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.) 


  1. I think the death of a giant cockroach living in your apartment is a happy ending.

    1. If that is how you interpret Metamorphosis, then you are a soulless idiot and no scholar.

  2. The universe reaffirms how cruel, ruthless, and meaningless it is. Sounds like a happy ending to me.