This post was contributed by Jackie Davila from this fall's undergrad social stratification course. This post was later cross-posted to The Sociological Cinema.
The movie Pretty in Pink centers on a budding romance between Andie and Blane. Andie is from the “wrong side of the tracks,” and lives with her father, a down-and-out kind of guy whom she continually urges to get a decent job. However, she is a refreshing, free-spirit counterpoint to Blane, a “richie” who drives a fancy car, throws cool parties, dates the popular girls, and lives in a big house with well-manicured lawn. Her social status is obviously inferior to his, making this intimate teen encounter one that is complicated by not only social inequality, but by social exclusion and rejection, as well.
At school, Blane takes a shine to Andie. But given that both are expected to hang out with their own kind, they soon encounter resistance from friends and associates. In this scene, Andie confronts Blane on his denying to others that they are a dating couple. Andie knows he is embarrassed to be seen with her, but she nevertheless confronts him openly in the hallway during the school day. Although the scene suggests that all is over for the couple, they soon rekindle their romance when they later cross paths at the prom.
Interestingly, the book upon which the movie is based had Andie winding up at the prom with a selfless, working-class boy who had loved Andie all along. However, according to the movie's wikipedia entry, the ending for the movie was changed to reflect test-audience preference for Andie with Blane, underlining the cultural ideal that "true love conquers all."
Love thwarted by prestige differences resonates strongly as a trope in contemporary popular culture as is evident in movies such as Pretty Woman, and in one of my favorites, The Notebook, wherein the rich guy/poor gal is reversed as Noah, a simple country boy, falls hard for heiress, Allie. Showing the above clip from Pretty in Pink, or one from The Notebook (e.g. this scene) would work well as a discussion-starter in any course that addresses the social context of intimate relationships.