Harmful Censorship

         Tennessee William's 1947 play, A Streetcar Named Desire, was written to discuss man's basic desires. This play is lavished with descriptions of the different characters' sexual desires. Stella desires Stanley and then her baby, Stanley desires Stella and Blanche and Blanche desires youth and all men. Although Blanche thinks of herself as Stanley's superior, their animalistic desires bring them both back down to the same level. This play and its 1951 film version, directed by Elia Kazan, were both before their time.

         The controversy over its content forced the director to censor several of the film's questionable scenes. According to Tim Dirks, about three to five minutes of the film were removed. The scenes that were removed consisted of conversations explaining the reason for Blanche's (Vivien Leigh) husband's death, Blanche's nymphomania, and a scene where Stanley (Marlon Brando) rapes Blanche.

         The passing away of Blanche's husband leaves a horrible lasting impression on her. Every time she is reminded of him, music plays in her head. But the audience is left to question why Blanche was upset with her husband the night of his death and what was his reason for committing suicide. Blanche's husband had been caught having sexual relations with another man. This is significant information to the story because his death is what triggers Blanche's insanity.

         The censored cinematic version of A Streetcar Named Desire also goes into more detail about Blanche's obsession with sex. Again, the audience can become confused when trying to understand why this modest lady has to have sexual relations with some many different men in order to satisfy her desires. This information would help explain that Blanche uses her desires for sex to help her escape from the opposite, death. Sex allows her to keep her youth.

         One of the last scenes in the film shows Blanche becoming scared of Stanley while they are all alone. The scene ends quickly, and the audience is only left with assumptions of what occurred between the two. Apparently Stanley rapes Blanche, causing her to go over the edge of her insanity. Stella finds this out and claims that she will never go back to him again. But if audience members were not aware of the rape, they most likely would be left questioning Stella's sudden decision to leave Stanley.

         The play discloses a little more information to its readers than the film does, making it easier to understand. The film's deleted information truly hurts the whole story line. This film was made to be controversial; censoring it was a huge mistake.

Allison Webster

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