Literary Works, Film Adaptations and Pop-Cult

         It is becoming more and more common to find literary works or films of such referenced in popular culture. Two such works, or rather films based on such works, have appeared fairly recently in two very popular animated sitcoms, The Simpsons and Family Guy. These two shows have used Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire, filmed in 1951 by Elia Kazan, and Alan J. Lerner and Frederick Loewe's 1956 My Fair Lady, filmed in 1964 by George Cukor and originally based on George Bernard Shaw's 1913 Pygmalion.

         The Simpsons episode came first, a few years ago. In this episode, a character, Marge, tries out to be in a musical version of Streetcar. She eventually manages to land the role of Blanche, first depicted on screen by Vivien Leigh. This is mostly due to the fact that Marge is having some problems with her husband, Homer. Homer is acting almost like Stanley, in that he is being an inconsiderate jerk. Marge uses her anger towards Homer to fuel her performance as Blanche. She also flies off the handle, so to speak, during one practice and ends up stabbing her neighbor and co-star, Ned Flanders, who is playing Stanley (originally created on stage and screen by Marlon Brando), during the bottle scene. The finished product is a musical that those watching the show see only small bits and pieces of, but it manages to stay true to its source material and does a very good job of introducing Streetcar to those that may not have heard of it.

         Another animated sitcom to use a film that was based on a literary work as a plot point is the show Family Guy. An episode of Family Guy manages to use My Fair Lady as part of a subplot and, surprisingly, does it well. The baby Stewie, known for his diabolical British accent and his lust for world domination, plays the role of Higgins, created on stage and screen by Rex Harrison. He makes a bet with the family dog, who acts sort of like the Colonel (Wilfred Hyde-White in the original movie) in this, that he can turn another baby named Eliza (Audrey Hepburn in the Cukor-directed movie) into a perfect speaking baby. The process goes much as it does in My Fair Lady, including a musical interlude or two, yet ends with little Eliza going away, as she does in the original Pygmalion but does not do in My Fair Lady.

         These two pop-culture shows have helped introduce to new audiences a couple of good movies that are based on classic works of fiction. These shows do justice to the source material and make for entertaining ways for new and old to view such classics.

Jarrod Hurst

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