Touching on the Core of All of Us

         It seemed to me that Elia Kazan's 1951 A Streetcar Named Desire, based on Tennessee William's 1947, was the most relevant cinematic adaptation for today. I think this because it touched on many issues that span the test of time. While one could see Henry James's 1898 The Turn of the Screw, filmed in 1961 by Jack Clayton, as being almost dated because not that many people today believe in ghosts, and there are now more medically accurate diagnoses for people prone to hallucinations, these factors cause the story to be less believable than when the book was first printed. I believe the same is true for Henrik Ibsen's 1879 A Doll's House. While it was very relevant for the time it was written and set in, nowadays, with divorce rates at over 50% and the type of female oppression shown almost non-existent, the storyline seems kind of silly in today's prenuptial world. But Streetcar touches on things that are a the core of all of us; family, marriage and the bad boy.

         In the case of family, Streetcar has a very relatable structure. Blanche (Vivien Leigh), the older sister, is more refined and mature, especially played against the younger sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), who is more carefree and rebellious. Streetcar shows the closeness of family whether some want to admit it or not (my family being the latter). Blanche is in a tight spot, so Stella did not even hesitate to help her out. Although I think she may have thought a little harder if she was able to foresee the consequences this would have. Because they were sisters, Stanley's (Marlon Brando) accusations fell on deaf ears; and she would not question her sister about their home place, her furs or the life she had been living prior to her arrival. Interestingly enough, she does not believe Blanche in possibly the only truth she has told the whole time, that Stanley raped her. Possibly the underlying theme here would be that things are not always what they seem.

         The portrayal of marriage in Streetcar is also very interesting. Apparently Stella came from money, but now she has very little. However, she might not care. This marriage could have been and probably was what took her away from something she found more suffocating and less tolerable than having little money, and really that could be the pressure of having a lot of money. But boy, did not she have happiness?-especially if one can over look a black eye every now and then. The party ended, however, shortly after the arrival of Blanche, who tended to point out Stanley's short comings instead of his good qualities (as most watchful older sisters do). Her views, along with her presence in general, caused an immense strain in the marriage. Obviously physical abuse played a role in the marriage (many would say it did in most marriages at the time), and I am not trying to say that it was okay, but would not it be a small price to pay to be perfectly happy the other 99% of the time? Other interesting points that would be relevant today concerning their marriage is the fact they always hung out with HIS friends, so she became friends with their wives by default. The baby on the way would or at least should change the way their marriage was working.

         Lastly, the immortal bad boy, every guy wants to be one, and every girl wants one. I believe the bad boy is the wild card in cinema as well as life. Stanley was Stella's knight in shining armor, and he took her away from where she did not want to be. This is one of the first times I can remember that the bad guy gets the girl and actually gets to keep her. Unfortunately the same thing that attracted Stella to Stanley would eventually push her away from him. His primal, animal-ness that caused his immense sex appeal also brought his anger and aggression. It was probably the selling point if she ever decided to believe that he actually raped Blanche, which I think she really wants to believe it but she, at the same time she will not let herself. A regular man would not be capable of doing such a horrible thing, but Stanley, Stanley's and animal, it is in his nature to do something like that. Although, it was Stanley's bad boy image that intrigued her, it was also what made him not a keeper. One cannot keep a baby around such a violent animal.

         I believe it is Streetcar's long term appeal that makes it so relevant today and for many years to come. The issues of family and marriage as well as our attraction to bad boys (and girls) will last for many generations. As long as these issues remain relevant, A Streetcar Named Desire will be relevant.

Jon Jones

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