Cinematic Bad Examples

         If I were to teach a class on relationships based on the books presented in class, it would mostly be about how to avoid the pain of being hurt and deceived. Books that would be of good use to teach this would include A Streetcar Named Desire, A Doll's House, and Washington Square.

         One of the worst types of relationships to be in are physically violent relationships. These are scary and can be permanently damaging physically, emotionally, and psychologically. As was shown in Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, these types of relationships scare all of those related to the couple. Most of the time, victims of the violence do not understand the horror of the beatings. Like Stella (Kim Hunter) defending Stanley (Marlon Brando), they make up excuses for their partner's violence. Stella says, "When men are drinking and playing poker, anything can happen. It's always a powder-keg. He didn't know what he was doing. . . . He was as good as a lamb when I came back, and he's really very, very ashamed of himself."

         I hope this play would be used to show that it is not all right to become someone's punching bag. Blanche (Vivian Leigh) tries telling Stella that this behavior is not acceptable, but it does not sink in until after Stella brings a child into their hellhole of a life in Elysian Fields.

         The next type of relationship to teach to avoid would have to be mentally abusive relationships, like Torvald and Nora Helmers in Henrik Ibsen's 1879 play, A Doll's House, filmed twice in 1973 by Joseph Losey and Patrick Garland, respectively. Relationships are meant to bring happiness to both people's lives. It is hoped that each will bring the other for all of eternity. If one is not as happy as the other, like Nora (Jane Fonda/Claire Bloom), they play along. This adds to the despair that they believe they were not meant to be happy. She asserts to Torvald (David Warner/Anthony Hopkins), "You don't understand me, and I have never understood you either," demonstrating that all people want from their relationships is to be loved and understood for who they really are. Without that feeling, people can never be truly happy in their relationships.

         Finally, in the relationship course, it is always good to learn how to tell of someone who really loves one for oneself and is not wanting one for only certain things. Catherine Sloper has to learn that the hard way in Henry James's 1880 novel Washington Square, filmed in 1949 by William Wyler as The Heiress. When Catherine (Olivia de Havilland) finally comes out of her shell and grows to become a beautiful young woman, she finds a young man (Montgomery Clift) whom she falls in love with quickly.

         Her father (Ralph Richardson) does not approve, though, and is convinced that Morris Townsend is only after her inheritance. Poor Catherine can never tell who is right and who is wrong, and it tears her up inside. At one point, James writes, "Nothing could ever undo the wrong or cure the pain that Morris had inflicted on her, and nothing could ever make her feel toward her father as she felt in her younger years. There was something dead in her life, and her duty was to try to fill the void." Catherine feels she can never truly love or trust anyone and becomes skeptical and bitter, all because of her father and one love gone sour.

         So it is important to learn how to look for one's true love. This will ensure one's happiness will continue through the relationship and for the rest of both people's lives. To people and understand them for who they are is the best feeling in the world. It will not cause mental or physical harm to either involved, and the walls will stay intact.

Megan Arszman

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