Way Back Wednesday: Pygmalion

I could never name all the Pygmalion references and tropes that popped up when I was growing up. It’s a myth our culture is obsessed with. But I’ll try to hit the highlights.

My Fair Lady/Pygmalion

Both versions of this play, the original and the now famous production pictured above influenced my perception of this myth. Eliza was no man’s statue and she resented being remade as much as she didn’t. She’s a pretty complex character. The original ending leaves her stranded between two world’s, something only hinted at as a potential outcome in the movie. That always resonated with me for some reason, and it works as a theme in a trilogy that’s going to focus so much on demigods.

The reshaping an already living person to fit an idealized version of them was revisited in a lot of other media before and after My Fair Lady. Namely

— The Taming of the Shrew

— She’s All That

— The Princess Diaries

— Anastasia

— Vertigo

— Greece

— Josie and the Pussycats the movie

— Jem and the Holograms

— Aladin

— Pretty Woman

— Literally every other movie or book that features a character needing a makeover and etiquette lessons to pass themselves off as something they’re not. Usually at some point in the story the disturbing/sexist/classist implications of this are explored and the person doing the shaping either figures out the person is perfect as is or the person figures out how to use both who they ARE and the skills the learned to be someone else to be a better version of someone true to themselves.

This variation of the trope was beautifully subverted in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies series.

Frankenstein

Obviously subverted but echoes of the myth are there loud and clear.

Pinocchio

Possibly the only version of this myth that isn’t disturbing, inherently sexist, classist, or fetishy. Yet I still hate it. Seriously, the move scared me when I was little so much that I only remember fragments of it.

Pixel Perfect

Disney’s answer to the Pygmalion myth. I don’t remember much of this other than the girl who liked the guy the entire time was super upset to find the hologram he’d made had her ears. I actually thought that was an interesting touch though. He pulled all the bits of the hologram from features of people he knew.

Also the same girl tried to be like the hologram, which really added layers upon layers to the myth.

A whole slew of anime:

Chobits, Dears, Ghost in the Shell and others followed the theme of creating perfect women or AI interfaces being made real. I watched a lot of anime in my teenage years. Some of these series handled all the implications and complications of this trope well, others were more interested in hyper sexualizing the myth.

And of course: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Of course there’s a callback to the myth with the robot girlfriend and the Buffy Bot. But Dawn also fits the myth as do the slayers themselves. There are a lot of Galatea echoes in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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