A streetcar named desire (1951)

Last week, I started learning Cultural Theory. The first movie we have to watched was A streetcar named desire. The movie was made in the 50s but it still weirdly relevant to Vietnamese culture. The period of toxic relationship between women and men.


The play (latter turned to be a movie) was written by Tennessee Williams with New Orleans as the settings. After the WWII, American saw the unprecedented growth which latter mentioned as the period of "The Golden Age of Capitalism.” New Orleans in the 50s embrace the division between the blue and white collar workers (the northern vs. southern side). Most blue-collar workers lived in the French Quarter where Stanley and Stella' house situated. The participation of women in the workforce was still limited hence the dependence of the female to the male remained substantial. Marriage seems to act as an economic decision with buyers (men) and sellers (women)


Blanche (an over 30 years old protagonist) did not approached Mitch for the love but for social acceptance. Her first compliment on Mitch was not his physiques or personality but his silver cigarette case. Blanche acted as high class (frequently dropped French in the conversion), young (never go out before 6pm to hide the fine lines), and innocent (refused to kissed Mitch because she was "old-fashioned". Blanche resembles a woman "seducing the man as an act of magic, illusion, and trickery".

MITCH. I bet you teach art or music? [BLANCHE laughs delicately] Of course I could be wrong. You might teach arithmetic.


BLANCHE. Never arithmetic, sir; never arithmetic! [with a laugh] I don’t even know my multiplication tables! No, I have the misfortune of being an English instructor. I attempt to instill a bunch of bobby-soxers and drug-store Romeos with reverence for Hawthorne and Whitman and Poe!


BLANCHE (to Stella): "Men lose interest quickly when women is over 30. I don't want to deceive him just enough for him to like me"



Once Mitch knew the truth about Blanche, all he said was: "No, I don't think I want to marry you anymore... No, you're not clean enough to bring into the house with my mother." In this male dominance society, the market rules are set by men (buyers) and women (sellers) acted as price taker. Women (like Blanche) always waited to be validate by love or marriage

BLANCHE [singing]. “Without your love, It’s a honky-tonk parade! Without your love, It’s a melody played in a penny arcade…” ……………………………………………. “It’s only a paper moon, Just as phony as it can be— But it wouldn’t be make-believe if you believed in me!”


Even once they are marriage, man still acted superior while his wife frequently asked him for the money and found her husband's abusive behaviors "thrilled".

STANDLEY. "Now that's how I'm gonna clear the table. Don't you ever talk that way to me. 'Pig,' 'Pollack,' 'disgusting,' 'vulgar,' 'greasy.' Those kind of words have been on your tongue and your sister's tongue just too much around here. What do you think you are? A pair of queens? Now just remember what Huey Long said - that every man's a king - and I'm the King around here, and don't you forget it."

What stirred me is what happened in Streetcar has been happening in Vietnam. The desire of women to be validated through men's love. The act of pretending to be innocent and young. Scrolling through my FB newfeed, I saw Blanche also everywhere. Women showed off their physiques to crave for attention and likes on Facebook, updated status once someone praised her for looking younger than her ages, and upset once people spoke true. It is very true is women nowadays still want magic not realism.




Reference:

1. ‘A TRANSITORY POSSESSION’: ECONOMICS OF A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE: https://repository.wlu.edu/bitstream/handle/11021/34126/RG38_Brilley_ENGL_2018.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y

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