The other day, I was sitting on the patio drinking beer in the late afternoon sun. It occurred to me that Little Orphan Annie had a lot in common with Maria von Trapp. Both were musical theater heroines from musicals set in World War II (edited to add: Annie was set in the Great Depression— thanks to mphtheatergirl for catching the error). Both came from poverty– Annie was an orphan who lived in an orphanage, while Maria was a young novitiate at a convent. Both were spunky and friendly, as they turned the households of wealthy men upside down with their charms. Both were musical and used their musical gifts to brighten lives.
So I mentioned this on social media, and a friend who is into musicals piped up, saying her “musical theater brain just exploded”. Actually, she used an exploding emoticon to make her point. But I got the idea that she hadn’t thought about how similar the stories of Annie and Maria are kind of similar.
And now, as I sit here writing this, I realize that both of those stories also have something in common with Pretty Woman, a 1990 film that starred Julia Roberts as a woman named Vivian who went from being a prostitute to being Richard Gere’s character of Edward’s main squeeze. And Pretty Woman was kind of My Fair Lady— man turns woman from the wrong side of the tracks into something better and classier. Of course, Vivian and Annie also had red curly hair in common, and lots of spunk and positivity. Julia didn’t sing as Vivian, so I don’t know if they also had music in common.
In all of those stories, the cultured, wealthy, crotchety men are ultimately charmed by females who show them that they just need a little more love in their lives. It’s an appealing story, which is probably why it gets told in various ways so often. We all like the Cinderella story, featuring scrappy young women who climb out of adversity and onto something bigger and better. But then, each of these stories are not just about women making it on their own. They’re also about men who have a higher station, pulling them up. Maybe they would have pulled themselves up eventually, but being attached to a wealthy older man has its advantages, I guess.
So why am I writing this now? I’m not gonna lie. It’s mostly because I can’t stand to look at that screenshot from my duet video yesterday. This was something intriguing that floated through my mind a couple of days ago and I wanted to write it down. It occurred to me that a lot of formulas of popular stories are really the same story set with different characters and situations.
I first thought about how similar Annie and Pretty Woman were a few years ago, as I was watching Pretty Woman on Netflix. I listened to Vivian giving Edward a pep talk and realized that she was only supposed to stay with him for a week– just temporarily– so he could seal a business deal. Annie, likewise, was only supposed to have a week with Daddy Warbucks. He’d even wanted a boy instead of a girl. But in the course of a few days, both of these characters had won over their wealthy male benefactors in a heartwarming Cinderella story in which they live happily ever after. Maria von Trapp, likewise, was supposed to be a temporary governess for Captain von Trapp’s seven children. She ends up charming everyone, despite being annoying to the captain at first. And Eliza Doolittle, initially annoyed with her Cockney accent, manages to win over Henry Higgins as she catches on to what he’s trying to teach her and becomes a beautiful young lady… a diamond in the rough, just like Vivian the prostitute, Annie the orphan, and Maria the nun in training.
Isn’t that interesting? Maybe I should log off and watch some of these warm and fuzzy movies today. In a matter of days, we’ll probably be emerging from our house, at long last. I might not have the time or inclination to hang out watching movies a week from now…