Male-Bashing Hollywood-Style

         A common thread that I have noticed in the works that we have studied throughout the semester is that Hollywood does not like men. I reached this conclusion by simply comparing the written works with the cinematic adaptations. In retrospect, there is not a single movie that does not exaggerate the boorish behavior or the male character past what the original novel or play intended.

         In Wuthering Heights, written in 1847 by Emily Brontë, Heathcliff certainly has his faults. He is kind to Cathy one minute and rude the next. From the novel I ascertained that Heathcliff was a bit crude but still had unrequited love for his dear Cathy, and that tended to soften his image. However, in the film version, directed in 1939 by William Wyler, Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) is far more violent as he smashes his hands through windows and grabs Cathy (Merle Oberon) and Isabella (Geraldine Fitzgerald) by the arms to shove them out of his way. In Los Abismos de Pasion, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1954, Alejandro (Heathcliff), as played by Jorge Mistral, smashes through windows (as opposed to opening doors) and delivers Isabel (Isabella), depicted by Lila Prado, into a loveless marriage and derelict living conditions. In this film, we see just how rotten her living quarters are; and what is shown on film is far worse than what I had envisioned in my mind while reading the novel.

         In the play A Doll's House, written in 1879 by Henrik Ibsen, Torvald is quite patronizing to his wife, Nora. He does, however, provide her with a nice home and a secure future and money to buy everything that she needs for herself and the children. Not until the end of the play do we see how uncaring Tovald can be, but the impression that Ibsen gives the reader is nothing as violent as what Hollywood and director Patrick Garland convey in the 1973 film (starring Anthony Hopkins as Torvald). Near the end of this film, Torvald first tries, without result, to have sex with Nora, portrayed by Claire Bloom, who has had to make sad squirrel noises throughout the movie to get what she wants. After this failed attempt, he goes absolutely ballistic when he discovers the letter about Nora's secret money borrowing and forgery from Krogstad. Anthony Hopkins' Torvald grabs her, gets up in her face, and even bitch-slaps her--all of which were not depicted in the play--actions which help portray Hopkins' Torvald in an even more unwholesome light than in the play--if that is possible.

         Finally, in the comparison of the 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire, by Tennessee Williams, and the 1951 film of the same name, directed by Elia Kazan, Stanley is portrayed fairly evenly as a chauvinistic brute not only towards Blanche but also towards Stella and everyone else around him. Both versions do an excellent job of showing what Stanley Kowalski is really like. The film version shines and makes Stanley's character as played by Marlon Brando, even more detestable because of the many third-person shots, by which the viewer sees Stanley giving Blanche dirty looks behind her back and seductive looks through the silhouette of the sheet dividing their room. Visually, this is effective in communicating to the viewer that, although Stanley may not say it, he has other insalubrious intentions for the southern belle.

         As can be seen by the cinematic treatments of Heathcliff, Torvald, and Stanley, which exaggerate their boorish behavior semester is that Hollywood definitely does not like men.

Jeff Hampton

Table of Contents