Hooker with a heart of gold  

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The hooker with a heart of gold (also the whore with a heart of gold or the tart with a heart) is a stock character involving a courtesan or prostitute with a hidden integrity and kindness.


This character is often a pivotal, but peripheral, character in literature and motion pictures, usually giving key advice or serving as a go-between. She is sometimes established in contrast to another female character who is morally perfect but frigid or otherwise unyielding. Hookers with hearts of gold are sometimes reluctant prostitutes selling their bodies due to either desperation or coercion from a pimp. The stereotype might owe something of a debt to certain traditions surrounding the Biblical figures of Mary Magdalene and Rahab, or to the ancient Indian theatrical tradition of Sanskrit drama where Śudraka's play Mṛcchakatika (The Little Clay Cart) featured a nagarvadhu (courtesan) with a heart of gold named Vasantasena. But this stock character is pervasive enough in various myths and cultures in the form of a tragic story of the concubine who falls in love with her patron/client or, alternatively, young and often poor lover. Therefore, this might be considered not just an archetype but also fairly universal, and somewhat indicative of various societies' complex ideas about sexual decency and moral character. A variation on the theme, the dancer (stripper) with a heart of gold, is a tamer version of the character.

In opera and musical theater, a hooker with a heart of gold is most often portrayed by a mezzo-soprano. (One notable exception is the heroine of Giuseppe Verdi's La traviata, Violetta Valery, portrayed by a soprano.) She is portrayed in a tragic light and often dies a tragic death. Another classic example of the "Tart with a heart" character is the character of Nancy in Charles Dickens' novel and stage show "Oliver".

In television history, the "tart with a heart" has become an important archetype in serial drama and soap opera, especially in Britain. During the 1960s, the character of Elsie Tanner in British series Coronation Street set the mold for future characters such as Bet Lynch (also Coronation Street) and Kat Slater (EastEnders). Characters of this nature are often depicted as having tragic lives, but put on a front when in public to create the illusion of happiness. More often than not, these female characters are vital to their respective shows, and inevitably become some of the biggest stars in British Television.

In Indian cinema the role is characterised by Chandramukhi in various Devdas films as also in Amar Prem by Pushpa (Sharmila Tagore).

The hooker with a heart of gold is also a prominent character in many American western movies. In The Usual Suspects, detective Dave Kujan says to Roger "Verbal" Kint: "...so don't sell me the hooker with a heart of gold."

Two Shirley MacLaine roles—Ginny Moorhead in 1958's Some Came Running and Irma la Douce in 1960's Irma la Douce—exemplify such characters.

The 1990 film Pretty Woman (starring Julia Roberts and Richard Gere) is probably the most recognizable modern depiction of the 'hooker with a heart of gold'.

In the 2012 film Fury (originally titled The Samaritan) excon Foley (played by Samuel L. Jackson) falls in love with a disturbed but ultimately good hearted prostitute named Iris (played by Ruth Negga).

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hooker with a heart of gold" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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