"Who are the most famous lovers of all time?" might you ask. Could it be Romeo and Juliet or Rick and Elsa from Casablanca? No, it is Stanley and Stella Kowalski from Elia Kazan's 1951 film version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire! Stanley (Marlon Brando) and Stella (Kim Hunter) deserve Oscars for their fine performances in this film. The film-literature combination of Streetcar has these two characters involved in the most bizarre relationship I have ever seen in a film.
Stella takes the role of the timid wife who gets beaten, verbally abused, and made into a sex object by her husband. Stanley plays the role of the sado-masochistic husband that rules over his thrown in New Orleans and tells everyone how things are to be done. Who would have thought that marital problems could be solved by sex? It seems that every time Stanley punches Stella or beats her up, she runs away from him, only to return shortly to make love to him. After Stanley apologizes and they have sex, all is back to normal in the Kowalski house. This is a sure sign of an unstable relationship. Stanley yells almost all the time, throws things like a child, and always gets his way. When in doing these things he hurts his wife physically or mentally, he cries and apologizes. Stella never seems to want to leave the relationship through all the abuse. The only thing that keeps her and Stanley together is their sex life. A relationship based on sex is no relationship. That is why I feel that Stanley and Stella are not husband and wife but rather plain old lovers. Making love seems to solve all their problems and keep both of them hungry for one more day with each other.
The sad thing is that we see cases of this everyday where wives are too afraid to leave their abusive husbands, and they wind up dying from them. I do not see this in Stella and Stanley's case, though. I think they both know that they may be married; but they are no husband and wife; they are strictly lovers. I believe Stella is addicted to sex, and that is the reason why she stays with Stanley. I believe she puts up with abuse and takes a few punches just so she can get laid afterwards. I believe that Stanley and Stella have a firm grasp on their roles in the relationship. Stanley can vent his frustrations about his daily life and take all of his anger out on Stella, and Stella can have sex with him as long as she is willing to deal with his anger.
I think both of their strange outlooks on life and love stem from abusive childhoods. I think possibly Stanley was beaten at a young age by a father or stepfather, as was his mother. Growing up with their abuse causes Stanley to be abusive. I feel Stella was possibly sexually assaulted as a young girl, leading her to take abuse from Stanley and still have sex with him.
Both characters are obviously mentally distraught, but as far as lovers would be concerned I feel they earn an Oscar.