A Toned-Down Cinematic Version

         The 1951 film adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ 1947 A Streetcar Named Desire was one of my favorites in the class this far. I especially enjoyed the concept of gender roles in the film, and how this affects the viewer’s opinions and attitudes of the characters.

         The film, which closely resembled a toned-down version of the original text, featured two main woman characters: Stella (Kim Hunter) and her sister, Blanche (Vivien Leigh). Stella put up with the constant torment of her husband, Stanley (Marlon Brando), which in the beginning makes her appear the weaker character. However, Blanche is portrayed as a stronger woman, one who tells her sister to leave the man who hurts her. It amazed me how little these original conceptions remained true throughout the film

.          Stella is at first seen as the pathetic woman who has fewer expectations of her life in comparison to her sister. She lets her husband yell and throw things after he has been drinking, and later even admits that it is somewhat of a turn on to her. Stanley, who overhears Blanche telling Stella to leave him, argues to Stella that, before Blanche had come to stay with the couple they had been happy with what little they had had. With Blanche, he says, came unrealistic expectations and her “hoity-toity” attitude.

         Blanche at first seems so sure of herself as a woman. She has extremely high expectations and constantly talks about not giving into the wants of men. She is frequently humming and talking about the beauty around her. She seems like a drugged-up version of a Disney princess without the happy ending.

         However, Blanche is always looking at herself in the mirror. This shows she is unsure of her appearance, and she constantly searches for compliments from men. She asks what people think of her, and unlike her sister, cannot seem to ever be satisfied with anything but the best. Everything seems to be a production in Blanche’s life. This shows that she is actually very self-conscious and her self-esteem is very low because of the traumas she has faced in her life.

         In the same way that Blanche is not the strong woman she appears to be, Stella actually turns out to be the tougher woman. Stella does not care what too many people think about her relationship with Stanley, although the domestic abuse she takes is not something to be proud of. At one point in the film she tells Blanche, “Talk? Who cares?” after Blanche asks her if she worries what other people think. She seems much more accepting of herself and her lifestyle. The catalyst where the viewers know she is certainly the stronger female role is occurs when she takes the baby upstairs and away from Stanley in the end. I think this was a welcome ending as compared to the one presented in the book, because it gave Stella’s character a strong sense of purpose.

Jessica Heacock

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