Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
Culture > Entertainment

The Ending of My Fair Lady and Its Meaning

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Emerson chapter.

The changes that adaptations of famous books or plays make can be vital to the reception of the new movie and the opinions of both the audience and the previous author. Horror classic Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is rejected by Stephen King, who wrote its source material. In a much older case, the Academy Award winner for Best Picture, My Fair Lady makes vital changes to the original play’s ending that have the ability to change the meaning of the whole play.

George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion follows the story of Eliza Doolittle who is taught to speak and act “proper” by phonetics professor Henry Higgins and his colleague, (think Pretty Woman). The play and the movie are quite similar except for one important moment-the end. What makes Pygmalion so special is that it ends with Eliza learning her own self worth and standing up for herself against Higgins, who has demeaned her and is quite sexist. On the other hand, in the end of My Fair Lady, Eliza goes back to Higgins. It is unclear whether it is in a romantic sense or not, but the gesture itself demeans the feminist ideals of the play and Eliza’s character arc as a whole.

What made Eliza’s character so special is that she did know her worth enough to leave Higgins completely and move on with her life. She stands up to him in a way that she hadn’t before and that completes her arc as a character. She claims that she will go marry and support Freddy, another character in the play who is absolutely infatuated with Eliza. By returning to Higgins, she undermines all of the development that she went through in the play. Although I like the movie, it’s upsetting to see the ending of a film completely denounce everything that it stood for up until then.

This goes to show that changing even such a minute detail as adding one tiny scene can change the meaning of the whole work.   

Gillian Anderson is a journalism major at Emerson College. She's interested in film and loves writing about movies. Gillian's favorite movie is Good Will Hunting and her favorite director is Quentin Tarantino.
Emerson contributor