Pygmalion Essay – Appropriationof a Key Text from the Past.
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Pygmalion Essay - Appropriation of a Key Text from the Past Appropriation of texts has occurred for centuries, as stories have been adapted to contemporary situations that are relevant to its audience. The Myth of Pygmalion is one such case. George Bernard Shaw and Garry Marshall have taken the ancient Myth of Pygmalion and transformed it using language, form and values to reflect the context of their times. The play Pygmalion appropriates characters, social context and values to present the transformation of Eliza Doolittle from a flower girl to a lady whilst Pretty Woman uses filmic devices to present Vivian's transformation from a prostitute to a rich woman. In George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, the artist figure of the Myth is represented by Henry Higgins, now transformed into an enthusiastic phoneticist. This is appropriate to the social context of the time, as an individual's speech determined their social class and status. Like a sculptor, Higgins moulds Eliza into his image of an ideal middle class woman by changing her speech, hygiene and social etiquette. The play confronts serious issues that were present in England during the early 20th century. Poverty and class divisions are presented in a light-hearted way through the use of humorous scenes such as Eliza first taking a bath and refusing to remove her clothes. Accepted behaviour and morals between the classes are explored.
Whereas Pygmalion is a social critique of its time, Pretty Woman falls under the genre of a Romantic Comedy. Set in Hollywood in the 1990s, it no longer has the English class divisions of Shaw's Pygmalion, as the division now lies between the wealthy and the poor. The opportunity for wealth and a better life is available for those who are determined, such as Vivian, a prostitute on the streets. Vivian's transformation begins with Edward Lewis, who requires a female partner for business purposes. He does not hesitate to allow her to fulfill that role, despite the fact that she is a prostitute. This would not have happened in earlier times and clearly reflects open, late 20th century values and changing morality. In Vivian's case, prostitution is where intimate sexual relationships are cheapened and commercialized. The importance of relationships is further diminished by suggestions in the film that relationships are secondary to money and business. In the film's opening scene at Edward's party, money is part of a magic trick. This gives the impression of modern society involving wealth, business and the tricky associated with the two. The setting of Hollywood Boulevard is dramatically contrasted to Edward's world of money and business. An example is the black hustler in the streets who hollers, "This is Hollywood where people come to fulfill their dreams!"
Despite her prostitution, Vivian is an independent woman and it is she who gives Edward directions when he is lost and drives his car to the hotel. Vivian is an example of the changing role of women in a modern society, and her character allows audiences to understand social context of the film. The form of each text also reflects the context of each composer's time. Shaw's Pygmalion is in the form of a play, to be performed in theatres to the middle and upper classes as entertainment. On the other hand, Pretty Woman takes the form of a Hollywood romantic comedy and its medium is film. By doing this, many visual aspects are used to reflect the appropriated elements from the Myth such as Vivian's transformation. Its suitability for a modern, visually attuned audience reflects the culture of today. Film also allows meaning to be conveyed through sound. An example of this is their opera night, and the song 'Fallen' by Lauren wood accompanies their trip by plane. This not only sets the romantic atmosphere by also reflects context. Shaw's Pygmalion and Pretty Woman by Garry Marshall are both texts appropriated from the Pygmalion Myth. Written almost a century apart, there are significant differences in terms of language, form and values. Each of these has been used to convey values and attitudes relevant to the culture of that time, so that their audience readily relates to and accepts them. Despite using some elements from the Myth, each has been uniquely appropriated by the composer to reflect its context.
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