Opposing Views

     Very rarely are literary works reproduced in film with exact detail or accuracy. The author has his or her own views as to what the characters should look like and the way they should act. Then, the director takes the literary work, reads it, and comes up with his or her own vision of the characters and their circumstances. This is the way the public may end up viewing a film that in some ways contradicts the literary work it was based upon. The general public is very fickle; therefore, directors and their superiors must decide for us, exactly what it is we want. "Giving the public what it wants" may include adding in additional scenes, or giving up the existing ones; however, it may mean deleting some necessary scenery or scenes because they are offending. In these ways we are given what we want, supposedly.

     In the past, until a few years ago, there were many things that were considered too risqué for the main screen. For instance, in Emily Brontë's 1847 Wuthering Heights, Catherine Linton was pregnant, and Heathcliff had dirty stableboy hands. Also, the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff did not walk off toward the crag together. However, in William Wyler's 1939 film adaptation, not only is Catherine pregnant, but also she is unbelievably not pregnant looking. At the time, the audience viewed the word "pregnancy" as taboo because it involved sex, so viewing a pregnant person on screen was like never selling tickets on opening night. Therefore, Wyler placed the slender Merle Oberon in bulky flowing clothes to create the illusion without being obvious. Goldwyn, the money man behind Wyler's productions felt that the public would not want to see "dirty" things on the screen, including the hands of the stableboy. I doubt that Wyler polled the general public on its view of this matter and followed Goldwyn's own asinine opinions. Therefore, in a scene that is supposed to show the contrast between the lives that Catherine and Heathcliff (Laurence Olivier) led, symbolized by the dirty hands, fell flat because Heathcliff's hands were immaculate.

     The film makers also gave the public what it wanted in Elia Kazan's 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee William's 1947 play A Streetcar Named Desire. In the play, Stanley and Stella spend a wonderful night of lovemaking after Stanley apologizes for beating her, and Blanche is carried to bed by Stanley for the rape scene. However, in Elia Kazan's film adaptation, we see a smiling Stella (Kim Hunter) lying in rumpled sheets after Stanley (Marlon Brando) has left for the morning because at that time the general public would have balked at the idea of a couple lying in bed together. For this same reason, the viewers do not really see Blanche being carried to the bed in the film, because even though the public is supposed to know she is raped, carrying her to the bed on the screen would be going way too far.

     It is amazing how far the film industry has come in the last few decades. Film has gone from prude to nude in a matter of years. Film makers have decided that the public wants to see every last morsel of despicable violence and sexual intercourse. The television and cinema screen is soaked with blood and sex. Our brains are doused with violence of every sort. How could film be ruined in this way? Unfortunately the general public buys the tickets and thereby cast its votes for what they want and film makers are happy to oblige. Film makers have to decide what the general public figures and give it to them, or go bankrupt. However, there is a line, but will we know when we cross it?

Mendy Adair

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