First performed a century ago this very year, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion has long captured the public fancy. The tale of ragamuffin flower seller Eliza Doolittle learning to better herself at the hands of disdainful linguist Professor Henry Higgins in pre-WWI London, the play was named for the Roman sculptor of myth who created himself the perfect woman—though in Shaw’s lengthy postscript to the play, Eliza ends up marrying not her maker but Freddy, her respectable, but ultimately improvident suitor.
With ABC’s Selfie recently arrived on our screens, in which Karen Gillan plays social media obsessed millennial Eliza Dooley to John Cho’s disdainful marketing expert Henry Higgs, the time seems right to look at some previous attempts to bring the story, much like Galatea, to vibrant life. The “Pygmalion” trope, by the way, is vastly different to the “Ugly Duckling to Swan” trope, since it is as much the presence of the ever-so-superior teacher and his (or her) stormy relationship with the spirited student that defines it, as much as does that student’s requisite new beauty and/or ability to use the right fork.
So that being understood, I here submit my favorites...
10. The Makeover (2013)
Thank you, Hallmark, for this gender-flipped attempt, in which uptight and unlikeable politico Hannah Higgins (Julia Stiles) grooms charismatic delivery guy Elliot Doolittle (David Walton) for office—when what he believes she’s training him for is an office job. While I think we can all agree that Stiles hit her rom-com peak with 10 Things I Hate About You and that Walton’s handsome charm is the kiss of death when it comes to TV (every show he’s starred in has barely lasted a full season), nevertheless this cotton candy-light exploration of honesty in politics, embarrassing family members—Frances Fisher as Elliot’s blousy mother is a hoot—and the snobbery directed against South Boston accents is as enjoyable as it is, most surprisingly, thought-provoking. But... Doolittle for Congress? Isn’t that just a given?