Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman"

Julia Roberts in “Pretty Woman”

The 1990 movie “Pretty Woman” is still wildly popular; it relies on the Hollywood canard of the “hooker with a heart of gold.” In the movie, a prostitute is paid to spend the weekend with a wealthy handsome gentleman. The two fall in love, and she is swept off her feet by the courtly man who initially wished only to utilize her. Cue the hankies, sigh for the romance, and fade to black.

Now, the movie is being made into a Broadway musical, which the Huffington Post declares will carry the message from the movie of ” the importance of true love, being yourself and shaming snooty salespeople in public.”

Currently, a young woman, Belle Knox (whose real name is Miriam Weeks), has been making a bit of an entertainment splash, doing the talk show circuit. Knox is currently finishing up her freshman year at Duke University as a women’s studies major. She’s financing her education by working in the porn industry. Visiting the tv show “The View,” Knox said she felt empowered by her work.

Miriam’s Catholic father Kevin and mother Harcharan, reportedly have been ‘floored’ by their daughter’s decision to turn to porn to fund her $60,000-a-year education at the elite school.

Miss Weeks said today that her parents were not aware of her decision to enter the porn industry but are now ‘absolutely supportive’ of her choice.

She added: ‘We tell our children through school and socialization that sexuality is bad’ before adding to the shock of the panelists that she had been watching online porn alone since the age of 12.

Miss Weeks has explained that she entered the porn industry to pay for her $60,000-a-year tuition at Duke. The teenager makes around $1,000-$1,500 for each film she stars in.

When asked by Barbara Walters why she could not work at something else to help pay her way through college, she replied: ‘I’m an 18-year-old without a college degree. Any other job would not have footed the bill.’

She described her career in porn as ‘empowering’ because it allowed her to make decisions in a ‘safe, controlled environment’.

Knox also claimed it was partially her parents’ fault she had to do what she was doing, as they had laid out money for private schooling for their family, but not saved enough for college. “‘The financial aid that I was given to pay for my tuition was insufficient and just really an enormous financial burden on my family,’ she said.” She admits she was offered scholarships to other schools, but wanted to go to Duke.

I was offered full tuition at Vanderbilt, for example, and was accepted into USC, Wellesley, Barnard, Pepperdine, some others. But I visited Duke last year on Blue Devil Days [Duke's programmed weekend for admitted freshmen], and I remember walking into the Duke Chapel — I’m a very spiritual person — and just feeling an energy that told me, “This is the place you need to be.”

So what do “Pretty Woman” and Belle Knox have in common? They portray a world that doesn’t exist. It’s like watching a film set in the “Old South” where all the slaves are heartily singing as they gather cotton. Everyone is happy, enjoying their enslavement.

Ms. Knox may feel empowered, but feelings aren’t facts. The fact is, she’s giving all of her power away to the people making money from her willingness to sell her body. The “Pretty Woman” prostitute isn’t real: wealthy men don’t swoop in to save prostitutes (who look like Julia Roberts, no less) and free them. When a man pays for a prostitute, he’s enslaving her, even if it’s just for a few minutes. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this:

[Pornography] does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. [para. 2354]

Bl. John Paul II, in his Letter To Families, addressed the issue of pornography and its manipulation of the truth:

Human beings are not the same thing as the images proposed in advertising and shown by the modern mass media. They are much more, in their physical and psychic unity, as composites of soul and body, as persons. They are much more because of their vocation to love, which introduces them as male and female into the realm of the “great mystery”.

What is that “great mystery?” It is “the full beauty of the love which God has given to mankind,” the ability for man and woman to join together in marriage, creating life and family, while at the same time respecting the mystery of sexuality as gift, rather than as product.

Prostitution and pornography are not entertainment. They are the enslavement of people as commodities -  a body that is bought and sold, over and over, like a slave on the auction block.

“Pretty Woman” is not pretty, and the price Ms. Knox is paying for her education is far too high. This type of “entertainment” is cheap, insulting and enslaving.


  • wahoowa

    Enjoy these blogs, but you are reaching a bit here. I remember Pretty Woman differently. It is a pretty far-fetched movie for starters, but in the movie, I do not think there is any glorification of porn or prostitution. The Julia Roberts character is quite upset when the male character reveals her background to his business partner. Both the prostitute characters get out of it by the end of the movie and really want to make something out of themselves other than what they have been doing This Ms. Knox is quite the opposite…her behavior is truly reprehensible and far from empowering–it is base, gross and disgusting, and yes, enslaving to sin, just for starters.

    • http://www.acton.org/ Elise Hilton

      I disagree. In the movie, Julia Roberts’ character portrays to young girls (and I’ve talked to a lot of young girls about this movie) that prostitution isn’t so bad. Rich men buy you really nice things, and might even “rescue” you. The message is that a) prostitution isn’t that bad; in fact there are perks and b) you need a man (preferably a wealthy one) to help you change your life, rather than relying on yourself.

      • woodnwheel

        Maybe I’m missing the forest for the trees, but would you mind elaborating on the second part of your statement about the message — i.e. “you need a man… to help you change your life, rather than relying on yourself”? I thought Christians were supposed to rely on God.

        • http://www.acton.org/ Elise Hilton

          Of course. We should all rely on God. I was writing this piece speaking to our culture in general, rather than from a strictly-Christian viewpoint. The movie “Pretty Woman” sends the message to young girls that their worth is extrinsic rather than intrinsic. As Christians, we know our value to be rooted in our Creator, but even on the base level of secular society, a girl shouldn’t think that she needs a man to swoop in and save her, complete her, etc. The overall theme of this movie, many others and porn is: “Female, you are only worth what I’m willing to pay for you and the use of your body.”

          • woodnwheel

            Thanks so much for your response. For the most part, I agree with what you’re saying. The message of “Pretty Woman” is toxic on multiple levels. I concur that “a girl shouldn’t think that she needs a man to swoop in and save her, complete her, etc.” However, apart from finding our fulfillment in Christ, everything else is a dead end. Both Julia Roberts’ character and Richard Gere’s needed to get out of the lifestyle they were in. But romance and even marriage fall short of meeting the real need.

  • Mickey Lax

    What I find appalling here is that Knox said it was partially her parents’ fault for not being able to afford college because they didn’t save up enough. How ungrateful! What do mature people do when they can’t afford the school they want? They pick a different school or save up the money they need to do so. Why do so many people think they are entitled to whatever they want?