Forerunners of Innocent Thugs In Politics, Business, Finance, War-making, Media and Religious Preaching In US of 21st Century

“We in the State of Louisiana live according to Napoleonic code – what belongs to the wife belongs to the husband, if the wife is swindled the husband is swindled and I don’t like to be swindled.”
Stanley Kowalski in SND

“May be we are a long way from being made in god’s image but Stella my sister there has been some progress since then, such things as art, as poetry, and as music… beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, and tenderness of the heart.”
Blanche Dubois in SND

Stella – “I still don’t know if I did the right thing or not. I couldn’t believe her story and go on living with Stanley.”
Eunice – “Don’t you ever believe it, you have got to keep on going, no matter what happens, we all have to keep on going.”
Stanley’s “awesome” machoistic pantomime

Tennessee Williams between inspiration, contemplation, coffee, nicotine and sadness

Stanley and his buddies have a good time after a hard working day.

Stanley-Stella alliance – What most women look for in men it is a back wide enough to make the embrace worthy – to symbiotically possess more of a man’s… soul yearning to bond with feminine embrace (whether it belongs to a baseball player, boxer, pop-singer or a Hollywood star, or just to a touching “innocent” brat-brute like Stanley).

Blanche for Stanley is “too arrogant” (she is a public school teacher – steady object of hate for those with an authoritarian/conservative sensibility).

Rough game of domination with a desperate dependent woman is about the only thing that can make Stanley feel restored in his self-respect vis-à-vis Blanche’s “high brow taste”, “educated snobbery” and “too independent” judgment.

Machoism is psychologically based on emotional infantilism, and Stanley’s righteous rudeness, up to a certain point, was essentially just self-assertion of a child not too confident of himself. But soon it became a matter of crushing the enemy, what he (in his mind) has transformed the poor helpless Blanche into, like Stanley’s descendents today – the American Republican leaders – have transformed the countries of the world which just want to live in their own way.

Cruelty is related to conformism as machoism is to sissy-ness (the mask of toughness is needed to mask the truth by its opposite). The sissies often join the army to build the façade of toughness. If for Blanche to rationally criticize Stanley was a sincere democratic gesture, Stanley’s revenge was a calculated assault which ended in crime.

Stanley’s brat-boyish charm is irresistible for any woman who didn’t emotionally grow since the times of kissing her teddy-bears and kitties. Anyway, Stanley/Stella (sounds like metal) is a couple that is “good together”, but Blanche’s sensitivity and intelligence must be sacrificed. We are already in 21st century. Hard times – wars and heightened rivalry became a part of everyday life, there is barely a space for compassion.

The situation here is – either Blanche has to be sent to mental institution or Stanley to prison. Having a baby and, of course, love is, of course, more important than truth and honor.

Mitch is a “good man” but as a typical liberal by heart, he is not able to withstand the pressure – he gives in, like today’s many Democratic politicians who are psychologically bullied by Republican right wing. Mitch betrays Blanche.

How could a kind soul like Mitch allow himself such a rude gesture with Blanche whom he adored quite recently?

SND is a film about a deadly optimism, about vitality run amok, about human perception of other people based on desire to dominate, not to share emotions. It is a film about a particular disease of the human soul which is not able to bond with other souls as an equal. Since the beginning of 21st century we witness in US mass “resurrection” of innocent louts after several democratic decades, and this makes it mandatory for us to look for their previous historical incarnations. Tennessee Williams and Elia Kazan are real help in our “streetcar-desire” to understand these types of people better.

Blanche Dubois with her desperate need to redeem herself after the suicide of her beloved years ago was rudely shaken by her sudden awakening to the reality of the world populated by Stanley Kowalskies. This reality has no time for guilty feelings; the will for victory (for success over others) occupies all the existential space.

By analyzing Stanley’s psychology, the film depicts the essence of conservative/ authoritarian psyche as a combination of machoism and sentimentality, of toughness and infantilism, of a power that is acting itself out and fatal weakness of character. Today we observe this peculiar psychological blend in various sorts of conservative people in politics, business, finance, religion, war-making and private life, but then it took the talent and courage of Tennessee Williams to provide first contours of the type that in the 21st century started to dominate the American life.

Already in early fifties (when the film was released) its American viewers produced an alarming symptom – they were uncertain about immorality of Stanley’s “deliberate cruelty” because of their unconscious identification with him when emotional judgment takes precedence over thinking (a typical totalitarian reaction – the person with whom subject impulsively identifies, is always “good”). American mass-public didn’t have the ability to morally differentiate between Blanche and Stanley – viewers were divided into two equal camps: sympathizers of Blanche and defenders of Stanley (both groups were confused by the psychological contradictions in the characters – Blanche has an “aristocratic” mannerism and a bad “personal reputation” while with Stanley the air of innocence covers up his “rudeness”). Similar situation happened later with mass-American public’s psychological inability to confidently differentiate between President Clinton (with his Monika “sin”) and Bush Junior (a naïve criminal with autistically innocent soul of the retarded child).

Not less important than the differentiation between Stanley-the rapist and torturer and Blanche-the oversensitive soul (with her desperate psychologically defensive posture of being respected by men) is the very difference between Stanley and Mitch. While Stanley stands for those with a conservative sensibility, Mitch psychologically is a typical liberal (in spite of being from a “proletarian” background). Mitch’s inability to defend and protect Blanche from Stanley is a typical liberal impotence of those who don’t dare to stand up to the bully. For example, today in politics, instead of explaining to the whole world that American conservatives are the enemies of the American Democracy, the liberal politicians with Mitch’s psychology prefer to take the posture of sentimental patriotism – to protect the fake (shining) image of American Democracy by hiding the truth about conservatives’ antidemocratic intentions, agenda and behavior.

If Blanche represents a person with a democratic sensibility who is capable of changing her behavior according to the call of conscience, Stanley represents not only a person with a conservative (authoritarian) sensibility but also conservative (belligerent) politicians. Then Mitch personifies the liberal politicians who are not able to act in accordance with their subjective truth in front of the intimidating conservative thugs. Who is Stella then, Stanley’s wife and Blanche’s sister? If she could be in Fassbinder’s film we could say that she is North America itself in a situation of choice between democracy and totalitarianism as psychological tendencies. But aesthetic and financial limitations of any American production (in 50s less than today) forces the superficially “realistic” style of acting oriented on conventional exaggeration of everyday emotions – so, Stella is just a traditional woman who always takes a side of her husband regardless of how immoral his behavior is. As soon as Stanley Kowalski is a charismatic criminal and Stella is a typical American wife of pre-democracy covering up her husband‘s criminality, we can feel how unflattering Williams and Kazan’s opinion was about the American future we are going through today, when Republican, tea-publican and Wall-Street Stanleys are in power. Today, we can see with our own eyes the destiny of Blanche-democrats and Blanche-intellectuals that was so clairvoyantly depicted in advance in SND.

Questions to help viewers in further study of the film

1.How can we interpret the symbolic footage, following the last scene between Blanche and Stanley – Blanche’s shattered reflection in the mirror-garbage being hosed off with water from the street-a close-up of Stella/Stanley’s baby?
2. Why is Blanche taken to a psychiatric hospital? How do the matters of truth, of psychological comfort as a part of everyday survival and of conformist inertia define how people took sides in this situation?
3. In what sense can it be said, if at all, that Stanley Kowalski is a harbinger of the future American generations?
“There exists deliberate ambiguity in Stanley’s personality – a healthy normalcy about the physical and vulnerability submerged beneath the macho front American society demands of its men… If Blanche turns to art and the imagination as a compensation for her incompleteness, Stanley turns to violence. For Stanleys to take over the world means a universal coarsening and diminishment.” (Thomas Adler, “Streetcar Named Desire [The Moth and the Lantern]”, Twayne Pr., 1990, p. 58)
4. How significant is it for the understanding of our country today, in 21st century, the suggestion of Eunice, Kowalskis’ neighbor, to Stella right before sending Blanche to the mad house – “don’t you ever believe it [what Blanche said], you have got to keep on going, no matter what happens, we all have to keep on going”?
5. Can it be said that in Stanley’s case, the ego coincides with the ego-ideal – that all the personal and socio-cultural achievements ought to be realized inside the factual condition of the ego?
6. Can we say that Stanley has a “heightened vulnerability to anxiety in the face of alterity, and this provides a fertile ground for unrealistic and absolute longings for security.” (Erik L. Santner, “Stranded Objects: Mourning, Memory, and Film in Postwar Germany”, Cornell Un. Pr., 1990, p. 53)?
7. Can we name Stanley’s sensibility “machoistic sentimentality” that includes oversensitivity to criticism and impulsive rage towards anybody whose actions are not in tune with our expectations?
8. Which American political figures in 21st century exhibit the same kind of machoistic sentimentality like Stanley by overreacting on disagreements in opinions, producing emotionally overloaded reactions and allowing themselves righteous rage full of frustration against people with dissimilar worldview or life style?
9. Can we define the very logic of Stanley-like thinking as a perverse combination of emotionalism and rationality when intentionality of thinking and goals of subject’s behavior are determined by emotional insecurity and infantile complexes while rationality is reduced to purely applied, instrumental (feverishly calculating) function?
10. Is “machoistic sentimentality” making a person extremely sensitive to any resistance of the world to his efforts and prone to be thrown off balance by the mere existence of otherness in the world?
11. Can “machoistic sentimentality” be considered as a part and parcel of a totalitarian personality? Why is this totalitarian connotation of Stanley-like behavior so important to accent today in our country?
12. How can we characterize the reaction of neighbors and friends on Stanley and Stella’s decision to send Blanche to a psychiatric institution? What is in Stanley’s personality that shuts them up – making them unable to stand for truth? What analogies can we make between their behavior and political environment in US today?
13. Why can SUBSTITUTION FOR REAL PROBLEM BY ITS METAPHORIC, MYTHICAL VERSION be considered a basic feature of totalitarian thinking? How this “mechanism” is at work in the very manner Stanley understands and addresses his problem with Blanche? Can the same mechanism be found in how Bush administration went about handling of the problem of terrorism?
14. Why to substitute the real problem with its aggrandized and mythologized version is so psychologically rewarding for a totalitarian person? What price totalitarian people have to pay for this tendency to address problems in a spectacular and absolutist way? How Soviet Russians paid this price? – Nazi Germans? What will be the price for Stanley?
15. What could be a democratic, honest and rational way for Stanley to deal with Blanche (and how Bush-administration could address the problem of terrorism in a democratic, straight and rational fashion?)?
16. How imperial perception of otherness expresses itself in the way Stanley tries to position Stella against Blanche?
17. How does Stanley use the psychological tactics of PREVENTIVE INTIMIDATION against Blanche?
“The desire to control others and self-esteem vary inversely: the less self-esteem a person has, the greater is his desire, and ability, to control others.” (Thomas Szasz, “The Untamed Tongue”, Open Court, 1991, p. 143)
18. How does Stanley use the psychological tactics of RETALIATORY INTIMIDATION with Blanche? Can we say that preventive intimidation is an intimidating menace to use retaliatory intimidation?
19. How much the inability to discuss issues is connected with the proclivity to use harassing psychological tactics? What can improve people’s ability to (rationally and analytically) discuss issues? What is psychological context of this ability?
20. What is the danger of (melodramatic) “personalization” of the “conflict” between Stanley Kowalski and Blanche Dubois?

Posted on Dec 3 2014 –   “A Streetcar Named Desire” (1951) by Elia Kazan/Tennessee Williams by Acting-Out Politics