Monday, March 25, 2013

12: The Souls of Black Folk - W. E. B. Du Bois

First I bought the edition on the left, which is the bare bones text with no introduction, footnotes, or endnotes. Once I realized that, I bought the edition on the right because it was the only one physically in town; unless you are terribly familiar with African-American history, the South, Sorrow Songs, and the Bible, I would definitely recommend a more comprehensive text.

"Herein lies the tragedy of the age: not that men are poor, - all men know something of poverty; not that men are wicked, - who is good? not that men are ignorant, - what is Truth? Nay, but that men know so little of men."

This text is a marvelous snapshot of "the problem of the Twentieth Century" which is "the problem of the color-line." In fourteen chapters WEBDB shows so many aspects of race relations at the turn of the century beautifully (it was published in 1903). If you have any interest in education, American history, life after slavery, racism, suffrage, equality (and who isn't interested in these things?) I would definitely recommend picking up this book.

The first two chapters set up post-Emancipation life for the reader, detailing the history of the Freedman's Bureau and those govermenty details. Chapter three takes Booker T. Washington to task for his "policy of submission" that asks black people to give up political power, civil rights, and higher education in exchange for industrial education, money, and the good opinion of the South (and thus white former slave owners). WEBDB returns again and again to the importance of education and suffrage and says that "manly self respect is worth more than lands and houses, and that a people who voluntarily surrender such respect, or cease striving for it, are not worth civilizing." (It is like he is speaking to me here - because I wanted a real education, it has taken me five years to finish my MA in English instead of speeding through a pay-for-paper education program. I now am not eligible for the raise that was promised me, but I have the self respect that I earned my degree and I can face my students non-hypocritically when I tell them that education is the most important thing.) 

The fourth chapter details his teaching experience in incredibly rural Tennessee. The fifth and sixth return to education.

Chapter seven, "Of the Black Belt," is a sad tour of the almost entirely-black areas of Georgia that shows the damage of tenant farming and how it's a program that is just designed to keep blacks poor. Chapter eight extends the critique of tenant farming, but also analyzes the family structure and marriage rituals at the time.

Chapter nine looks at the crime rate and the education system, and so much of what he said in 1903 still rings true today 110 years later. "The chief problem in any community cursed with crime is not the punishment of the criminals, but the preventing of the young from being trained to crime." In one of my writing classes, a student wrote a narrative about bringing a gun to school when he was in junior high. Throughout the narrative were moments where someone could have stepped in and altered the course of events: the kids who were bullies, the kids who saw the bullies, the teachers who just assume that's how middle school boys act, the student who didn't reach out to a grown up who would do something, the older brother/gang member who gave his younger brother access to his gun....maybe ONE change in actions wouldn't have changed the events, but a series of actions could have...and listening to my student's narrative, I could understand why he did what he did. Guns in school are probably my number one fear - I don't want to get shot, and I don't want to watch one of my kids get shot, and I really really don't want to see one of my kids shoot someone, but I got why he brought a gun to school. He was sick of being messed with and he wanted it to stop. He felt powerless and he wanted to feel powerful. He didn't feel that there was any other way to handle the situation. He didn't shoot anyone, he was placed in an alternative school for the year, and he is still in school trying to finish his high school diploma (also he can be a damn compelling writer when he's inspired), but we need to have a better system in place so that our young aren't compelled to that in the first place (middle school children in Las Vegas are 10-14 years old). 

Chapter ten covers religion. Chapter eleven is a horrible story of WEBDB's first born child dying as a baby, and so much of this reminded me of HJ's complex reaction to her own children's sickness. Of course, she wanted her children to live, but she did wonder if it were better for them to die rather than live as slaves. WEBDB says to his dead child, "Not dead, not dead, but escaped; not bond, but free...well sped, my boy, before the world had dubbed your ambition insolence, had held your ideals unattainable, and taught you to cringe and bow."

Chapter twelve is the story of Alexander Crummell, and the final chapter on Sorrow Songs reveals the connection of the song "Swing low, sweet chariot" to Alexander Crummell (it was his funeral song). It is a song that we play sometimes in my ukulele club, and I have always loved it and felt it was powerful, so I started this chapter incredibly excited.

Chapter thirteen is a story to break your heart. WEBDB sets up parallel Johns, a black John whose father was a slave, and a white John whose uncle owned John's father. They both go to college in the same town, have a few encounters, and return home at the same time. I have nothing to say that the Judge doesn't say better.
The Judge about his son white John going to college: "It'll make a man of him. College is the place."
The Judge about black  John going to college: "It will spoil him." 
The Judge when John returns from college to teach in town: "Well, John, I want to speak to you plainly. You know I'm a friend to your people. I've helped you and your family, and would have done more if you had n't got the notion of going off. Now I like the colored people, and sympathize with all their reasonable aspirations; but you and I both know, John, that in this country the Negro must remain subordinate, and can never expect to be the equal of white men. In their place, your people can be honest and respectful; and God knows I'll do what I can to help them. But when they want to reverse nature, and rule white men, and marry white women, and sit in my parlor, then by God! We'll hold them under if we have to lynch every Nigger in the land. Now, John, the question is, are you, with your education and Northern notions, going to accept the situation and teach the darkies to be faithful servants and laborers as your fathers were - I knew your father, John, he belonged to my brother, and he was a good Nigger. Well - well, are you going to be like him, or are you going to try to put full ideas of rising and equality into these folks' heads, and make them discontented and unhappy? (emphasis mine)

Chapter thirteen does not have a happy ending.

Chapter fourteen discusses the bar of music that begins each chapter, which I think I'll end up pursuing further because as a non-church goer, I have not heard most of these songs before. (The YouTube is all about the Beyonce version, but I think there are much better ones including of course the lovely and incomparable Etta James's. However, I like the range of emotion in The Plantation Singers' version.)

Monday, March 18, 2013

11: Twelfth Night - William Shakespeare

*Updated thoughts after watching the movie at the bottom of the review. 3/19/13

MALVOLIO: My lady loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered...I thank my stars, I am happy. I will be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and cross-gartered...[He reads the letter] 'If thou entertain'st my love, let it appear in thy smiling; thy smile becomes thee well. Therefore in my presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.'
MARIA: He will come to her in yellow stockings, and 'tis a color she abhors, and cross-gartered, a fashion she detests; and he will smile upon her, which will now be so unsuitable to her disposition, being addicted to a melancholy as she is, that it cannot but turn him into a notable contempt.

If bitchymeangirl be your sense of humor, read on. 

The plot of Twelfth Night is so much borrowed from in our culture (my friend who orders the DVDs of the plays I need for class jokingly asked if I needed the "She's the Man" version of Twelfth Night) that I thought it seemed familiar, but it wasn't until I hit the yellow stockings that I had my two-fold high school flashback. Firstly, because I took a year of Shakespeare as a senior and we definitely read it. Secondly, because I was a weirdo girl who was sometimes bullied and mocked (my Shakespeare class was my 6th English class of high school) which means I sometimes navigated life worrying I was the butt of someone's joke.  Plenty of times I was. As an adult, I don't love practical jokes, particularly if they are intended to make someone look stupid. As a teacher, I loathe the trend in 'just playin' digs on teenage frenemies. I know I'm coming with a lot of baggage, but I hate the Malvolio subplot. It's not funny, it's meanspirited, and that is a huge chunk of the humor of Twelfth Night. (I am trying to be openminded to the movie because I would much rather laugh than be angry through it).

The Twelfth Night is not a play I would ever recommend anyone to read. "Readers of the script, as opposed to watchers of the script in production, find themselves constantly compelled to look at the footnotes to catch the verbal jokes and to use their visual imaginations to conjure up the physical gags designed for the stage" (Bruce R. Smith, ed.). I have the Bedford version, and their version of footnoting is particularly terrible - it's difficult to locate the footnote that you're searching for because of how they're organized on the page, and I do prefer the Arden footnoting even though it takes up more space. 

As Feste the clown/fool tells Viola, "I am indeed not her fool but her corrupter of words." So much of the humor relies on quick conversational back-and-forth puns, double entendres, etc, that it falls flat on the page. So much of the rest is physical and with very few stage directions to guide, the reader doesn't see what the joke is until another character comments on/reacts to it, which is not quite as funny. (I really am looking forward to seeing the rest of the jokes play out on the screen). 

I had no memory of the Antonio/Sebastian homoerotic relationship from my first reading which, on my second reading, is SO obvious. To be sure, they are my favorite coupling in the play and the only one that is not based on any kind off deceit or misunderstanding, and yet Antonio is one of the few people unmatched at the end of the play. (A PhD student who is examining all the different homoeroticisms in the recorded Shakespeare plays chatted with my class last week and will be chatting with us again this week - I am VERY much looking forward to watching whether the director plays this up/down and what the PhD student's thoughts on it are.)

If you want some serious cultural/historical information to enhance your reading of the play, I would recommend the Bedford edition which has a chapter devoted to each of the following: romance, music, sexuality, clothing and disguise, household economies, puritan probity, clowning and laughter. Each chapter is a mix of commentary from the editor, related poetry/prose, and primary source documents. 

An example of this is a few chapters from the book "The Golden Grove Moralized in Three Books" by William Vaughan (1600) which includes some delightful quotes:

"Lechery is a short pleasure, bringing in long pain, that is, it expelleth virtue, shortenth life, and maketh the soul guilty of abominable sin."
"Now to come to drunkenness, I find that there be three sorts thereof. The first when we being very thirsty, not knowing the force of the drink, do unwittingly drink ourselves drunk, and this can be no sin. The second, when we understand that the drink is immoderate, and for all that, we respect not our weak nature, which unawares becommeth cup-shot, and this is a kind of sin. The third, when we obstinately do persevere in drinking, and this certainly, is a grievous and intolerable sin."

I apologize that my thoughts are all over the place, but I really could not determine a better way to organize them.

After watching the Trevor Nunn version of Twelfth Night with Helena Bonham Carter as Lady Olivia and Ben Kingsley as Feste

This is the version assigned by my professor, but after clicking around a bit on IMDB I think it's probably the most watchable Twelfth Night, and I would recommend it. Feste steals the show in this production - Ben Kingsley is wonderful (also OMG he is going to be Mazer Rackham in the Ender's Game movie!) and plays the clown perfectly. 

The physical comedy works much better on the screen - the dueling scene between "Cesario" and Sir Andrew made me laugh out loud. Nunn also plays with the organization of the play, transposing scenes and lines into an order that works better and frequently making use of jumping back and forth between scenes in a way that is not possible in a stage production (unless you had one half of the stage set up for one setting and another half for another setting and then lit one side at a time as you bounced back and forth). It builds tension, shows parallelism, and rolls to the climax wonderfully.

Malvolio is played as a truly self-righteous insufferable character who is obnoxious, no doubt, and early in the movie I found myself giggling at the prank. However, the movie shows you just how far the prank is taken (way too far) and it just made me feel dirty to watch Malvolio exit his dark prison, covered in dirt, giggled at by Lady Olivia's ENTIRE household, and completely humiliated IN FRONT OF EVERYONE. Even an obnoxious, self-righteous prick does not deserve that.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

10: Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl - Harriet Jacobs

"Her story, as written by herself, cannot fail to interest the reader. It is a sad illustration of the condition of this country, which boasts of its civilization, while it sanctions laws and customs which make the experiences of the present more strange than any fictions of the past." - Amy Post in the Appendix of the book

"When summer came, the old feeling of insecurity haunted me. It was necessary for me to take little Mary out daily, for exercise and fresh air, and the city was swarming with Southerners, some of whom might recognize me. Hot weather brings out snakes and slaveholders, and I like one class of the venomous creatures as little as i do the other. What a comfort it is, to be free to say so!" - Harriet Jacobs

"The teaching of slaves to read and write, has a tendency to excite dissatisfaction in their minds, and to produce insurrection and rebellion to the manifest injury of the citizens of this State" - North Carolina's Session Laws for 1830-1831

I have never been more ashamed of my country and my education in my life than I was while reading this book. 

I was raised by a Southern mom with a Southern grama - they left the South in the mid 1970s and have each only been back once or twice. I was educated here in Las Vegas, and in spite of taking all Honors and AP classes, my social studies knowledge is incredibly lacking (I was a senior in high school when I found out the Gulf War was not in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the only gulf I had heard of and it had clearly been kind of brushed over. I will never forget the look on the face of the history geek who heard me make this revelation and was kind enough to clarify some of my major misconceptions). So, by the time I was an adult, when my mom and grama would say things like, "Slaves were valuable property, and were mostly treated pretty well," I had an inkling that MAYBE that wasn't right, but not enough of an education to be able to argue.

My undergraduate degree required that I take early American Lit where my old-skool professor had us read not a single slave narrative, and I was only allowed to take one 'minority' lit class (either gender, American Indian, Mexican American, early African American, modern African American, or Asian) - and I picked modern African-American lit. Last summer I spent a lot of time working with letters from the less famous Mary Carpenter (I really need to make her a wiki page) to Frederick Douglass....but my transcription and research was time consuming and didn't require me to read Narrative of the Life of FD, so...that is how I ended up being a 26 year old who has never read a slave narrative. I am not proud of it, but I think my education can take a large portion of the blame. 

With that said, shame on the American school system that almost guarantees students will read Anne Frank - who spent two years in hiding with two families in a large space - while I bet almost no one reads HJ - who spent seven years in hiding in a garret that "was only nine feet long and seven wide. The highest part was three feet high, and sloped down abruptly to the loose board floor. There was no admission for either light or air...The air was stifling; the darkness total. A bed had been spread on the floor. I could sleep quite comfortably on one side; but the slope was so sudden that I could not turn on the other without hitting the roof. The rats and mice ran over my bed." This is our own American history, and as a high school student, Education undergrad student, English graduate student, and teacher (who has taught American literature!) I knew almost nothing of it.

The book itself is an incredibly quick read; it is written in a very straightforward and accessible manner with just enough literary flourishes to keep it interesting. The  chronological narrative is interrupted by some chapters grouped by theme (such as "What Slaves Are Taught to Think of the North") which serves to give you the entirety of Harriet Jacobs' early life as well as give an overview of the culture and society of the South. It is graphic in making the violence clear, but not sensationalist, exploitative, or hyperbolic.
 I cried several times during my reading. It is also uplifting at times when HJ gets something, anything good in her life, or kindness from someone, or just a spiritual boost. HJ often describes herself as being a very lighthearted person, and while she doesn't maintain her youthful buoyancy, it is impressive that she is almost completely a kind soul.

The most interesting feature is how the letter from the editor and the letter from HJ both directly address a female/woman audience, and the book frequently addresses the reader, asking for our sympathy, our understanding, our action to end the wrongs of slavery. The people who end up providing the most help to HJ are female - both black and white - and I wonder what that says about society, or at least her experience in society, that she could frequently rely upon these women.

If you have not read this book, especially if you are American, I would strongly urge you to do so. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

9: Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

"No, I'm not in love with her; but I should be if - if certain things were different." 
"Ah, things are always different from what they might be," said the old man. "If you wait for them to change you'll never do anything."
"I haven't many convictions; but I have three or four that I hold strongly. One is that people, on the whole, had better not marry their cousins. Another is that people in an advanced stage of pulmonary disorder had better not marry at all."

I couldn't resist googling "Why is Henry James so hard?" because it has taken me seemingly forever (really 16 days interspersped with three other books and a paper) to read this 582-page tome. I found a perfect description from noise pollution: "Some people say Henry James is difficult to read but I disagree. Reading Henry James is time consuming and it requires a certain amount of flexibility in understanding a language but that is not the same as difficult."

HJ is really perfection - which may be a surprise to anyone who knows me in real life and has heard me complain about the endlessness of this novel - but he really is. I think I need a month to process this book and I desperately wish I had someone to discuss it with because there is SO MUCH to ask and ponder and discuss. I also wish I had been reading it for pleasure because I had to charge my way through it and read all of the introductory materials which gave away far too much of the plot that is worth not spoiling.

The way he crafts characters and manipulates the reader's feelings towards them is brilliant. I started off loving Henrietta Stackpole from her anticipated entrance:
     "Shall I love her or shall I hate her?" Ralph asked while they moved along the platform.
     "Whichever you do will matter very little to her," said Isabel. "She doesn't care a straw what men think of her."
     "As a man I'm bound to dislike her then. She must be a kind of monster. Is she very ugly?"
     "No, she's decidedly pretty."
     "A female interviewer - a reporter in petticoats? I'm very curious to see her," Ralph conceded. "It's very easy to laugh at her but it is not easy to be as brave as she is."

My margin notes bounce back and forth from loving her to hating her to not understanding her to understanding her perfectly to ultimately really really appreciating all she has done in her life and in her friendship with our heroine. 

An unexpected feature of HJ (especially after reading the Intro and Preface) is that he is truly funny. Ralph Touchett (a participant in both of the dialogues above), Mr. Touchett (the old man), and Isabel Archer (our heroine) all share a dry sense of humor and witty back-and-forth that made me laugh and text my friends because their lines are that good. 

Did I mention he's romantic? I swooned a few times in my reading, absolutely. The various suitors are sometimes sweet, sometimes scary, sometimes pathetic, but each one, at some point, was charming enough that I was ready to run off with them.

Ultimately, the only problem with HJ is that he is not content to end the novel at Chapter 20. Instead he wants to take the characters that we've fallen in love with and the characters that we loathe and puts them into difficult situations that test their morals, beliefs, and relationships. It makes for great literature, but it doesn't make for great happiness for the reader or the characters.

This novel was probably more important when it was published than it is now. The way it presents women and women's choices makes me hopeful that many young women read it and came away from it with a bit of Henrietta's desire to work by writing and Isabel's desire to to travel the world without ever sacrificing her independence for marriage.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

8: M. Butterfly - David Henry Hwang

SONG: The West has sort of an international rape mentality towards the East. Do you know rape mentality?
JUDGE: Give us your definition, please.
SONG: Basically, "Her mouth says no, but her eyes say yes." The West thinks of itself as masculine - big guns, big industry, big money - so the East is feminine - weak, delicate, poor...but good at art, and full of inscrutable wisdom - the feminine mystique...The West believes the East, deep down, wants to be dominated - because a woman can't think for herself.

"M. Butterfly" was recommended to me by a classmate after I mentioned that I wanted to write a paper on "Kiss of the Spider Woman" because there are a lot of eerie similarities. At this point, I have only read the play, but I look forward to watching the movie version, although I really want to see the original staging with John Lithgow as the main character.

DHH was inspired to write the play after finding out about the real life events where French diplomat Bernard Boursicot was arrested as a Chinese spy for giving sensitive information to his lover of 20 years...who turned out to be a cismale...without Bernard ever knowing it, although DHH maintains that he did not do very much investigating into the real life events because he had no intention of writing a historical drama. 

I have never seen the opera Madame Butterfly, but based on the summary of it within the play (and by DHH in the notes for directors and actors at the end) this play essentially turns the plot on its head. Actually this play turns everything on its head. 

It is just...entirely wonderful. The way that it showcases how men fetishize "Oriental" women as submissive, humble, modest, man pleasers, lotus blossom butterfly geisha girl whatevers is marvelous - even more so because this butterfly is completely in control and the man is completely being played. 

One of the things that is very intriguing to me based on my own experience with trans people is that they are either okay with coming across as a little genderqueer and don't mind existing more towards the middle of the gender spectrum OR they are completely invested in coming across at the (more stereotypical) ends of the gender spectrum. Both Molina from "Kiss of the Spider Woman" and Song in "M. Butterfly" are the femmiest girls who embrace all stereotypes of women. Song, being not actually transgender, but just an actor doing a brilliant job, has interesting commentary on that in the play. He is discussing why women's roles are played by men in the Peking Opera and determines that "only a man knows how a woman is supposed to act." The direct and indirect commentary on what men and women want out of a romantic or sexual relationship is also brilliantly done and incredibly fun to read. Song knows what men want in a perfect woman and sets out to give Rene Gallimard exactly that - and Gallimard is ecstatic and powerdrunk from having attention from any beautiful women - being an awkward, older, not terribly attractive man himself. The cruelty he shows is astounding, and sadly true to life. 

The way that it demonstrates the imperial colonizing attitude is disgusting - there is nothing really fun there besides a bunch of eye rolls from the accuracy.

If you enjoy reading plays, this one is definitely worth a read. If you don't, I would highly recommend seeing a staging of it or the movie version which I look forward to watching later this week.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

7: Kiss of the Spider Woman - Manuel Puig

"I'm easily hurt by some things. And I cooked you dinner...And for what . . . For you to throw it right back in my face...And what's so bad about being soft like a woman? Why is it men or whoever, some poor bastard, some queen, can't be sensitive too, if he's got a mind to? ... if men acted like women there wouldn't be any more torturers"

Thus the reader enters the strange world of text...whatever you want to call it. 

I read this book for the first time a year ago in a brilliant class that had an amazing syllabus, and yet I was just taken with this one. I wrote my final paper on it which I was stoked to submit to my professor on the same day Argentina passed comprehensive rights for trans people, which is important because MP was Argentinian (although he had to live in exile for much of his life) and this text features a trans woman (although most literary theory refers to her as a homosexual male but that is because most literary theorists are wrong.) MP never uses the word trans because it was published in 1978, but with today's understanding of trans folks it is very obvious. I liked the text so much and felt that there was still so much left to write about that I picked it again for my final project for my Gender and Lit class. 

Structurally, it's really interesting, and if you like books with weird structures then this is worth it just for that. The first half of the novel is completely dialogue between two characters, much like a play, but without any stage direction. It's not until page 17 that you even discover where the setting is (prison) and not until much later that there's a reference to Buenos Aires, where the prison is located. Also, there are no names used except when the characters call each other by name which means that sometimes it's hard to trace who is saying what, particularly because MP writes what is said but also what is not said. He loves the ellipses of silence. In the second half of the novel, other genre get introduced including interview recordings, memos, notes, reports, and some occasional glimpses into inner monologues when our two characters are ill. Also, the book makes EXTENSIVE use of footnotes that are explaining nothing directly stated in the text. The footnotes mostly pertain to real and fake scientific/psychological explanations for homosexuality, and they are spread throughout the text in a way that feels haphazardly although there are plenty of scholars who will tell you exactly why they are where they are. If you liked that bit of Junot Diaz's "Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao", then you'll probably like it here.

Content wise, it's really interesting, and if you like books that deal with Marxism, political prisoners, gender identity, trans women, sexual orientation, or old movies, then this is absolutely worth it for that. Yes, I said old movies. A huge part of the text is comprised of Molina telling Valentin the plot lines for various movies as entertainment, and you will get the whole plot.   Again, they are spread throughout the text in a way that feels haphazardly although there are plenty of scholars who will tell you exactly why they are where they are. If you liked that bit of Mario Vargas Llosa's "Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter", then you'll probably like it here.

You'll notice that JD has a Pulitzer Prize, MVL has a Nobel Prize, and no one has ever heard of MP. What's up with that? Maybe the world still isn't ready for bisexual Argentinian expat authors who aren't afraid to push boundaries. I look forward to reading more MP and hope that he is rediscovered by the general reading public. Of the seven texts I have read so far this year, this is the one I would be most likely to recommend to anyone to read

The movie version was nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and William Hurt did win the Oscar for Best Actor. Seeing the movie doesn't replace reading the text, but it's also worth a viewing and I'm looking forward to rewatching it as I write my paper.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

6: A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams


I read A Streetcar Named Desire in my senior year AP Lit class. We also watched the movie as well as the Simpsons spoof (true story: My AP teacher is one of the best teachers in America. Don't believe me? She won a $25,000 Milken Award in 2001. If I am at all a good teacher, it is because of her, and if I am half the teacher she was, I am an amazing teacher.) Unfortunately, the biggest thing I took away from that experience was that Marlon Brando is fucking hot (my only other experience with him was from a Truman Capote interview that told me how sexy he was. I read this interview at an impressionable age). I don't know if I was too young, too inexperienced, or if I'm misremembering, but no matter the case this play went completely over my head. Maybe I had to black out the rest of it and just focus in on Marlon Brando's hotness because otherwise I would never feel clean again?

Re-reading it as a rape and abuse survivor just gave me two days of the heeby jeebies. It is just a bunch of miserable people in a miserable situation making each other more miserable, and every character is an incredibly unsympathetic fuck.

Stella is completely servile to everyone around her. I find it equally annoying when she follows Stanley's orders as I do when she follows Blanche's. She also thinks Stanley has a magic dick. "I pulled you down off them columns and how you loved it, having them colored lights going!" (if it's been a while since you read the play, colored lights=sexy times) Stanley's lower classness and its association with being very sexual/passionate reminds me of how minorities are often portrayed as being hyper sexual/passionate which is ultimately connected to how these groups are less civilized and more in touch with their animal sides which is...problematic and offensive. 

Speaking of which, racist much? I have no memory of any racist overtones but I was cheering Stanley on when he said, "I am not a Polack. People from Poland are Poles, not Polacks. But what I am is one-hundred-per-cent American, born and raised in the greatest country on earth and proud as hell of it, so don't ever call me a Polack." You're goddamn right Stanley. 'Merica. Fuck yeah.

Also, the scene where Blanche kisses the "young man"...I'd be very curious to see what age range is typically cast for that character because, with the rest of the information, I say 17, and it's super creepy. And speaking of a teenager who grew up in a school district that always seems to have some kind of teacher/student sex scandal (the year I graduated an English teacher at my high school was arrested for having sex with a student), I probably didn't think too much about the Blanche-sleeping-with-a-student bit. As a teacher, I find it so incredibly appalling and uncomfortable.

Tennessee Williams, what are you doing to me? You give me a racist teenager-molesting alcoholic money-digging rape victim, a passive wet towel of a woman stuck in the classic cycle of abuse and living in a neighborhood and era that completely normalizes it, and Marlon Brando as a rapist. I feel defeated and tired.

Good thing I've got the uplifting "Portrait of a Lady", "Kiss of the Spider Woman", and "M. Butterfly" in my future...oh wait. Yeah. I really need a happy book in my future.

(My first year teaching AP my students were really emotionally reactive to the texts we were reading and how everything ended terribly. Hamlet. Macbeth. Frankenstein. The Metamorphosis. Death of a Salesman. When we got to Brave New World they were stoked because they were convinced that all the sex, drugs,  and partying would lead to a happy ending...yeah. Damn you books of everlasting literary merit. Damn you.)