Abuse Me, Stanley, One More Time

         A wonderful but tragic example of an abusive relationship in a film-literature combination is the 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, and Elia Kazan's 1951 movie adaptation. Abuse, sex, psychopathic behavior, and betrayal are the main points brought up in this "creepy" story.

         I would love to show this movie to a film-literature class that wants to see examples of how abuse, even in 1947, was portrayed in books and on the big screen. While reading this book, I could imagine Stanley Kowalsky putting his hands on his wife, Stella, even when she was pregnant with his child. If that does not get your blood boiling, I do not know what will. If that was not bad enough, I then had to watch the scene unfold on screen. I am sure that would make my students mad.

         Stanley Kowalsky (Marlon Brando) not only hits his wife (Kim Hunter), he rapes his wife's sister, Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Oh yeah, he sure did. Stella did not want to believe this to be true, but she was just kidding herself by not listening to Blanche. I know that Blanche had been pretty crazy before she arrived at the wonderful and open-armed Kowalsky home, but I think her troubled mind got a little worse after the rape incident. Call me crazy, but people who are raped tend to go through a process of counseling and treatment. This brings me to my next point, which is the fact that Blanche has many mental problems.

         Before Blanche comes to visit with Stella and Stanley, she had been married to a man who committed suicide. On top of that, she is bipolar and greatly psychotic. This is not a great combination to bring to a home with a controlling man and a pregnant woman. I mean, come on; Blanche is pretty much setting herself up for a trip to the mental hospital, which comes at the end of the story. Throughout Blanche's stay with Stella and Stanley, she hears things and freaks out on more occasions than one. Another thing that Blanche freaks out about is being seen in the light. When Stella brings her into the room where she will be staying, Blanche almost immediately goes out and buys a light cover to dim the room. I did not notice this at first for what it truly was; but, throughout the story, it becomes more apparent, especially to Mitch (Karl Malden), a friend of Stanley's who falls for Blanche.

         It is Mitch who demands to see Blanche in the bright lights, without the light cover. He ends up ripping the cover off and shining the light in Blanche's face. He sees that she looks much older than he had originally thought and even says he wondered why they could not go out together during the day. They could not go out during the day because Blanche was embarrassed about her aging face. She looks horrible and knows that Mitch will turn away if he sees her face in the daylight. If it were me, it would not matter what kind of light I saw her in; she is weird! It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that she needs help, but obviously Mitch saw past that when he saw the possible chance of "getting some" from her.

         In summation, I am sure that a film-literature class with the main topics of abuse, psychological studies, or even family issues could greatly benefit from either reading the book or viewing the 1951 film. I got a lot out of this story line, and I was not even looking for those main points.

Ryan Peabody

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