Definitions

brake a heart

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 in which a fallen woman, usually a prostitute, is in fact a kindly and internally wholesome person. 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 usually 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 Judeo-Christian Biblical figures of Mary Magdalene and Rahab. But this stock character is pervasive enough in many 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 archetype but also fairly universal, and somewhat indicative of many 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. A stripper is a sex worker but not a prostitute. Historically, social positions of dancers and actresses were low and their moral characters were often considered suspect.

In opera and musical theatre, a hooker with a heart of gold is most often portrayed by a mezzo-soprano. The hooker with a heart of gold is portrayed in a tragic light and often dies a tragic death.

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 popular culture

The stock character is referenced in;

Let me tell you something. I know Dean Keaton. I've been investigating him for three years. The guy I know is a cold-blooded bastard. L.A.P.D. indicted him on three counts of murder before he was kicked off the force, so don't sell me the hooker with the heart of gold.

  • the Firefly episode entitled "Heart of Gold", with the focus of the characters on a brothel by the same name.

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