Learning From the Past

         If I were teaching a film and literature course, there is one book-film combination that I would most like to teach. I was particularly fond of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, I feel as though this work carries with it ideas and issues that are relevant in our current society. I believe it is very important to utilize movies and books that deal with issues we, as a society, are dealing with. It helps to keep the interest of the class.

         Streetcar illustrates rape, domestic abuse, and mental illness. The handling of this trio in the play by Williams and its celluloid counterpart, directed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, are abhorrent to students in the twenty-first century. However, these are still issues that continue to be prominent in our society. Stella (Kim Hunter) continues to stay with Stanley (Marlon Brando) although he strakes her and sexually assaulted her sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh). This should serve as a reminder that this behavior is no longer tolerated.

         This is a good film to use because it illustrates a time when these issues were handled a lot differently. For instance, Stella refuses to believe her sister was raped at the hands of Stanley. Her solution is to have Blanche carted off to the loony bin. Now, Blanche would not be treated in such a manner. Stanley would be in jail for his actions towards both Stella and Blanche.

         In conjunction with my current theme of books that possess relevant social commentary, my inclusion to the curriculum would be the novel White Oleander, by Janet Finch. This book is about a young girl and the trauma she faces after being placed in foster care following her mother's arrest. The novel, while longer than any other work assigned in this class, is gripping and heart wrenching. The movie 2002 version, directed by Peter Kosminsky, falls short of Finch's emotional read. However, it deals with child abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, all at the hands of the foster families.

         In closing, I would like to say that my selections and the reasons I support them are probably more appropriate for a women's studies class. However, I see them as opportunities to inspire a class. I guess it would be easy to say that I am pushing social problems. I think it is very important for people to be aware of what is happening in our world and to not be apathetic. Apathy would not be on my agenda.

        "Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it."

Miranda Turner

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