If you’ve ever seen Pretty Women you know it’s about prostitutes, so the very nature of the movie suggests the objectification of women because men “buy” them for sex. From the very beginning we see women completely focused on their looks, dressed in short, tight, revealing clothing, to get men’s attention. Yes, these women are prostitutes and don’t represent the typical female population, but with shots focused on their breasts and butts it sends the message that these two parts of the body are very important for a woman’s success (i.e. getting a man).
Although Vivian’s world seems to change when she develops a relationship with Edward, the idea that she is being paid to be a beautiful woman on a man’s arm is still very much the same. She is the definition of an object, because to him, at least initially, she is just for show. What’s interesting to see is the change that the shift between worlds brings about in Vivian. Although in principle she is still doing the same job, she is far less confident and comfortable in her new world. In the beginning she sits with her body square and open, and even though she was also very sexualized in these positions, she seemed powerful. This image of power came from the fact that these positions are masculine and masculinity in itself is power. As she becomes accustomed to this new world Vivian becomes a “lady.” With this proper lady-like attitude comes the aspect of femininity, and with femininity comes a sense of weakness. She conforms to this new world of femininity by closing her body off, crossing her legs and taking up less space, something Karin Martin discusses in her article. This is how a “good woman” is supposed to behave and this is how they get a man. Although Edward was always attracted to Vivian, he falls in love with the girl she becomes, not the girl she was.
In order to have her job with Edward, Vivian must conform to the norms in his world. Vivian immediately loses all power to be herself if she wants to keep her job, so Edward gains complete control over her. Not only does he have money, which comes with power, but he also has the power to make her into the person he wants her to be. Vivian has very little knowledge of how life works in this new world and so she is reliant on Edward. He guides her around, determines the clothes she wears and how she acts. Vivian is like a child. She lies on the floor watching television and eating snacks while Edward sits in a chair watching her, almost like a father would.
As an R-rated movie, Pretty Woman is bound to have more explicit sexualization of woman, but regardless of how explicit it was it really sent the same messages about women and objectified them in the same way. Across the board, there is a huge focus on the female body. Women are sexualized and objectified by the clothes the wear and the ways in which they use their bodies, even in movies marketed to young children. There is also this idea that men are in control of women and that women really depend on men to survive. These are both features that we see in Pretty Woman, but they can be found in almost everything.