Connection Between Pygmalion and the Film My Fair Lady
“Pygmalion” is one of the best works done by George Bernard Shaw. It is inspired by a Greek mythology of a sculptor name”Pygmalion” who makes a porcelain statue embodying his own ideal of womanhood, which he names Galatea. He is too mesmerized by his own creation that he falls in love with it. Pygmalion requests the goddess Venus to bring Galatea to life, she does that. Later, they starts living happily ever after. The drama “Pygmalion” is inspired by this mythology, and the film “My fair lady” is inspired by the drama. The main characters of the drama are Eliza and Henry. The dynamic due has a cynical chemistry between themselves which is different in the movie “My fair lady” from the drama, but the main theme of both is same except for the conclusion and tone of the environment. The drama leaves more of a serious message than the movie, the movie relies on entertainment purpose.
Academy winner movie “My Fair Lady” is directed by the enormous George Cukor. This film is inspired by G. B. Shaw’s drama “Pygmalion”, but we can see some distinction between the two. Specially, the tone of the film is way lighter than the drama and the conclusion as well. “My Fair Lady” is a romantic love story with a happy ending while Shaw’s play does not depict that. It rather emphasizes on Eliza’s self-respect. The romance in the play is incomplete. Shaw shows the romance within Eliza’s transformation from a poor and uneducated girl into a classy, elite and independent woman. Although, in both the play and the film the lead characters do fall in love with each other, Shaw’s play leaves it incomplete in order to make Eliza a respectful character. Cukor on the other hand focused more on what is sold good as a film. He knew that a happy ending makes it a better film for the audience so, he united the lead characters in the end. But even in the film, its seen how rude and ill mannered Henry is. Eliza is just a mere object to him whom he wants to shape according to his interest. His interest was to make Eliza eligible enough to behave like an elite lady. He is egoistic and pretentious. When Eliza masters all his techniques and antiques perfectly, he rather shows everyone how a girl from a gutter is now an utter elegance. He takes credit for it as a teacher ignoring the fact how fast and smoothly Eliza learns everything. She is only taken as a charming well spoken lady while deep down, she is going through identity crisis. She is afraid where she will live after all these learning process are done, she can surely see that for Henry, slippers are way more important than her. Despite all these negative aspects of Henry and his ill treatments towards Eliza, Cukor taking a happy ending for the film can leave a confusion in audiences’ mind. Specially, the male audience can get a bad message from the film. They can behave bad with their beloved female and get away with it.
“If the Higgins oxygen burns up her little lungs, let her seek some stuffiness that suits her! She’s an owl sickened by a few days of my sunshine! Very well, let her go – I can do without her. I can do without anyone! I have my own soul, my own spark of divine fire!”
This quote above shows how blatantly Henry is saying that whatever Eliza is because of him, or she only belongs to that gutter. According to him, she does not have any competence in her, she is ungrateful and she should be thankful for the lavish lifestyle which was bestowed upon her by Henry. In Shaw’s play this arrogance of Henry has been stretched till the end of the play which resulted in Eliza leaving. Shaw wanted to interpret a self of worth in a young poor woman. He wanted to show that how the class hierarchy of England back then had a huge impact on a person reshaping his lover. Henry for sure has feelings for Eliza but the social construct of that time makes him behave in a certain way with Eliza. Shaw was very particular with this message while the movie does not really care about that. I do not think that Shaw would like this Rom-com interpretation of his serious drama if he was alive.
I have read the original play before the film, and it had a better impact on me than the film did. The film is surely a catch for the eye and a good one-time watch, but it disappointed me with its light treatment of the whole content. As I can see how Henry’s intelligence was only limited to his knowledge of linguistics, I can also presume that in the same way, he has no sense of respect for people of lower class. He does have the ability to analyze discourse and assume people’s nationality by that, but I think he could not reckon the fact that he needs to be diverse in the same way when it comes to treat his student. I really did not like how Eliza ends up with him despite all the ill treatments he shoved upon her in the movie.
Lastly, I think from the beginning, Eliza has a sense of self worth and self-respect in her. She hesitates to take bath because she does not want to see her body; she is completely alright with whatever identity she has. She just wants to learn, but rather becomes a tool for Henry to get showed off as his success to others while get no appreciation for her hard work. She is less important than his slippers. Henry, just like Pygmalion wants to shape her which will cater his social status or his own ideal of womanhood, but every human is born with their own unique self which can be evolved but cannot be changed. This is the moment where the conflict begins which ends in their separation in the play but rather a cliche happy ending in the film.
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