Jessica Abdilla- Forms of Capital in ‘Pretty Woman’

Posted: February 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

When first delving into Holt’s reading for this week, I instantly thought of ‘Pretty Woman’; for those unaware, the film depicts an eager business man named Edward [Richard Gere] falling madly in love with the prostitute he hires to be his escort during a business trip named Vivian [Julia Roberts]. With Edward and Vivian embodying distinctive social classes, it is made extremely clear that the two differ in a variety of complex ways.


Edward would fit into the category Holt labels HCC: he is wealthy, sophisticated, educated and ambitious. His character reflects many of the characteristics which Holt’s attributes to the HCC class in regards to his occupation-of-choice, aesthetic preferences, eye for quality and taste for unusual delicacies (specifically for escargot). Furthermore, he possesses all four forms capital Bourdieu pinpoints in his reading: Edward has economic capital resulting from his occupation, social capital through the array business contacts he has networked, cultural capital through the knowledge set and skills he possesses and symbolic capital from the status he is marked with.


Vivian as a character would fit into the category Holt labels LCC: as a prostitute she does not make a lot of money, but she dreams for bigger and better things (an enjoys the indulgence of a shopping spree). Unlike Edward who possesses all forms of Bordieu’s capital, Vivian lacks capital altogether. It is self-evident that Vivian does not possess economic capital, however she also struggles to develop status and respect because of her occupation (symbolic capital), does not have a wide network to rely on (social capital), and most importantly does not initially have an abundance of knowledge or skills to fit in with the upper class (cultural capital). Gradually, Vivian transforms into an entirely different person once she acquires these forms of capital in the film. The clip below both shows distinctions between Edward and Vivian, along with Vivian’s attempt to improve her table-etiquette as a skill and gain cultural capital:


  1. cs341blog says:

    I agree with this entry completely, because Pretty Woman portrays the concept of low and high cultural capital exceptionally. Throughout the movie it is evident that Edward and Vivian’s tastes do not even compare. In class we described taste as the “difference between big and low cultural capital.” Taste is dependent on socio-economic levels, and commonly their upbringing. The upbringing can also be referred to as the ‘habits,’ which is simply the environment that you grew up in. While taste and cultural capital is established based on these aspects, it can change over time and can be acquired. In Vivian’s case, she adapted to high cultural taste in order to fit in to situations that Edward put her into. Her identity completely transformed to feel as though she is part of the ‘high’ society. An aspect that stood out to me during lecture was that we stated cultural elites do not flaunt their materialism. This relates to Edward because he never feels the need to flaunt his money to anyone, he enjoys the lifestyle he lives, albeit it is a luxurious and expensive one but it relates to his wants and tastes. When Vivian is exposed to large sums of money, she takes an exorbitant shopping trip and feels the need to showcase herself as a successful and financially independent individual through materialism.

    If I were to market to Edward and Vivian, I would use immensely different techniques to appeal to each of them. For Vivian, her tastes include clothes and accessories, items that could go out of style quickly. The clothes that would be marketed to her are fads and when advertising, I would choose to associate a glorious lifestyle with the product. This way she will feel that if she possess the product, she will experience commodity fetishism. For Edward, advertising would not compel him nearly as much as Vivian but simplicity would be a method I would use. He appreciates timelessness and classic items that will never go out of style. The advertisements would be basic and the product will say all that needs to be said.

    Overall, cultural capital and taste are important concepts to consider when marketing because it helps us distinguish what type of consumption styles people use, as Holt states. Taste unites and separates us, so we must be aware of people’s individual taste in order to effectively advertise.

    Katelyn Roetcisoender

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