A Streetcar Named Desire (1951 film)

(reactions on the movie starring Vivien Leigh)

Reading the book would have been more wonderful since this movie is already so excellent. Although it encompasses a lot of issues whether societal, psychological, and the like, I can’t help but notice the adherence to gender roles and the struggles that go along with it. Stella and Stanley represent a traditional couple, wherein Stanley is like a Stone Age man who goes out to hunt for food while Stella just waits for her man to bring home some meat. Despite Stanley’s brutal, primitive, and animalistic ways, Stella was so blinded by her love that she had become unaffected by his destructive flaws. Blanche, on the other hand, is another polarizing opposite of Stanley but not in the way that Stella’s femininity complements Stanley’s masculinity. Blanche’s femininity and Stanley’s masculinity are both a bit lopsided on the scales, meaning that they rely on their femininity and masculinity in a distorted way. Both are driven by fear or defensiveness. Blanche shows the shadow side of femininity which includes manipulation, delusion, lies, false charm, and deceptive seduction. Stanley on the other hand shows the shadow side of masculinity in his violence, brutality, anger (as his default emotion), and destructiveness. Perhaps both of them are a mirror of their own flaws which explains why they cannot stand each other.

You’re hearing this from a perspective of a girl – and this may seem unfair but I am utterly repulsed by Stanley Kowalski because he is like a manic dog with rabies. I think everyone, especially women, would be threatened and be afraid of this kind of person. He acts like a tyrannical king, he can break all your things whenever he wants to, and nobody can even question the way he’s behaving. He’s an animal – and Marlon Brando just did a good job in portraying how horrid the man was. 

Blanche, on the other hand, gained my sympathy since she seemed like an old maid version of Scarlett O’Hara. Even after being financially ruined and losing her family's land, Blanched still tried hard to continue living like a southern belle. Before moving into the house of Stella and Stanley, she has secretly slept with many men in her hometown. Stanley, who despises her, found out about it, and told his friends, including Harold who was in love with her. Consequently, these men started looking down on her like a piece of dirt. However, Blanche did not go from man to man to just fulfill her sexual needs – she actually needed a man to lean on and to fill in the emptiness of her soul. And yet, Harold, after learning about Blanche’s side in spite of her bad reputation in town, said, “No, I don’t think I want to marry you anymore. No. you’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mom.” 

Blanche was already old and so she tries hard to deceive herself, as well as other people, into thinking that she’s still young, beautiful, and fresh, because there is a societal belief that what makes women powerful are youth and beauty. A woman’s beauty is fleeting, and their blooming years are during their teenage years up until their twenties, which explains why most women are so sensitive about their age. There are also double standards that men had to have sexual intercourse with women to be considered as "true" men, while women who do the same with the opposite sex are treated like dirt. Blanche was not a fresh and innocent lily anymore, so she resorted to fooling men into thinking that she is an ideal woman:

“I know I fib a good deal. After all, a woman’s charm is 50 percent illusion.”

“He [Harold] hasn’t gotten anything more than a good-night kiss. That’s all I’ve given him. I want his respect. And men don’t want anything they get too easy. On the other hand, men lose interest quickly, especially when a girl is over… over 30. When I mentioned marriage they even forgot where I lived, so… so, you see, I haven’t informed him of my real age.” 

“What I mean is, he thinks I’m sort of…prim and proper, you know. I want to deceive him…just enough to make him want me.”

However, society has been so harsh to old maids like Blanche but they do not understand how much old maids struggle deep down because women ought to snag a man and live happily ever after as wives of their husbands. Having beauty is like having luck in the genetic lottery; so if beauty becomes a female necessity to attract a mate, and women were brought up to think that their self-worth is attached to their abilities in attracting a mate, then just imagine how miserable old maids and Plain Janes must feel!

“Having great wealth sometimes makes people lonely. A cultivated woman, a woman of breeding and intelligence, can enrich a man’s life immeasurably. I have those things to offer. And time doesn’t take them away. Physical beauty is passing, a transitory possession. But beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart…I have all those things. Aren’t taken away, but grow, increase with the years.”

“Strange that I have been called a destitute woman when I have all these treasures locked in my heart. I think of myself as a very, very rich woman. But I have been foolish, casting my pearls before…”

Near the end of the movie, Stella angrily told Stanley that people like Blanche are the result of people like Stanley. If we look at it in a feminist perspective, deceptive women (both inwardly and outwardly) are only results of what patriarchy expects them to be. Society defines the ideal woman as virginal, passive, feminine, young, and beautiful. It is also because of patriarchal societies globally that women, especially back then, feel the need to stick to a man or a husband in order to get ahead in life: “I never was hard or self-sufficient enough. Soft people… Soft people have got to court the favor of the hard ones, Stella. You’ve got to shimmer and glow. I don’t know how much longer I can turn the trick. It isn’t enough to be soft. You’ve got to be soft and attractive. And I…I’m fading now.” Women, like Blanche, were always hidden behind curtains, putting up a pleasing fa├žade in order to please patriarchy, and were always bullied whenever they try to be as promiscuous as men and leave the feminine ideal of being like Virgin Mary.


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