Hooker with a heart of gold

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. The character, traditionally female, is usually an example of irony: an allegedly immoral woman who demonstrates virtues absent in woman morally correct for the role.

Raja Ravi Varma, Vasanthasena (Oleographic print)
Vasantasena from the Sanskrit play Mṛcchakatika.


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 correct but frigid or otherwise unyielding. Hookers with hearts of gold are sometimes reluctant prostitutes due to either desperation or coercion from a pimp. Or her prostitution may reflect an overall lust for life, as in Ilya in Never on Sunday.

The stereotype might owe something of a debt to certain traditions surrounding the Biblical figures of Mary Magdalene (who was not a prostitute) 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.[1] 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.

The fictitious courtesan Chandramukhi in Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay's highly acclaimed Bengali novel Devdas has been adapted into film numerous times, most notably into Hindi in 1955 and 2002 with the character-role of "Chandramukhi" being played by actresses Vyjayanthimala and Madhuri Dixit, respectively. Chandramukhi here fulfils Devdas' desire of feeling loved which was betrayed by Parvati (Paro).

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 Oliver Twist and the stage musical derived from it, 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), Kat Slater, Stacey Slater and Dawn Swann (all three characters from the British soap opera 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.

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."


The story of Rahab in the Bible's Book of Joshua is considered by some the earliest example of this character type.[2]

In Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata, the courtesan Violetta Valery turns to love when she meets Alfredo and subsequently sells all of her possessions to support them (unbeknownst to Alfredo). She is later persuaded to leave him by Alfredo's father Giorgio Germont in order to keep the family's nobility from falling (as her reputation has threatened his daughter's engagement). She is also coping with tuberculosis and keeps this a secret, leaving Alfredo who later comes after her.

In Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel Crime and Punishment, protagonist Rodion Raskolnikov is persuaded to confess to murder by the prostitute Sonya Semyonovna Marmeladova, who consistently exhibits characteristics of the archetype throughout the novel.

Bertolt Brecht's play The Good Person of Szechwan features a textbook example in the form of the young Shen Te, who is rewarded by the gods at the beginning of the play upon demonstrating courtesy when nobody else does, after which she relinquishes whoredom and acquires a tobacco shop—though to ill avail.

The Marlene Dietrich role "Shanghai Lily" in the 1932 Pre-Code Shanghai Express

Two Shirley MacLaine roles—Ginny Moorhead in 1958's Some Came Running and Irma la Douce in 1963's Irma la Douce

The "hooker with a heart of gold" also appears as "Cabiria" (played by Giulietta Masina) in the 1957 film Nights of Cabiria.

The character appears in modern action films as "Chris" (played by Angie Dickinson) in the 1967 action film Point Blank, as "Rosie" (played by Maria Bello) in the 1999 re-make Payback and as "Donna Quintano" (played by Monica Bellucci) in Shoot 'Em Up (2007).

In modern comedy films, Jamie Lee Curtis's role in Trading Places has been called an example of this archetype,[3] and 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'. The character "V", played by Melanie Griffith in the movie Milk Money could also be considered an example of this type or role.

Moulin Rouge! is another modern-day film, in which the main character is a courtesan named Satine who does end up having a heart and falling in love, but ultimately (tragically) dies of tuberculosis during one of her performances and never actually gets to be with the one she truly loves.

In the 1970 highly successful Pakistani film, Anjuman, Rani played the virtuous prostitute "Anjuman". The role was later reprised by Sara Loren, in the remake of the film in 2013.

In the 1990 film Pretty Woman, Vivian Ward (played by Julia Roberts) is portrayed as a kind-hearted prostitute.

A 2003 episode of Firefly titled "Heart of Gold" has the crew of Serenity defending a brothel called the Heart of Gold from a wealthy, misogynistic local rancher.

Acclaimed Bollywood actor Rani Mukerji plays the hooker with a golden heart in three films. In Mangal Pandey: The Rising, she plays a compassionate courtesan. In Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, she plays a lower middle class woman who turns into a high profile escort. In Saawariya, Mukerji appeared in a small but highly appreciated cameo of a street-smart prostitute called Gulab.

In the 2004 Hindi film Chameli, Kareena Kapoor plays the highly acclaimed golden-hearted prostitute named "Chameli".

The 2010 thriller miniseries The Hooker with a Heart of Gold, by independent filmmaker Brad Jones, takes the proverb literally, in giving the main character – a kind-hearted prostitute simply named "Hooker" (played by Sarah Lewis) – a heart made of gold.[4] In the 2011 Pakistani film Bol, actress and model, Iman Ali, played the acclaimed golden-heart prostitute, named, "Sabina (Meena)".

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

In the 2012 Bollywood film, Talaash's main plotline involves around a prostitute, Rosie (also played by Kareena Kapoor).

The songs "Carmen" by Lana Del Rey and "The A Team" by Ed Sheeran each describe such a character.

Madhuravani was a prostitute in Gurazada Apparao's popular Telugu play Kanyasulkam, who was portrayed to be very progressive, opinionated and independent and played a key role in the play.

In Coronation Street, the characters Elsie Tanner, Carla Connor, Bet Lynch, Raquel Watts and Leanne Battersby can be described as such stereotypes.

See also


  1. ^ Pauwels, Heidi Rika Maria (2008). Indian Literature and Popular Cinema. Routledge. p. 84. ISBN 0-415-44741-0.
  2. ^ Jakes, T.D. (2003). God's Leading Lady. New York: Berkley Books. p. 127. She may be the original hooker with the heart of gold
  3. ^ Soars, Emily. "Trading Places". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  4. ^ The Hooker with a Heart of Gold. "The Cinema Snob" Official Site. Retrieved 12 October 2014.

External links

Chandramukhi (character)

Chandramukhi is one of the pivotal characters in the 1917 Bengali novel Devdas by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Her character was inspired by the Hindu mystical singer Meera, who devoted her life to Lord Krishna; similarly Chandramukhi devoted her life to Devdas. Chandramukhi is portrayed as a hooker with a heart of gold in the novel and its film adaptations. Chandramukhi means "moon faced" or "as beautiful as the moon" in Sanskrit.

Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis

"Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis" is a song written and performed by Tom Waits, released on his 1978 album, Blue Valentine.

Couldn't Get It Right

"Couldn't Get It Right" is a 1976 song by the Climax Blues Band. The song was written after the band's label told them that their 1976 album Gold Plated lacked a standout track and asked them to "try and write a hit". They then wrote it, in the words of its bassist Derek Holt, "from absolutely nowhere" and it hit #10 on the UK Singles Chart. Later on that year, the song was picked up by Sire Records and the following year it made #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. Later that year, the song was ranked #32 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100 singles of 1977.

Denise Vasi

Denise Vasi (born March 1, 1983) is an American fashion model and soap opera actress from Brooklyn, New York. She attended Long Island University where she studied Business. She resides in Los Angeles, California.

Vasi is best known for her role as Randi Hubbard on ABC's All My Children, a role she had played since May 29, 2008 till AMC went off the air in the fall of 2011. She is also a well known model signed to Next Models appearing in many campaigns.

Devdas (1955 film)

Devdas (Hindi: देवदास) is a 1955 Indian Drama movie directed by Bimal Roy, based on the Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay novel Devdas. The film had Dilip Kumar in the title role and Vyjayanthimala in her first dramatic role where she played as Chandramukhi, a hooker with a heart of gold and Suchitra Sen in her Bollywood debut as Parvati in the lead. Motilal, Nazir Hussain, Murad, Pratima Devi, Iftekhar and Shivraj were playing other significant roles with Pran and Johnny Walker in extended cameo appearances.

In 2005, Indiatimes Movies ranked the movie amongst the Top 25 Must See Bollywood Films. Devdas was also ranked at Number 2 on University of Iowa's List of Top 10 Bollywood Films by Corey K. Creekmur. The film was also noted for its cinematography and lighting under Kamal Bose, that enhanced the emotional torment of the tight-lipped protagonist played by Dilip Kumar.

Frédérique Collin

Frédérique Collin (born 1944 in Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian actress, screenwriter and film director. She is most noted for her performance in Marie in the City (Marie s'en va-t'en ville), for which she received a Genie Award nomination for Best Actress at the 9th Genie Awards.Her other acting credits have included the films Réjeanne Padovani, Once Upon a Time in the East (Il était une fois dans l'est), Gina, Lucien Brouillard, Lessons on Life (Trois pommes à côté du sommeil) and Au fil de l'eau, and the television series Témoignages and Fortier. Her stage roles included productions of Anne Legault's Conte d'hiver 70 and Michel Tremblay's High Mass for a Full Moon of Summer (Messe solonnelle pour une pleine lune d'été).

She was also co-director and co-writer with Paule Baillargeon of the 1980 film La cuisine rouge.She dropped out of acting after 2003, reemerging in the early 2010s as a mental health and art therapy advocate after going public about her battles with alcoholism, drug addiction and compulsive gambling.

Kate Hudson

Kate Garry Hudson (born April 19, 1979) is an American actress, author, and fashion designer. She rose to prominence for her performance in the film Almost Famous (2000), for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Her other films include How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003), Raising Helen (2004), The Skeleton Key (2005), You, Me and Dupree (2006), Fool's Gold (2008), Bride Wars (2009), Nine (2009), and Deepwater Horizon (2016).

Hudson co-founded the fitness brand and membership program, Fabletics, operated by JustFab. In 2016, Hudson released her first book, Pretty Happy: Healthy Ways to Love Your Body, and in 2017, she released her second book, Pretty Fun: Creating and Celebrating a Lifetime of Tradition.

Let It Ride (Bachman–Turner Overdrive song)

"Let It Ride" is a 1974 single by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, written by Randy Bachman and Fred Turner, with the latter providing lead vocals. It was first recorded for the 1973 album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II. The single peaked at #23 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 on April 27, 1974 (making it BTO's first Top 40 song in the US), and spent two weeks at #14 on the Cash Box Top 100. In Canada, the song reached #3.

The tune was inspired by a traffic jam. The band was in their tour bus, on a highway, and were boxed in by a couple of trucks. When the bus and the trucks reached a rest area, the musicians confronted the truck drivers, who responded by saying the band should take it easy and just let it ride.The song was covered by Canadian rock band Big Sugar on their 1998 album, Heated. It was also covered by Canadian country music group Farmer's Daughter on their 1998 album This Is the Life. Their version was released as a single in 1999 and peaked at #30 on the RPM Country Tracks chart in Canada.In 2015, Canadian heavy metal band Kobra and the Lotus covered the song on their first EP Words of the Prophets.

List of stock characters

A stock character is a dramatic or literary character representing a type in a conventional manner and recurring in many works. The following list labels some of these archetypes and stereotypes, providing distinctive examples.


Luenell Campbell (born March 12, 1959), known professionally as Luenell, is an American comedian and actress.

Marie in the City

Marie in the City (French: Marie s'en va-t-en ville) is a Canadian drama film, directed by Marquise Lepage and released in 1987. The film stars Frédérique Collin as Sarah, a prostitute in Montreal who befriends Marie (Geneviève Lenoir), a runaway teenager.The film garnered four Genie Award nominations at the 9th Genie Awards in 1988: Best Actress (Collin), Best Director (Lepage), Best Art Direction or Production Design (François Séguin) and Best Costume Design (Nicole Pelletier).

Molly Dunsworth

Molly Kathleen Dunsworth (born May 25, 1990) is a Canadian actress. She is best known for her starring role in the Canadian feature film Hobo with a Shotgun, in which she plays "Abby" alongside Rutger Hauer.

Nancy Snyder

Nancy Snyder (born December 2, 1949) is an American actress who won the Clarence Derwent Award in 1976 and the Outer Critics Circle Best Actress award in the 1977–78 season.

Never on Sunday

Never on Sunday (Greek: Ποτέ την Κυριακή, Pote tin Kyriaki) is a 1960 Greek black-and-white romantic comedy film.

The film tells the story of Ilya, a self-employed, free-spirited prostitute who lives in the port of Piraeus in Greece, and Homer, an American tourist from Middletown, Connecticut - a classical scholar enamored of all things Greek. Homer feels Ilya's life style typifies the degradation of Greek classical culture, and attempts to steer her onto the path of morality, while, at the same time, Ilya attempts to loosen Homer up. It constitutes a variation of the Pygmalion plus "hooker with a heart of gold" story.The film stars Melina Mercouri and Jules Dassin, and it gently submerges the viewer into Greek culture, including dance, music, and language (through the use of subtitles). The theme song and the bouzouki theme of the movie became hits of the 1960s. The movie won the Academy Award for Best Original Song (Manos Hadjidakis for "Never on Sunday"). It was nominated for the Academy Awards for, respectively, Best Actress in a Leading Role (Melina Mercouri), Best Costume Design, Black-and-White, Best Director (Jules Dassin), and Best Writing, Story and Screenplay as Written Directly for the Screen (Dassin). Mercouri won the award for Best Actress at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival.

Redshirt (stock character)

A "redshirt" is a stock character in fiction who dies soon after being introduced. The term originates from the original Star Trek (NBC, 1966–69) television series in which the red-shirted security personnel frequently die during episodes. Redshirt deaths are often used to dramatize the potential peril that the main characters face.

Respectable (TV series)

Respectable is a British sitcom, first shown in six episodes from 30 August to 4 October 2006 on Five; it was later repeated on Paramount Comedy 1.

It follows Michael Price, a man acutely aware of his own dullness, trapped in a loveless marriage. In the first episode, he hesitantly visits a suburban brothel. Terrified of sex, he strikes up a platonic relationship with a young prostitute, Hayley. The series follows the development of this relationship, and Michael's attempts to conceal his visits to the brothel from his wife. This is complicated by the discovery that his builder, Barry, is a frequent and uninhibited visitor to the brothel.

The show was written by Shaun Pye, Alan Connor and Harry Thompson. Former Hollyoaks actress Jodi Albert plays Hayley, a dumb hooker with a heart of gold; Kate is a university student, owner Maureen is a more mature lady who claims to be 27, while Yelena is a dominant Eastern European. Of the characters who don't work there, Michael is going through a mid-life crisis, while his friendly builder Barry is a typical "Jack the lad".

Rosa May

Rosa Elizabeth White (January 1855 – 1911/1912), known as Rosa May was a prostitute during the late 19th century and very early 20th century who lived in the Virginia City, Nevada and Bodie, California areas. A local legend states that she selflessly nursed sick miners during an epidemic and succumbed to the illness herself. Because of this she has been referred to as the "hooker with a heart of gold".

The World of Suzie Wong

The World of Suzie Wong is a 1957 novel by British writer Richard Mason. The main characters are Robert Lomax, a young British artist living in Hong Kong, and Suzie Wong, the title character, a Chinese woman who works as a prostitute. The novel has been adapted into a play, spawned two unofficial sequels, a film and a ballet.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.