Hooker with a heart of gold
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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 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 Oliver Twist 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.
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."
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