Beautiful Dream or Horrendous Nightmare

         There is a popular television show on the WB channel called Smallville. The series is based on Clark Kent as he goes through his teenage years and discovers his powers as Superman. Last week's episode revolved around Lex Luther's mental instability and Clark's inability to save someone who does not really want to be saved. What struck me about this was seen in the last five minutes of the show. Lex was taken to a mental hospital, which appeared to be more of an insane asylum. Lex was captured and drugged under his father's orders because he had information about his father's illegal actions. The plan was to make Lex lose his short-term memory so that he would not be able to carry out his plans against his father. The hospital was called Belle Reve. This was very striking to me since I had just finished reading and watching Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan.

         The plantation that Stella (Kim Hunter) and Blanche (Vivien Leigh) grew up on was called Belle Reve. The translation means beautiful dream. However, Belle Reve is not a beautiful dream for anyone. Stella seems detached and uninterested in it. She is saddened that it is no longer in the family, but she is not really worried about it. She dreamed of making her own life and did away from Belle Reve. Stanley (Marlon Brando), on the other hand, is quite concerned that he is not getting what is coming to him financially. Stanley only cares about the dream of the money it may one day bring him. However, for Blanche, the dream has become anything but beautiful.

         Blanche stayed at Belle Reve after her father died and Stella left. She states that she "took the blows [of the deaths and loss] in my face and my body!" She was there to watch everyone that she loved and lived with die. She was also the one that "lost" it, even though she later shows Stanley the papers that prove that it had been sold off piece-by-piece and what had been left was mortgaged away.

         Blanche's beautiful dream had turned into a horrible nightmare. After her husband had killed himself, Blanche became very promiscuous. Vivien Leigh, as Blanche, is very convincing when telling Mitch (Karl Malden) about the young soldiers who used to come to Belle Reve and call out her name. The audience can watch her go back to the plantation and relive the scene and the "paddy-wagon" which came to "gather them up like daisies." Blanche is horrified by what she has become but is unable to stop herself after losing her husband, first to another man, and then to a pistol.

         Blanche and Lex have similar experiences with Belle Reve. Blanche is bordering insanity after leaving Belle Reve. Lex is insane when arriving at Belle Reve. Neither can escape their "beautiful dream," which is anything but beautiful.

Amanda J. Williams

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