The Ugly Truth About “Pretty Woman”

Pretty Woman poster

I’ve seen the movie Pretty Woman more times than I want to remember. But I never saw it through their eyes – through the eyes of two young girls, one interviewed in the movie Nefarious, one in the movie Sex and Money.

Years ago, when I saw the movie through my middle class lens, I saw the title character as a beautiful, young woman who wanted out of “the life.” She’d entered a life of prostitution as a last resort. Her mom called her a “bum magnet,” always drawn to the wrong guy, and when she found herself penniless on the streets of LA, she sold the only thing she had, her body.  She was still plucky and moral, just down on her luck. Until one day, her luck turned for the better as a dashing millionaire in the wrong neighborhood needed directions.

But when the two young girls saw this movie, they saw it differently. They saw something that I never envisioned. They saw prostitution as a chance to meet their own Prince Charming, and the movie Pretty Woman was the catalyst for them to enter “the life.”

Each of these girls soon discovered that reality is far different from Hollywood. There was no Prince Charming, no fairy tale ending. They suffered abuse of the worse kind; they lost their freedom and their dignity, and they still experience flashbacks, PTSD, damaged emotions, and lifelong scars.

When I heard their stories, I was sick to my stomach that I had enjoyed something so destructive.

Today is the 25th anniversary of Pretty Woman. Abolitionist Kimberly Rae posted an open letter to Julia Roberts about the history behind the film. I had no idea Disney white-washed this script, creating a fairy tale from what was a “grisly, ugly story about these two people.” And if I had known, I’m not sure it would have made a difference to me then. But it does now.

Please read Kimberly’s post all the way to the end. And ask yourself the same question she asks Julia Roberts, the same question I asked myself, the same question we each must answer – “now that you know, would you do something about it?”

And if you want to do something, but don’t know what to do, visit us at Justice Network. We’re a group of like-minded people like you doing what we can to contribute to ending human trafficking.


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