A Streetcar Filmed Desire

Streetcar Picture

A Streetcar Named Desire

            A Streetcar Named Desire tells the story of a southern bell, Blanche, as she attempts to escape her past in Mississippi by moving in with her sister Stella and brother-in-law, Stanley.  Blanche arrives in New Orleans at Stella’s two room apartment in a last ditch effort to retain her good name after she lost all of her wealth and good standing in her home town. Blanche lost her job as a school teacher because of an affair with a student and also lost her family’s plantation. All of this was after discovering her husband in a homosexual affair that led to his suicide. Blanche reacted by trying to retain her youth and appeal by seducing young men. Stella is a housewife who is physically dominated by Stanley on a regular basis. These events do not seem to bother Stella, as she is attracted to his rough sexuality. Over the course of Blanche’s visit, she enters into a relationship with Stanley’s friend Mitch. After the discovery that Blanche has lied about the real reasons for her visit, Mitch leaves her and Stanley takes advantage of her fragile state of mind and rapes her. Stella does not believe the story and Blanche is sent to a mental facility.

In the 1951 film version of the play, the sexuality of Blanche’s ex-husband Allan was deemed inappropriate for the screen and the reasoning for their divorce was changes to him being ‘weak’. The films producers also removed Blanche’s apparent nymphomania from their interpretation of the play in order to protect viewers from being exposed to inappropriate sexual compulsively. The film also treats Stanley’s rape of Blanche very carefully, never showing the rape and removing lines that imply that Blanche had any interest in Stanley or that she deserved it. Stella’s reaction to the news of the attack was also changed from her completely disregarding it and remaining faithful to Stanley, to her leaving Stanley  and taking their child with her and vowing never to come back.

The changes that the filmmakers made display just how controversial the topics of the play are. Artistic expression is much less regulated when the entertainment is live in front of an audience. Even the foul language used in the play is watered-down for the film version to make it easier for audiences to swallow. This goes to show that film and television if for the purpose of entertainment while theatre is meant to challenge audiences and force them into uncomfortable situations in order to show them how to think about very real issues.

DT

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