Is There Really a Prince Charming for Every Cinderella?

Pretty Woman 2Since the film debut of Pretty Woman in 1990, audiences everywhere have been charmed by the “fairytale” romance that leaves audiences with a “Cinderella” feeling, that dreams can come true for the least of those in American culture. Whether impoverished or enslaved, someone will come along to rescue us from dire circumstances…right? On Monday, March 23rd, the cast was brought together for a reunion on NBC’s Today to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the iconic movie.
For those who are not aware of the very real tragedy of human trafficking, the story is light hearted and divinely romantic. Prince charming (Richard Gere, who portrays a wealthy businessman) falls for a woman in prostitution (Julia Roberts) and in the end rescues her from life on the streets. His character gives the pretty lady hope that she can have a better life. In reality, there is hope for those victimized by human trafficking but they are not enjoying life in a Beverly Hills Hotel.

Interestingly, the original script wasn’t even a romance or a comedy but a dark cautionary tale about drug abuse called 3,000. The title represented how much money Roberts’ character (Vivian) got paid. At the end of the original script, Vivian is thrown out of the car and Gere’s character throws the money on top of her and he drives away. The girl dies. The original script was more tailored to the reality of prostitution and the cold hard facts of the violence and abuses that come with the territory, a better portrayal of modern day slavery.

NEST would like to join with other anti-human trafficking advocates and capitalize on the 25th Anniversary of Pretty Woman by bringing light to the truth about sex slavery. The reality is that thousands of girls (and boys) are lured by traffickers every day, and are also sitting in America’s classrooms. They are enduring horrific pain emotionally, mentally, and physically by night and going to school by day. NEST’s goal is to get anti-human trafficking curriculums into those young people’s classrooms, so they never fall into the traps of a trafficker or become a sex buyer themselves.

Demand Abolition, an advocacy organization in MA, recently shared several op-eds debunking the Pretty Woman fantasy by clearly explaining the many harms of illegal commercial sex. These op-eds include:
• Marian Hatcher, survivor leader and Cook County Sherriff Project Manager, in the Huffington Post.
• Peter Qualliotine, co-founder and Director of Men’s Accountability for Organization for Prostitution Survivors, in the New York Times blog.
• Kaethe Morris Hoffer, the Executive Director of the Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, writes An Open Letter to Richard Gere on Pretty Woman’s 25th Anniversary.
• Detective Donna Gavin, head of Boston Police Anti-Trafficking Unit, in
• Mitch Morrissey, Denver District Attorney, in the Denver Post.

As educators we hope you will take time to read and share these stories with your colleagues and help present a more accurate view of the sex trade and sex buyers than the myth that Pretty Woman portrays. If appropriate, we suggest you share the film with your students and then have discussions with them about the truth of the illegal sex trade. After that, you might want something more, and that is where one of the curriculums from the NEST website could come in handy.

Demand Abolition states “The goal is not to criticize the movie’s fans for enjoying it, but the national attention presents a unique opportunity to emphasize the real-life damage caused by this industry.” We couldn’t agree more. Do something today to protect your students or children from becoming the next enslaved Pretty Woman.

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