- Awesome Moments: While the film may be controversial, Brooke Shields' extraordinary performance should not be ignored. She perfectly captures the essence of a child raised in an environment, who is Wise Beyond Her Years to a disturbing extent. She leads the film and nails every scene all at the age of twelve.
- Best Known for the Fanservice: Probably the darkest example in cinema; the film is infamous for being "the film where the director completely averted Dawson Casting for the role of a 12-year-old prostitute". The fact that this makes viewers forget the plentiful Susan Sarandon nudity is quite telling.
- Fetish Retardant: Well of course. The scantily clad whores understandably look less like fetish objects and more like tired women doing their best to make a living.
- Fridge Horror:
- Hattie's blase attitude to Violet's virginity being sold. Considering she said she's descended from whores, it's likely the same thing happened to her too.
- During the auction itself, one of the customers can be heard saying "how do we know if she is a virgin?" - this is a twelve year old girl he's talking about.
- Harsher in Hindsight:
- It's written into the film. Hattie is ready to up and leave and take Violet with her after the other whores murder her lover. Violet however refuses to leave, wanting to stay in the brothel. Soon later she gets her virginity auctioned off and the next time Hattie leaves, she doesn't take Violet with her.
- Violet's virginity being sold is already harsh to watch, but Brooke Shields later confessed that the pressure of being seen as a sex symbol so young (though mostly thanks to The Blue Lagoon more so than this) left her terrified of sex and she didn't lose her virginity until she was twenty-two.
- Hattie abandoning Violet (however briefly) to go and get married is harder to watch with the knowledge that Brooke Shields eventually had to get emancipated from her Stage Mom.
- Hype Backlash: In an odd variation, many viewers tune in expecting to see a controversial and shocking example of child exploitation. Thus, they're surprised to find that it's not that shocking Violet has only one nude scene, she's not shown having sex on-screen, and she only does it once.
- Iron Woobie: Violet is a child that has been raised in a brothel and has been working for as long as she could walk. Eventually, she sells her virginity and is abandoned by her mother but she just keeps on going.
- Jerkass Woobie: Hattie might seem like a self-centred abusive mother who abandons her daughter just for a different life. But she is so desperate to have a different lifestyle than the one she's grown up in - she herself is the daughter of a whore. And she does come back to claim her daughter, ensuring that Violet has something resembling a normal life.
- Overshadowed by Controversy: Overlapping with the Fanservice aspect, the film is controversially remembered for Brooke Shields's full frontal nudity at the age of twelve. It should, however, be noted that she is only briefly nude when being photographed by Bellocq. You only see the aftermath of her sex scene.
- Tear Jerker: The aftermath of Violet's sex scene. A twelve year old girl pimped out and sold. What makes the scene even more tragic is that Violet tries to downplay it to the others, making it seem like she's unaffected. But then you see she can barely walk.
- Unintentionally Unsympathetic: Due to Values Dissonance, it's hard to see Bellocq as anything other than a creep since he marries a twelve-year-old and photographs her in the nude. To be fair, he at least lets her go willingly at the end and seems to realise their marriage was wrong.
- Vindicated by History: At the time similarly to Lolita it was mistakenly seen as an endorsement of child pornography. However, the film is now seen as a scarily accurate representation of such a phenomenon.
- Vocal Minority: It was only a small portion of people who attacked the movie for being child pornography. Even at the time of its release, most critics were favorable to it.
YMMV / Pretty Baby