Source: My Fair Lady. Directed by George Cukor. Performed by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison. Accessed December 1, 2016.
My Fair Lady is somewhat of a rags-to-riches story, but with a fun, sexist twist. The main character, played by Audrey Hepburn, is a poor young woman living in London by the name of Eliza Doolittle. After a chance meeting, Eliza goes to live with a man named Professor Higgins for six months as part of a bet that he could pass her off as royalty simply by teaching her to speak proper English. All throughout the film, Professor Higgins treats Eliza the same way one might treat a dog; he gives her rough commands with the expectation that she will immediately obey; he ignored her need for proper sleep and nourishment; and he has a complete disregard for her emotional well-being, evidenced by his constant insulting remarks.
Near the end of the film, Eliza attends a grand ball and is introduced to dozens of London’s high society, as well as some royalty. She successfully passes as a member of high society due to her newly acquired language skills. However, at the end of the evening, Professor Higgins close friend and the staff in his house all congratulate him on a job well done; not a word of congratulations is offered to Eliza. When she expresses some of her concerns to the professor of how she’s been treated, he is completely shocked that she would complain about any sort of mistreatment. He is unable to see his actions as unfair in any way, and he even considers her ungrateful. This supports the idea we’ve seen in several periods throughout history that women are supposed to keep a cheery disposition even in the face of terrible circumstances; they are not to complain, for that is not the role of an ideal woman.
After all the abuse Eliza suffered, at the end of the movie she still returns to the professor’s home, and the audience can assume that she stays there for quite some time. This is one of the more unsettling messages from the film: even in an unhealthy relationship, men and women are supposed to be together, and that heterosexual relationships are the natural state for men and women. There were little hints of this theme all throughout the movie. During a song sung by Eliza’s father, we hear the lyrics, “the gentle sex was made for man to marry.” Very clearly, we see the expectation that women are supposed to marry and that that is a natural part of life. Later, when Eliza is considering what she might do after the ball and the bet are over, she tells Professor Higgins that she might marry Freddie, a socialite that she met at the races. That exchange illustrates how common marriage was, and that it was normal for a lady to consider marriage instead of any sort of career. This also supports one of the themes in Tyler Perry’s movies that marriage is seen as a solution to women’s problems.
Though Eliza has a bit more spunk than the average woman, she still feels drawn to an unhealthy relationship, for heterosexual relationships help keep the world in order.