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.