Gigi's taught how a woman should behave in refined society, how she should dress and act and eat in order to land a rich guy and enjoy some financial security. It never lasts, though, and Gigi knows it. Women in her position were constantly having to move on to other relationships once her man got bored with her or she got too old—like 29.
Becoming a sought-after courtesan wasn't the worst career option for women in 1900 France who weren't born into wealth or position. For most of them, it beat doing laundry or cleaning other people's bathrooms. Even if they got married, it would be to a poor guy, and they'd end up overworked and underfed—a life of constant struggle.
As courtesans, they could have beautiful clothes, dinner at Maxim's, and trips to Monte Carlo. If they saved their money wisely, they could be comfortable in their later years, like Aunt Alicia. Colette herself was intimately familiar with the insecure status of women in in her era. At 20, she married a man who cheated on her constantly and forced her to write novels for which he claimed authorship and kept the royalties. When she left him, she was broke despite the popularity of her books. She wrote Gigi in 1944, the same year women got the vote in France.
In its details, Gigi can be a sexist film—its depiction of mistresses and courtesans, Honoré and Gaston's condescending attitudes, the limited options for women at that time. The overall message, though, is that a woman should be in control of her life. Ultimately, Gigi respects herself and that's what leads to her getting what she wants
Questions About Women & Femininity
- Do women have any power in the Paris society of Gigi? If so, what kind?
- Is Gigi really naïve about what the future holds or does she just want to avoid thinking about it?
- Would you call Gigi's holding out for marriage a feminist act?
- What are the differences between "true love" and "a business arrangement" between a man and a woman in the movie? Does the story seem to promote one over the other?
Chew on This
In being a "collector of beautiful things," Honoré lets us know from the start that he thinks of women as possessions, not people.
Women's value in Gigi's world is exclusively defined by the men they're seen with.