My “Not-So Fair” Lady

This morning I decided to watch one of my all time favourite films … “My Fair Lady”. It is undoubtedly one of the best made films ever … Audrey Hepburn’s character “Eliza Doolittle” is one of the most enchanting characters of our times. The film is a work of art and no wonder every time I watch it, I fall deeper in love with it. However, this time, I watched that film without my rose ringed glasses. I saw it as a woman and not as a besotted fan … I saw that film, the way a film is supposed to be seen and while I did enjoy it as much I could not disagree more with the manner in which the film has treated women.

The story of “My Fair Lady” is fairly simple … It is about a flower girl who is trained by phonetics expert in order to presented at the King’s ball as a Duchess … The film is about the journey of Prof. Higgins falling in love with his own muse but not before humiliating her for her gender. What is even more humiliating is the ego trip of Prof. Higgins played by Rex Harrison who takes upon Hepburn as a project just to prove a point … to massage his ego by trying to shatter hers … it was as if he desired to test his skills as a professor of phonetics and Doolittle’s performance was his report-card … “You know, it’s almost irresistible. She’s so deliciously low. So horribly dirty.” … made my intestines squirm. If there is one emotion which is capable of earth-shattering actions, it is anger but “disgust” is something which goes deeper and darker than anger and is even more destructive … This dialogue DISGUSTED me!! It was loaded with misogyny.

There is a scene in the film in which one of the background windows has “Give your support to Suffragettes” painted on it … It is undoubtedly the biggest joke in the film. Here is a magnum opus on gender discrimination and class consciousness and in it there is a signboard which talks of supporting the right to vote for women!

The origination of the phrase “My Fair Lady” is clothed in centuries of racism, gender inequality and economic & occupational stratification. The term “Fair” denotes the color of the skin of the lady we are referring to … A woman has to be fair in order to be a lady … A colored woman is not fit be treated as a lady …

Further, the term “lady” over here refers to a woman who does not belong to the working class … A woman becomes a lady ONLY after she is groomed to adorn appropriate attire … She must be all-encompassingly impeccable … Hepburn has some of the most powerful dialogues after her metamorphosis from a “guttersniper” to a Duchess … In her words … “Col Pickering makes a flower girl feel like a lady because he treats her like one” … This touched a raw nerve in me … Treatment classifies a woman as a lady … Lady is not an adjective … It is an emotion. You feel lady-like when you are treated like a lady, your class and your race notwithstanding. Fans and tiaras with perfect hairdos dont turn a woman into a lady … They never have; they never will.

“My Fair Lady” is a work of art … But it is time that in the 21st century … A film “My Not-So Fair” Lady is made in which a flower girl continues to remain one and a Prof. Higgins falls in love with just as she is …

With honey dipped flowers … Heres Sugarsatchet wishing all her readers a very warm and happy Lohri




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