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YMMV / A Streetcar Named Desire

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  • Accidental Aesop: Blanche loves her little sister very much, and desperately tries to persuade her to leave Stanley, but Stella refuses — and she doesn't. This is the Hard Truth Aesop that every person who's had a loved one suffer Domestic Abuse has had to learn; if they don't want your help, you can't force them to take it, no matter how badly they might need it.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • A lot of fans of the 1951 film like to play up the notion of Blanche being a variation of Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind; this is mainly because Vivien Leigh played both roles, as well as the urban legend that Leigh got the part SPECIFICALLY because Elia Kazan wanted to play around with the idea of "What if Scarlett O'Hara Lost Her Mind" as his take on Blanche. Directors of the original play are rather divided on who's right, and it shows in the performances.
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    • Blanche is obviously the protagonist, but seen from one point of view, she does come in to Stella and Stanley's "happily ever after" and mess everything up. People tend to forget that she is, in fact, a guest and therefore, in some instances at least, completely in the wrong.
    • You could argue that Stanley is almost as insecure as Blanche, deep down inside. He seems sure that Blanche could potentially tear Stella away from him, and when he realizes what he did in a fit of rage, he breaks down in tears and calls her back, quoting from the stage directions, "with heaven-splitting violence". His tough persona is merely a facade to hide his deep insecurities and fears.
    • A rather interesting point with this is that nowhere in the script does it say that Stanley raped Blanche. It only says that she faints (meaning she wouldn't know what, if anything, happened anyway) and he "carries her to the bed". This means that this scene (and therefore Stanley's character) could be interpreted one of two ways: either he did rape her while she was unconscious or he only meant to frighten her, and didn't go any further than that. Most productions go with the former, with many stagings of that scene removing all room for doubt.
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    • It's up in the air how we're meant to see Stanley's Relationship Sabotage between Mitch and Blanche. On the one hand, it's a dick move - and Stanley clearly told an embellished version of the events. On the other, Blanche was lying to Mitch and Stanley didn't want his friend to be saddled with someone who would definitely be a huge burden.
    • Stella is seen as a victim of domestic violence, but one scene in particular where Stella describes Stanley smashing all the lightbulbs on their wedding night suggests she might be attracted to Stanley's violent qualities. If you listen to how she talks, she almost sounds as if she's turned on. Note that she never seems to have a problem standing up to Stanley and she's not afraid to shout back at him. It's entirely possible Stella could be addicted to the drama that Stanley brings, and is just as messed up as him in her own way.
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    • Take the scene after the poker game - the "Hey, Stella!" sequence. Stella goes back to Stanley after he hit her. Is this Stockholm Syndrome on Stella's part? Or is Stella the one with the power here? In the film at least, Stella looks like she could be enjoying making Stanley beg for her to come back - thus making this a sort of Masochism Tango.
    • While being violently raped at the end of an already awful Trauma Conga Line certainly didn't help Blanche's sanity, some have wondered if that was what was the final straw, or if it was Stella's reaction that finally pushed her over the edge. It's clear she told Stella what happened, showing that after the rape, she was at least lucid enough to understand what happened to her and to tell someone else, but by the ending scene (which is a couple weeks later), she's obviously lost her mind. It could be inferred that her own sister not believing her (or choosing not to believe her), and siding with her rapist over her, is what finally broke Blanche entirely.
    • Is Mitch a Nice Guy, or a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing? While he's justifiably angry that Blanche lied to him, he has a line about "taking what [he's] been missing out on" that is easily interpreted (and is often staged as) him attempting to sexually assault her, because she's just a slut who deserves it, now.
  • Award Snub: Despite being lauded as one of the most powerful performances of all time, Marlon Brando's performance as Stanley was not awarded an Oscar (and the film did sweep the other three acting categories, with Vivien Leigh, Karl Malden, and Kim Hunter all winning in their categories). Downplayed in that the Best Actor recipient that year was Humphrey Bogart, taking home the only Oscar in his legendary career for The African Queen, and that Brando would deservedly win Best Actor for On the Waterfront just three years later.
  • Best Known for the Fanservice: The film version is known for Marlon Brando in a tight wet t-shirt and something about mental illness.
  • Draco in Leather Pants: The role of Stanley, a truculent, wife-beating rapist, is what propelled Marlon Brando into sex symbol status. He does have sympathetic qualities, mind you, but plenty of bad ones to equal them.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: Seeing Blanche suffer Sanity Slippage is hard to watch with the knowledge that Vivien Leigh struggled with bipolar disorder later in life.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight: Stanley and Blanche's cordial first meeting - since Marlon Brando and Vivien Leigh reportedly became quite good friends during filming.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Stanley talks about the Napoleonic Code. Marlon Brando would later play Napoleon in Désirée.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Blanche. She's very harsh towards Stanley (who she sees as a 'Polack' and an 'ape'), and she isn't particularly nice in general, but once you find out about her past, it's very hard not to feel sorry for her...
  • Memetic Mutation: Hey SSTTTEEELLLAAA!!!!
  • Misaimed Fandom: An example filled with Fridge Horror but there are those who hold up the play and Stanley especially as being a paragon of masculinity, pointing to his willingness to "do what must be done" whether at work or at home to maintain his idea of the status quo as ideals to be replicated. Which, considering Stanley spends most of the play in a state of hyper-aggression, beats his wife and rapes his sister-in-law while his wife is giving birth to their child, before sending his victim to a mental institution to be lobotomised, is decidedly not the point of the character or the play.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Stanley's MEH is generally considered to be raping Blanche, but you could also argue that he crosses it when he tells Mitch about Blanche's exploits (thereby ruining their relationship), or when he presents Blanche with his 'birthday present'... a bus ticket back to Laurel.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • The depiction of Blanche's descent into insanity.
    • Some extra Fridge Horror here: during the Poker night, Stanley loses self-control and ends up hitting Stella. Considering how quickly she forgives him and how calm she is about it, it seems that it's a common occurrence, and studies show that parents who are domestic abusers will have kids that will grow up to be domestic abusers. If you believe the Alternate Character Interpretation above that Stella could enjoy making Stanley beg for her to come back, it makes their relationship even creepier.
    • The scene leading up to Blanche's rape at the hands of Stanley and the actual implied rape.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Blanche, while not necessarily being a good person, is often considered to be a lot worse by some who accuse her of just deliberately stringing Mitch along despite his ultimate rejection obviously hitting her hard, and that being the mid-1940s meant she couldn't tell him about her sexual history if she wanted any kind of relationship with him, and ignoring the fact that signs of her mental instability are present from the very beginning and only become increasingly obvious.
  • Signature Line:
    • "I don't want realism. I want magic!"
    • "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."
  • Signature Scene: The ending, in which Stella leaves Stanley as he begs her to come back.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • Blanche herself, who is seen as an Asshole Victim nowadays for manipulating her sister, constantly living in denial even in the face of the truth, an absolute inability to do anything useful, mooching off both Stanley and Mitch, abusing her under-aged students and getting kicked out of her position as a teacher for it, telling lies to everyone she comes across (and especially her long line of lovers). There was a case where, during a modern revival of the play, people cheered as Blanche was raped.
    • On the other hand, Blanche is clearly mentally ill and needs legitimate professional help, yet she has the misfortune to live in a time where the only "help" offered to people like her is lobotomy, and her only family in the world is in an abusive marriage with a man who wants to break her into even smaller pieces than she's already in, and send those pieces packing. (And her sister sides with her husband after he rapes her, and sends her to said lobotomy rather than leave him.)
    • Aside from that, most characters treat her promiscuity as just as bad as, if not worse than, her mental instability. In today post-sexual revolution society, women are not quite as morally condemned for having lots of partners as in her time. (Although sleeping with an underage student is seen as worse today than back then.)
  • Values Resonance: One of the many layers of the play is Blanche and Stanley are pretty symbolic of an "Old South vs. New South" dynamic. Blanche was a faded relic of the bygone Antebellum South (she is, after all, played by Scarlett O'Hara herself,) while Stanley was a modern, industrial, blue-collar immigrant, symbolic of where the South was going. An important discussion when the play was written in 1947, since the South was still rebuilding after the war. However, that same "Old Guard vs. New Blood" debate is showing up all over again, with the newest generation of Southerners being much more diverse and progressive, and frequently at odds with the more conservative previous generation, believing that clinging to the Good Old Ways just isn't working anymore.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not Symbolic?: The story's biggest bit of symbolism is that Blanche represents the 'old south' and Stanley represents the new working class south.
  • The Woobie:
    • Stella when you see her shabby apartment and her twisted relationship with Stanley. Out of the three protagonists, she is easily the most sympathetic.
    • Mitch as well since his mother is dying and he gets strung along by a rather manipulative flirt.


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