about themselves and other people. The ideas behind Pretty Woman are unhealthy trash for poor girls.

A few months after that (if I remember correctly), a couple of our students were picked up for prostitution. They were not arrested in a penthouse hotel room covered in diamonds or at the opera. One of my kids was arrested at a cheap motel with a john in his sixties.

Gary Marshall did a lot of harmless, brainless fluff. Most of it was aimed at undemanding viewers who got what they asked for-very little. But Pretty Woman was harmful. I don't blame that movie for the girls' acts; nothing has one simple, easy explanation. But it was one of my female students' favorite movies, by far, and it was a very bad influence on them.

So when someone mentions Gary Marshall I don't think about Happy Days or Mork and Mindy, both of which I watched in high school. I think of my 13-year old student sitting in class after her arrest, looking straight ahead,  knowing that everyone in the school knew what had happened to her and unable to look anyone in the eye.

7 comments:

bowtiejack said...

Thanks. Culture has consequences.
Maybe sometimes for the good, like this:
http://thinkprogress.org/culture/2016/07/20/3800107/ghostbusters-is-about-science-ladies/

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks for that link! That was great to read.

Clever Pseudonym said...

My Garry Marshall story: I met the man on several ocassions working and socializing in Los Angeles and New York. He was a very charming, funny and friendly man, even to a lowly grunt like me. I once overheard a woman telling him Pretty Woman was her daughter's favorite movie. He politely asked her daughter's name and age and seemed taken aback when she told him she was thirteen. He mumbled to a colleague after the woman left about having gunned deliberately for an "R" rating precisely because he did NOT want girls that age watching the movie. He'd hoped more mature women would be better inspired from the character taking the spoils of her last trick to go back to school than the message that hooking leads to riches. He's said that's why there were so many references to dead prostitutes and the perils of drugs in the much darker original version.

But I get what you're aiming at, Susan. I feel the same way about the Disney Princess Syndrome. A woman's worth and pursuits thereof should not center around just finding a rich guy, but rather character and intelligence. Trust me, Mr. Marshall felt the same way. May he rest in peace.

Susan of Texas said...

I'm glad he didn't want the version that ended up in the theater, or for young girls to watch and take the wrong message. The Disney movies are changing, I think, and I hope little girls get the new empowerment message and not just the fashion sense.



Katy Williams said...

I thought "Pretty Woman" was a particularly creepy version of the "Beauty/Beast" plot. No, ladies, girls, women: a nasty guy will NOT become nice because you are pretty and love him. Ug.

Cole said...

thank you. I've always felt I was one of 10 people in the world who recognized the horribleness of that film.

Another one that I do not understand the popularity of is True Lies...in which the two Arnolds heap the most hateful, misogynist abuse on Jamie Lee Curtis' character than I have ever seen treated as "humor" in a film. Yet, I've never heard a peep about this from anyone.

Fiddlin Bill said...

I totally agree with you about Pretty Woman. My wife and I walked out on it after the basic premise was stated--probably about 10 minutes in. I've never seen much objection to the film--in fact almost all positive comments, from friends who otherwise might have been expected to see through the obvious lie of the premise. Just goes to show what a good star, Roberts, can do with a sow's ear. But it's kinda surprising she accepted the role, ain't it? Woman of principle and all.