TIME magazine recently ran a tribute to My Fair Lady commemorating the 50th anniversary of the classic—yet still relevant—film.
“Although it may be easy to dismiss the 1964 movie musical as an outdated rom-com from the shady period before feminism got rolling,” wrote Charlotte Alter, “it’s much more than just a relic of a sexist time. The movie itself isn’t misogynistic—it’s about misogyny.”
This is exactly what I’ve always thought about the film, which has long been one of my favorites. But the piece went on to suggest that Eliza Dolittle, played by Audrey Hepburn, ultimately surrendered her strong personality to return to her love interest after having walked out on him during an argument:
Of course, the whole Eliza-is-a-strong-woman argument gets compromised by the ending. Because after all her proclamations that she can “stand on her own,” Eliza comes back to Higgins. And when he asks ‘where the devil are my slippers?’ she brings them to him. It’s an ending with the same ashy taste as the ending of Grease, because it seems incongruous: Eliza has no business being with Higgins, and it’s clear she’s independent-minded enough to know it.
That characterization doesn’t jibe at all with the tough, determined character who’s been a heroine of mine since I was 11 years old. Not only does Alter remember the ending incorrectly (Eliza does not, in fact, bring the slippers), but she excuses Eliza’s choice on the grounds that “Eliza has no family connections, no money and no formal education, which means she has nowhere to go but back to the streets.” Eliza doesn’t need that kind ...1
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