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 lots 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 and Stella just waits for her man to bring in 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 negative way. Both are driven by fear or defensiveness. Blanche shows the shadow side of femininity which is manipulation, delusion, lies, false charm, seduction, and deceptive beauty. Stanley on the other hand shows the shadow side of masculinity in his violence, brutality, anger (as his default emotion), and destructiveness. Perhaps they’re both a mirror of their own flaws that’s why they cannot stand each other.

You’re hearing this from a perspective of a girl – and this may be unfair but I am utterly repulsed by Stanley Kowalski because he seems to be a psychopathic 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, and he can break all your things whenever he wants to with you even unable to react to question the way he’s behaving. He’s an animal – and Marlon Brando just did a good job in portraying how hateful the man was. Blanche, on the other hand, gained my sympathy since she just seems like an old maid version of Scarlett O’Hara. I love her coquettish ways, but not so much her prostitute life, since this is very dangerous for a girl. Not that I’m oppressing her by stating that she’s weak to stomach such a promiscuous kind of life, but women are more driven by emotions than men who are more driven by their lust. Men (I’m generalizing here) can have sex with a whole province and still be nonchalant about it. But I don’t think women are the same way. Blanche did not go from man to man to just fulfill her sexual needs – she actually needed a man to lean on and fill in the emptiness of her soul. And yet, after learning about Blanche’s side in spite of her bad reputation in town, Harold 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 youth and beauty is what makes women powerful. A woman’s beauty is fleeting, and their most glorious years are during their teenage years up until their twenties – that’s 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 a true man, while women who do the same are treated as 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 had been so harsh to old maids like Blanche but they do not understand how much they struggle inside 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, 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, or maybe in the middle, I remember Stella telling 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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