Study Guide

Gigi Women & Femininity

Women & Femininity

HONORÉ: Profession? Lover and collector of beautiful things. Not antiques, mind you. Younger things.

What's the salary for a job like that? Seriously, Honoré really does think of women as beautiful objects. This line was played for humor in 1958. Would it fly today? Check out the 2015 Broadway production of Gigi and see. Spoiler alert: The song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" was given to Mamita and Alicia.

HONORÉ: There are some in Paris who will not marry and some who do not marry. But here in Paris, those who will not are usually men; and those who do not are usually women.

Honoré lets us know from the get-go what the gender politics are in his world. What's love got to do with it in a world where women need to attach themselves to a wealthy man to have any shot at a decent life? Even knowing he'll probably move on the the next woman at some point? It doesn't seem fair that society was set up so that many women wouldn't ever marry, then they were seen as gold-diggers who wanted nothing more than to force a man into marriage.

AUNT ALICIA: Without the knowledge of jewelry, a woman is lost.

This was considered the kind of critical thinking that women should acquire. Without a diamond, how do you know how much your boyfriend loves you? It's never mentioned in the film, but we assume that Gigi's education (from school, not Aunt Alicia) ended when she married Gaston. We see her in school clothes early on, but once she starts her other education from Alicia, that's the last we hear about Latin class or any other class.

GASTON: The woman was common, plain and unmistakably common, from her painted toenails to the top of her bleached head.

Women in the movie are constantly being judged and scrutinized. He's talking about his girlfriend here.

MADAM ALVAREZ: Time does not stand still for all of us, Honoré.

In Gigi's world, women seem to age more quickly than men. Honoré can still go gallivanting around in the company of young women, but this definitely wasn't the case for older women. As Honoré said to Gaston, what's important is "youth, youth, youth!" Are things all that much different today?

AUNT ALICIA: Marriage is not forbidden to us, but instead of getting married at once, we get married at last.

This is the women's perspective on Honoré's description of men not wanting to be tied down. Women could be left to fend for themselves for a long time. And meanwhile, they have to consider other options like Aunt Alicia's.

AUNT ALICIA: The saucer must look so much a part of your fingers that it could only be removed by surgery.

You had to be perfect if you wanted to land a rich guy. No detail was too small in a woman's training.

MADAME ALVAREZ: I would only entrust her to man that would say, "I'll take care of her. I'll answer for her future.

Madame is looking out for Gigi's best interests, but she is not telling Gaston he must marry Gigi. An acceptable arrangement in this culture is a legal contract spelling out his obligations to keep her as his mistress in a nice home with plenty of dresses and servants.

GASTON: Imagine this if you can: Here is a girl, living in a moldy apartment, decaying walls. Worm-ridden furniture, surrounded by filth…

HONORÉ: You're ruining my lunch.

GASTON: Nothing to look forward to but abject poverty. My heart was touched. I wanted to help her. I offered her everything: house, car, servants, clothes…and me.

HONORÉ: And?

GASTON: She turned me down.

HONORÉ: Turned you down?

GASTON: Turned me down

HONORÉ: Impossible!

GASTON: It's not impossible. It just happened.

No comment. Well, maybe one comment. It's inconceivable to Gaston that a young woman might not want for herself something that a wealthy man wants for her. Partly this is because Gaston is a spoiled brat, but it's also a result of cultural expectations for poor women. That's why Colette's novel was a best-seller—it told a very unusual story.

HONORÉ: My dear, dear boy. How did it happen? She changed her mind?

GASTON: Obviously.

HONORÉ: How delicious! Did you have to improve the arrangement?

GASTON: Please don't be vulgar.

Honoré isn't being vulgar—he just knows how this game is usually played and assumes that Gigi was just after more money. This is what women wanted, after all. Gaston wants to distance himself from it, but of course he did offer a generous "arrangement" at first.

HONORÉ: She can amuse you for months!

Women are playthings, according to Honoré. Keep in mind that Gigi is someone Gaston's known all her life as a dear friend of the family. Honoré knows this, and he can still make a comment like this about her. Gigi knows how easily Gaston could dump her and move on to the next beauty—she's seen him do it—and that's not what she wants for herself.

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