This post includes a brief list highlighting everything that is wrong with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Today’s opinion is solely based on the 1961 film, not the original novella.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s tells the story of a young woman (Holly Golightly) who charges men for her “company”. As the story unravels the female lead and her new neighbour (Paul Varjak) develop an intimate bond. However, due to their personal life circumstances the protagonists find themselves unable to pursue each other romantically.
Note: For those who need a recap of the story, here is a brief plot summary of Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961).
Unlike the original novella (written by Truman Capote), the film actually has a happy ending. The change seems to appease the majority of the audience, making it a popular favourite amongst many.
Although Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) is a classic, there are a couple of things about the film that are quite unsettling. Without further ado, here are some major points describing everything that is wrong with Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Everything Wrong With Breakfast at Tiffany’s
PROBLEM No. 1 – THE FILM IS RACIALLY INSENSITIVE
Remember Mr. Yunioshi? The character is a Japanese man, but the film cast a Caucasian actor (Mickey Rooney) to portray an Asian person. Although people didn’t make a big fuss at the time, current viewers should not view the film and think that doing “yellowface” is okay.
Watching a white actor playing an Asian man is just one of the many wrong things with Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The way how the film portrayed Mr. Yunioshi is completely unacceptable. They dehumanized the man and made him the butt of the joke.
Personally, I wouldn’t call Breakfast at Tiffany’s a racist film, but it was a racially tone-deaf decision to put a white man playing an Asian man when they could’ve simply hired a real Asian actor to play Mr. Yunioshi.
The 60s were indeed very different times, and there is still a long way to go even nowadays. Having said that, if one evaluated Breakfast at Tiffany’s according to today’s “PC” standards, the film would not pass the mark.
PROBLEM No. 2 – SUGAR-COATING HOLLY’S “LIFESTYLE“
Who doesn’t recognize Holly Golightly in her famous little black dress looking at a Tiffany’s & Co. store? However, Holly is not a real socialite, she pretends to be one in order to get closer to other rich men. This woman is kind of a con artist.
During one of her crazy parties, Holly couldn’t get her eyes off of Rusty Trawler not because he’s an attractive man (quite the opposite), but because he’s one the richest men in the country. Although Holly and Rusty went out on a couple of dates, she failed to seal the deal as Rusty married someone else.
On a surface level, Holly might seem like a free-spirit woman who does whatever the heck she wants, but deep inside, Holly is a troubled human being.
First of all, she’s not that financially independent. Here’s the thing, Holly can support herself at the moment by charging men a “fee” for her time. However, can she live off that “lifestyle” forever? Of course not, and Holly knows that pretty well, hence, her desire to marry a really wealthy man.
Second, Holly is not capable of developing any real feelings for anyone. She only loves her brother Fred and the rest are just means to make some fast cash.
PROBLEM No. 3 – THE IDEA THAT LOVE “FIXES” EVERYTHING
The film likes to perpetuate the idea that all a person needs is to find love, because that will fix all the problems in their life. Not true and definitely not a healthy life motto.
Why can’t Holly become a more wholesome person just by loving herself a little more? Do you really think that Holly Golightly’s inner demons are going to simply disappear just by dating Paul? I don’t think so.
Realistically, Holly loves money and Paul is a writer, who sometimes makes money off of his writing. In addition, Holly does not need a boyfriend to fix her, she needs a therapist. What kind of person throws their own cat in the middle of the street?
PROBLEM No. 4 – HOLLY’S FORMER HUSBAND “DOC” GOLIGHTLY
Why is no one talking about Holly’s marriage to “Doc”? The film paints “Doc” as a sweet old man looking for his long lost wife, which is so wrong on so many levels.
I’m not saying that “Doc” is the most terrible human being on this planet, but it’s really wrong of him to have married a fourteen year-old. Holly was only a minor at the time, so the adult (Doc) should’ve known better.
PROBLEM No. 5 – MAKING HOLLY LOOK LIKE A “DAMSEL IN DISTRESS”
A lot of these romantic comedies tend to paint their female lead as a “damsel in distress”. Basically, a feeble woman who needs a man to save her from whatever her problem is.
The thing is, Holly is not really a damsel in distress. Yes, she is a hot mess and bit obsessed with rich men but that alone, does not mean that Holly needs someone to save her or to “fix” her.
By the way, who is Paul Varjak to save Holly Golightly? The man has his own share of problems too. Paul wasn’t sleeping with Emily because he was having an affair with that older woman: he was providing his company to her, as a service, just like Holly does with her “suitors”.
Also, of all the women in the world why did Paul fall for a troubled woman? Maybe because, the man is a hot mess himself. That said, none of them, are in a good position to be in a relationship.
As one can see, despite of its huge popularity and cult status, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is not a flawless film.
Also, there is a lot of sugar-coating over the original story written by Truman Capote. The film portrays Holly Golightly as a young socialite who is trying to snatch a rich man for herself. However, “gold-digger” or even “escort” would be a more adequate term to describe this woman. Too harsh? Maybe. But untrue? No.
Despite of its flaws, should viewers avoid this film at all costs? Not really. Overall, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is a very fun watch. Honestly, I didn’t expect a 2 hour film to go by that fast, which is great. Although, Breakfast at Tiffany’s does not meet today’s standards of what society has agreed to be politically correct, the film itself still provides a good amount of entertainment.
There are obviously major problems with Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), but as viewers we should not judge a film from another era with today’s “glasses” on. As I said before, the 60s were very different times.
Actually, Breakfast at Tiffany’s broke a lot of rules during its own era because it touches upon various taboo subjects. The way I see it, the 60s were way more conservative than our current times. Therefore, seeing a “free-spirited” young woman dating left and right, charging men for her “company” and running away from a dysfunctional marriage, must have caused quite a lot of controversy at the time.
Having said that, there are some good and some bad things about Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961). As viewers and individuals we should set an example and do better. Our beliefs and actions dictate how society runs as a whole. Therefore, it’s important to do our best with hopes that pop culture mediums such as film (in this particular case) can follow and reflect that change too.