During the recent Miss USA pageant, Miss Ohio's response to a judge's question stirred a bit of criticism.
“Do you think women are depicted in movies and on television in an accurate and positive way?” Judge Marilu Henner asked. “And please give us an example."
In a less than articulate reply, Audrey Bolte, Miss Ohio, praised Julia Roberts' character in the 1990 film, Pretty Woman, and in so doing, shot herself in the foot and lost her chance to be crowned Miss USA.
Pretty Woman? Really?
In Pretty Woman, Julia Roberts portrayed a prostitute who masters the social graces thanks to being “kept” by a wealthy man. My initial reaction upon hearing Miss Ohio suggesting Roberts' character in Pretty Woman as an accurate and positive reflection of women was laughter. Then I tried to come up with my own answer to the question posed to Miss Bolte - and came up blank. Absolutely blank.
Conversely, several films depicting women in an unfavorable light (something Hollywood relies upon to sell tickets) quickly came to mind. The first, Bridesmaids, a popular, much praised movie I absolutely loathed, is about a group of dysfunctional, foul-mouthed, drunken women. What's Your Number, starring Anna Ferris, which I could stomach for no more than twenty minutes, is a similar offering. Jennifer Aniston received accolades for her comedic performance as a professional, albeit trashy, woman in Horrible Bosses – another movie I could not bear – and Natalie Portman's character in the popular Black Swan was disturbed and self- possessed.
I had to turn the clock back a bit and think long and hard (in far more time than allotted to Miss Ohio!) to come up with memorable, inspiring representations of women in film: The Blind Side, Norma Rae, the wonderful On Golden Pond, The Iron Lady, and the lesser known Sarah's Key are just a few productions that would have served Miss Ohio far better than Pretty Woman.
Hollywood churns out far more trash than quality; Miss Ohio can't be criticized for drawing a blank on stage. When asked what productions showed women in a positive light, the 23 year old simply nervously spit out the first movie that came to mind and tried, rather ineptly, to make sense of it. Though I laughed at first, I'm cutting Miss Ohio some slack. The girl is no dummy; she has a degree in business administration and is an award winning equestrian. It's not her fault lousy movies are more popular than those with substance...movies that would have provided a more insightful response.