Pretty Woman is Not About Hookers

Things are not always what they seem to be.

Land is flat, but the world is round. Stoplights are way bigger than they appear from the driver’s seat. Time travels at the same pace whether you’re sitting in a boring meeting or watching Netflix all day, and Pretty Woman is not about hookers.

(If you haven’t seen the film, check out the trailer so you know what it’s all about.)

In fact, I would argue that Pretty Woman is one of the most realistic stories out there. It’s like, remember when you read Animal Farm and at some point realized that the story was not about an animal farm but instead an allegory for the Russian Revolution of 1917 (thanks, 9th grade English)? Pretty Woman is that. Except it’s not using hookers and businessmen to tell the story of a war or a revolution. It’s using them to tell us the story of the fight that every single human goes through, which is the fight we all have with ourselves about whether or not we deserve a good life.

For starters, let’s talk about what makes our two main characters so realistic.

Whenever Vivian (Julia Roberts) got punished as a kid, she was locked in the attic, where she dreamed of a knight in shining armor whisking her away. So when a less-than-knightly guy came along during her teens and offered to whisk her away from Georgia, of course she accepted. But “away” was LA, and the guy peaced out, leaving Vivian to fend for herself. Vivian needed a way to make ends meet and she hadn’t graduated high school, so she became a hooker. But part of her still waits for that fairytale, not believing that this could be all she was meant for in life. She protects herself from getting stuck by not falling in love, by never kissing anybody on the mouth.

Edward (Richard Gere) also tries to protect himself by keeping the rest of the world at a distance. His father left his mother and screwed her over, so Edward has learned that love is a dangerous risk. Edward controls his life by planning and working and screwing other people over the way his father did. He has relationships because that’s what one does, but like Vivian, he keeps from ever emotionally connecting; he rarely spends time with his girlfriends, and  he never kisses them on the mouth.

Edward and Vivian meet when Edward gets lost on Hollywood Boulevard and needs directions. He’s obsessed with utility and she can offer him a service; she needs to make ends meet and knows that she has nothing to lose because this cannot possibly be her endgame. That’s what gets them both into a car. Of course this doesn’t happen every day. But I don’t think it’s so hard to believe in a girl who is searching for something more and a guy who’s been burned and is just staying frozen so it doesn’t happen again.

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Once Vivian and Edward get together, we have a little fun at casual places like Rodeo Drive and the opera. But things stay real; he has trouble connecting, admitting what he wants. She has trouble trusting him when he does offer her a “fairytale.” Here is my paraphrasing of Edward’s and Vivian’s thoughts throughout the movie, if they were in touch with their emotions enough to identify them:

“I want my life to be amazing, but so far the people in it have made me believe I don’t deserve that. I care about other people, so I believe them. That’s why it’s so hard for me to let go of what I know to take a risk and do anything that could make me really happy. I’ve spent so long thinking I don’t deserve it that, now it’s in front of me, I’m not even sure I know what it is. I want my dreams to come true, but life has taught me to stop dreaming.

The point of this movie is not that ladies should expect a man to come along and save us, or that men should solve their problems with money and sex. The point of this movie is two people who feel alone and worthless, who for all the world appear as though they do not have hearts. They protect themselves by toughening up, but that toughening up necessarily means giving in to the harshness of the world and believing that maybe they are heartless after all.

But that’s not so. Edward is kind, Vivian is honest. They both have goals and fears and things that make them angry. They both have hearts. They both try to protect those hearts, because they’ve been broken, but they both also take little steps toward finding what they want once they feel comfortable and brave enough to take that risk.

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We all try to protect ourselves. We put up a tough front. We have dreams that we are too tough or terrified to realize. But sometimes if we open ourselves up to something a little crazy, we can find the bravery to accept our dreams- and ourselves. The romance in Pretty Woman is wonderful, but it’s not what has made this film a classic. Pretty Woman is a powerful movie because it portrays fear and insecurity and the exorbitant amount of courage it takes to dream.

So, things are not as they seem. Pretty Woman isn’t about hookers, and I’ll give you a few others too: Legally Blonde isn’t about law school. Top Gun isn’t about planes. Grease isn’t about grease (okay, that one was a gimme). The point is that if you look closely you can find a way to connect any story to the things we all go through in real life; movies are just a way for our fears to take the form of dreams.

After all, “This is Hollywood. What’s your dream?”


All I Ask For is Your Consideration

Here it is, my very first guest post! This is written by the highly intelligent, highly talented Mr. Chris Dennis. Thanks for trusting me with your words, Chris.

I do not want your sympathy, nor do I want your hair-trigger reaction in an attempt to defend a belief that was never attacked. I don’t want your praise and I don’t want your claims of allyship and empathy that primarily serve to validate your “greatness” and to make you look “cool” among your peers. I don’t want your arguments that only have the way you have been treated in this lifetime as a source. I don’t want to be written off because my opinion differs from yours. I don’t need your rebuttals that are laced with insults and elusive quotations from your religious leader that lack evidence and relevance to the situation at hand.

All I ask for is your consideration.

I do not sit here typing this out to insult or to cause harm. I sit here because every day I wake up and I read comment after comment and tweet after tweet of people carelessly preaching their opinions to all who will listen without taking a moment, just a second, to think. I sit here because I hope that even just one person will read this and will be inspired to make a change, no matter how small. I was not always aware of all the hurt my words and actions caused and I never fully will be, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try. Treating others with respect, or even just treating them as fellow human beings, takes nothing from you and it does a whole lot more good than being hateful and malicious.

All I ask for is your consideration.

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Yes, I am angry. I am outraged that every day there seem to be more and more people who have fallen victim to injustice than I even have time to mourn for. That it does not matter if we scream or we whisper, our voices just don’t seem to be heard. That my family and friends and their friends’ and families’ lives are at risk of becoming another means of getting ratings, attention, or laws passed. Are at risk of joining the ever rising body count because of their existence. Are at risk of losing someone dear to them because an assumption was made.

All I ask for is your consideration.

When you developed your opinions on certain topics, did consider the facts and statistics and then draw conclusions from an objective point of view? When you made jabs at a person because their thoughts differ from yours, did you take the time to consider where their viewpoint came from?

When you talked to your family about your love interest, did you consider that a conversation about their gender never occurred? When you watched movies did you ever consider that the majority, if not all, of the cast looks just like you? When you went to a friend’s house did you ever consider that that friend’s parents didn’t prevent you from coming over because of the color of your skin? When you told people of your dreams and aspirations did you consider that no ever one told you people of your gender can’t do that?

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When you attempted to make your skin darker or make your lips bigger did you ever consider that those very traits were first popular as insults used to belittle an entire race? When you forced yourself on that person because they didn’t give you what you wanted, did you ever consider that they had wants too, wants that did not involve you? When you continued to go to school and told others to stop complaining did you consider that your life was not threatened if you attended, solely because of the way you were born? When you said that racism doesn’t exist did you use your own life as an example, or did you consider the millions of people who face racism every day?

When you made a blanket statement about an entire group of people did you consider that you yourself differ in many ways from people who share resemblances to you? When you spoke out on that issue did you consider that what you saw on the news is not the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? When you took action did you stop and consider that the life you were given is not the same as everyone else’s? When you felt a little better after a stranger sent kindness your way, did you ever consider that you could easily do the same for someone else too?

All I ask for is your consideration.

Did you ever stop and consider that you might be wrong and that changing your opinion IS a possibility? Did you ever consider that you too can make mistakes? Did you ever consider that you might be right, but that changing someone’s opposing opinion would be easier if you refrained from insults and had an intelligent conversation? Did you ever consider that not every battle is yours to fight? Did you consider that no matter how much you think you know you’ll never know it all?

All I ask for is your consideration.

I could be anyone. You mother, your brother, your friend, your teacher, a stranger on the street, or a follower on the internet. It does not matter who I am in your eyes; rash and inconsiderate actions will get us nowhere fast.

All I ask for is your consideration.

How A Stranger’s Death Changed My Life

This is a story about the life lessons we can all take from any tragedy, whether it’s close by or far away. This is a story about one person’s ripples becoming another’s tidal waves. This is a story about people connecting with each other. This is a story about how a stranger’s death changed my life.

In 2009, a friend fatefully introduced me to the TV show Glee, and from the beginning I was hooked. I made my friends watch it, I quoted it in my public speaking, I used it to connect with students when I worked in a school, I wrote about it in my blogmultiple times. There were so many aspects of Glee that touched me, but one of the most important was that I loved Finn.

Finn was The Quarterback. He was the good guy, the leader, the one who was willing to admit his mistakes, who treated everyone with decency and honesty. And the actor who played him, Cory Monteith, was like that too. In 2011 Cory came to my college for a show and I had the opportunity to meet him. Overcome by emotion, unsure of what to say, I simply asked, “Can I hug you?” “Come here,” was his answer.


Meeting Cory Monteith – 2011

Two years later- and three years ago today- on July 13, 2013, Cory Monteith died of a drug overdose in a hotel in Canada, not a week after graduating from rehab.

My world was rocked. Although I didn’t know Cory, somehow he was this incredibly important figure in my life. In many ways he had been my hero: the one who made me believe, above all else, that every person mattered- and, by extension, that mattered.

Friends I hadn’t spoken to in years sent me messages to ask whether I was alright; one housemate even drove me to a candlelight vigil outside Paramount Studios. At the vigil fans took turns sharing their experiences about meeting Cory. When it was my turn, I said that all I could think to do in the face of this tragedy was find a way to inject into our future lives what I saw as Cory’s ultimate lesson: every person matters. Whether you like them or not, whether you agree with them or not, whether they have broken laws or hurt themselves or even hurt you- they are a human being, and every human being matters.

The day Cory died, the internet was alight with words from people who were deeply, genuinely affected. I had never felt so connected to people all over the globe who were feeling the same loss that I was, although it touched each of us in different ways. I imagined how modest Cory would be if he could see to how many people saw him as a hero- and then I wondered whether that could be the case with all of us. Maybe we haven’t all touched millions of people, but we have all been there for a friend, smiled at a stranger, offered a kind word when somebody seemed down- and to those people our actions may have meant the world. In some way, we are all heroes.

In the days following Cory’s death, I was forced to make a career decision; a few days earlier I had been offered an internship at an education nonprofit in New York City, and I didn’t have long to decide whether to uproot and go. Simply put, I was scared. I couldn’t shake the feeling that this decision would affect the rest of my life. Overwhelmed, confused, and frozen, I asked a friend for advice. “What if you went to New York,” she said, “and you helped one student, and because of you, that student didn’t become involved in drugs like Cory?”

Life isn’t quite that simple, but the meaning was clear: I could change a life. My tiny action could lead to another tiny action that, some day, could save somebody’s hero. In that universal way in which we are all connected, it almost felt like saving Cory.

So I went to New York City, visiting Boston along the way. One thing led to another, and a year later, I found myself moving to Boston to work at an education nonprofit. Right before we began working in schools, we each stood up in front of the entire corps and all of the organization’s employees to dedicate our year of service.

When it was my turn, my hand shook as I took the microphone. “I want to dedicate my year of a service to a guy who taught me that every person, no matter what, matters. Whether they think they do or not. And that guy’s name is Cory Monteith.”

every person matters

Cory taught me how interconnected people really are, how we care about the same things and how we want to help each other. Cory inspired me to take chances- from moving to New York to starting my lofty 101 Goals in 1001 Days (which I began on July 13, 2015, the anniversary of the day Cory’s death began to change my life). Most importantly, though, Cory taught me that one person’s actions can shape another’s life.

You don’t have to be a famous actor. You don’t have to preach. If we live life in a way that aligns with our own personal truths, we will touch and inspire others. Cory taught me that it’s possible to change a person’s path simply by existing. Cory taught me that everyone has the power to make change. Cory taught me that I can make change.

Cory taught me that, if we’re open to exploring the world and trying to understand our place in it, we open ourselves to experiences and lessons and being swept away in a tidal wave of life’s richness that began with a single ripple. Cory taught me that, if we allow it, even a stranger’s death can change our lives.