A Heart of Gold – 10 Sex Workers From the Silver Screen

One of the greatest Hollywood tropes is the prostitute with the heart-of-gold. This article will explore Hollywood’s obsession with sex through discussing ten of the most icon silver screen prostitutes in the silver screen’s history.

Elisabeth Shue as Sera

In leaving Las Vegas Elisabeth Shue plays Sera a prostitute who forms a relationship with a chronic alcoholic named Ben after her abusive pimp is murdered by rival gangsters. The relationship is founded on the understanding that Sera never tries to stop Ben drinking, whilst Ben does not judge her on her occupation. The deal is soon put to the test when Sera suggests Ben see a doctor for his addiction, and Ben begins hiring other prostitutes when Sera is at work. This ends in a fight where Ben is thrown. Sera is then raped by three college students, and returns home beaten, bruised to receive a call from a dying Ben. On his deathbed, they finally rekindle and consummate their dysfunctional relationship by having sex – signalling Sera’s acceptance of who Ben was and how accepting she is.

Catherine Deneuve as Séverine Serizy, alias Belle de Jour

In Belle de Jour Catherine Deneuve plays Severine Serizy, a bored house-wife who develops an alter ego as risqué prostitute for the kicks. By developing this alter-ego she can explore the sexual fantasies of bondage, sadomasochism and domination. Although reluctant and shy to work at the brothel at first, she soon enjoys it and works there every day between 3 and 5 whilst her husband never suspects a thing. Her new sexual outlet also allows things to get more passionate at home, her and husband begin having sex after a period of frustration and frigidity.

During her time as prostitute Severine is perused by two love interests. One is Husson a friend of the family who wants an affair with her, but despite her fantasies about him Serevine is unwilling to betray her husband emotional. The second is a client Mercel who first threatens to tell her husband and then shoots him in a jealous rage. Her husband doesn’t die from this attack is left comatose. Severine stay loyal to him and nurses him in this state.

Rosario Dawson as Gail

Gail is one of the leading powers in a group of prostitutes know as ‘the girls of old town.’ She is clad in revealing PVC clothes and totes a badass Uzi throughout much of the movie. Gail is also kidnapped by a group of male gangsters who want to regain control over old town. The groups of prostitutes in this movie maybe objective sexually by the clothes they wear but they have a sense of power and freedom that is not seen in over portrayals. They have freedom themselves from pimps and male oppressor. They’re portrayed as modern day amazons who sex to make a living and are not used for sex. It’s a sad fact than that a powerless and kidnapped Gail has to rely on her flawed knight, Dwight to rescue her and stop the gangster’s plot.


Nicole Kidman as Satine

Nicole Kidman plays Satine, a prostitute who works in the Moulin Rogue. Satine becomes entangled in a love triangle between a controlling and power duke and struggling writer named Christian. The duke offers to give Satine her dreams of stardom by funding a show at the Moulin Rogue but only in exchange for exclusive rights to see her. Satine and Christian begin to have a forbidden romance, and construct the play as a metaphor for their love. Jealous the duke forbids Satine to see Christian anymore and threatens to kill him.  And even goes as far as change their metaphorical love in the play.

Satine is stricken by TB and knowing that she is dying she stays with the duke to save Christian’s life. Desperate to be re-united with Satine Christian tries and tries to get access to the Moulin Rogue and the show. Each time he is not allowed to enter.  Finally, he sneaks in on the night of the performance, and with the help of the other cast Satine and Christian are able to articulate their love for each, just before she dies in his arms.


Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken

Kim Basinger plays Lynn Bracken in L.A Confidential. Set in the 1950’s Lynn Bracken who is the stereotypical femme fatale, alluring beauty, unquestionable power and confidence. Her very character is built around the idea of being duel natured as her angelic beauty is contrasted against her sexual morality, and the cloaked clothes she wears suggest a hidden nature. She is the cunning temptress that an entire team of noir detectives are eventually seduced by and fall for. However, breaking the mould of a femme fatale instead of using their weakness against them, she gives them the confidence to over their self-doubts and crack the case.


Rebecca De Mornay as Lana

Rebecca De Mornay plays Lana in Risky Business the prostitute with the heart of gold that is hired by a college student for $300 dollars. In a typical Hollywood cliché Lana is the bad girl that comes good. After being introduced into Joel’s life she steals his mother’s expensive decorations, gets him shot at, and chased by her pimp, moves another prostitute into his house, destroys his dad’s Porsche and turns his house into a brothel the night he is being interviewed for Princeton. And then after finally having sex with on the beach he returns home to find her pimp has burgled his house. Never has the phrase that girl is trouble been more true.Through the magic that is Hollywood she manages to fix all the damage she has done in a single night, just before his parents get home.


Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensma

Jodie Foster plays a 12-year-old prostitute known as Iris in Taxi Driver. Iris, a runaway from home enters the life of a child prostitute. She tries to escape this life by taking the Travis’s taxi, but is dragged from it by her pimp. The pimp gives Travis a crumpled twenty which acts as catalysts for Travis’ rage. Travis tries to dissuade Iris from the life of a prostitute several times but she won’t or is too afraid to leave. Driven mad by the corruption around him Travis goes on a killing spree, murdering Iris’ pimp and freeing her. Not only does Travis gain fame and praise for the shooting but Iris returns home to her father.


Mira Sorvino as Leslie / Linda Ash

Mira Sorvino plays Linda Ash a part-time porn actress and full-time prostitute in Mighty Aphrodite. Linda is found by her son’s adopted father, Lenny, who tries to fix her lifestyle by getting her away from her pimp and fixing her up with a boxer named Kenny. Things go well until Kenny discovers she is a prostitute and leaves her. Lenny going through a martial break up of his own sleeps with Linda, only to reconcile with his wife soon after. Pregnant and alone Linda leaves town only to discover her future husband on the way.


Jamie Lee Curtis as Ophelia

Jamie Lee Curtis Plays Ophelia in Trading Places. Her topless scene is reputed to be one of the most paused moments in movie history. Ophelia helps a luckless trader who is made destitute and jobless as a bet for $1 by his bosses. Ophelia offers to aid the trader in return for a financial reward once he reclaims his former wealth and get revenge on his bosses.
(Sorry for the clip quality!)


Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward

Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward in Pretty Woman is the pinnacle and mould of the prostitute with the heart of gold. Vivian Ward encounters a rich business man, Edward, who hires her as an escort. Vivian a girl from the streets takes to the life as sophisticated woman of society with ease. Although she is eventually rescued by her white knight business her role in the film is to also rescue him. Edward has closed personality and does not show his emotions or how he feels which has lead him to many doomed relationships. Through meeting Vivian, he can explore his more emotional side, and stop being obsessed with his own self-interest. This is symbolised through his desire to work with other businesses.  


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