Subvert the Dominant Paradigm

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weird Fandom and the Problem of "Streetcar"

This blog post is extremely long. Get through to the end, and I'll give you a virtual cookie.

Weird Fandom and the Problem of "Streetcar"

(Including my personal experience in a particular fan community and my own analysis of a "classic" piece of Modern American Theater, much of which is in direct conflict with popular interpretation.)

I’ve thought long and hard about writing this blog, and I will no doubt think longer and harder about actually publishing it. I don’t intend to smear anybody or mention anyone or anyplace by name, but most people will probably infer them from the context. And thinking about putting my thoughts down in words, much less publishing those words on the Internet, where there is no privacy, makes my stomach turn over.

And maybe once I write this, I’ll have no need to publish it. Maybe getting everything I’m thinking out of my brain and putting it in words will be enough. Sometimes it happens that way. Sometimes, when I can’t sleep, it’s enough just to write about what’s on my mind. Sometimes, though, it’s not. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how much I journal, or how many words I write for a blog. Sometimes I want to virtually scream what’s bothering me on FaceBook in big capital letters. Sometimes I want to challenge the world.

Mostly, I don’t. I’m in the habit of silence. Not about global things so much—I can write about rape and poverty and violence and the inequity of the world’s social systems until the cows come home, without flinching or batting an eye. But about personal things, I tend to hold my tongue. I have a number of reasons for this. Because I have learned that talking about personal things doesn’t change anything. Because of years of being told how crass it is to “air dirty laundry.” Because of the idea that one must “rise above” the things that hurt one, and complaining or calling a person out is “sinking to their level.” Because I have Bipolar Disorder, and everything coming out of my mouth or out of my keyboard is measured against that yardstick. And in my head, I know that stuff is garbage, and that silence equals consent. I know that when you don’t confront abuse and injustice, the people who perpetrate it get off scot-free and the people around them have no idea just how hurtful, even toxic, the situation is. And sometimes you just need to express what’s on your mind, even if it might seem trivial to anyone else.

But it’s hard to be the one trying to stand up and say, “Excuse me! This is painful and fucked!” when so few people hear you. And so, most times, I hold my tongue.

*  *  *

Anyone who knows me can’t help knowing that in the last few months I have come to admire a particular celebrity. I’d never heard of this person before May, when a FaceBook acquaintance of mine posted a picture of him, and it struck me forcibly how much he physically resembles the male protagonist of my Caitlin Ross series (who, I feel compelled to point out, appeared on the page years before I’d ever heard of this celebrity). And, yeah, I got a bit obsessed with him, which disturbed me, and which I wished daily hadn’t happened because it brought up all my shit about being the nerdy, unattractive high school chick with the crush on the cute, popular guy. Anyway, I started following his work and reading and listening to interviews with him and he honestly sounds like a super guy, smart and funny as well as physically attractive. And this fandom brought me into contact with some new friends, which was all to the good. Although it does seem terribly strange to me to connect with a bunch of women (and a few men) through our all having a thing for the same guy. It’s a reality I’ve never before participated in. A lot of me is mortified to be participating in it now. I’m a married woman with a loving husband who’s my best friend, who stuck by me through five terrible years when my illness got really bad and I had no medication that worked, who rubs my neck when I have a migraine. (He’s found this whole celebrity crush thing rather amusing, by the way.) I have no call to have a terrible crush on some celebrity. I know he’s not perfect. He’s a real guy who shits and farts and maybe leaves the toilet seat up. I would not last two minutes in his world and I doubt very much he would find anything interesting about mine. Probably if he didn’t look so much like Timber MacDuff, I wouldn’t have a thing for him. Probably if he were just a pretty face with nothing behind it, I wouldn’t, either. But he does look like the troubled romantic hero of my novels—with whom more than one reader has fallen in love—and he isn’t just a pretty face. More than once he’s demonstrated he has a fairly good brain. So I’ve been trying hard to deal with this whole weird reality, having an adolescent crush way beyond adolescence, with limited success.

I started following this guy on Twitter. I’d had a Twitter account for about a year. Before this particular fandom I hadn’t used it much, but I started spending more time there. Twitter is dangerous. It’s a great publicity tool, and a good way to connect with people with whom you might not otherwise connect. And sometimes famous people you follow retweet something or answer a tweet or even follow you back, and then you squeal like a fangirl and try not to pass out. It also gives you a false sense of intimacy with perfect strangers, and the combination of that with fandom is not necessarily healthy. A friend of mine said, “I’d never want to be a celebrity in this day and age, when almost anyone can get in touch with you if they try hard enough.” And I have to agree. Some of the stuff I’ve seen people post is downright vulgar and offensive. Like randomly tweeting to a celebrity that you want to lick his dick or come on her tits, in response to a photo of a cool fish or the mention of a political cause.

How do celebrities deal with this shit? I’ve wondered it a lot in regards to the person I have this crush on, because he’s a bone fide sex symbol. And I’ve seen clips of him on TV talk shows where the audience is comprised of drooling women yelling “Take it off!” as soon as he steps on stage, and I think about how if the genders were reversed, if it were an attractive woman and an audience full of men, people would write scathing articles about objectification and how we’re more than our bodies and how the patriarchy…blah, blah, blah. But for men it’s supposed to be some measure of how studly and powerful they are, and if they object people ask what’s wrong with them. And yeah, I believe women have a right to delight in the male form. I like a hot guy as much as the next woman. But sometimes it seems a little much.

Anyway, I really tried to restrain myself from falling into the Twitter trap—tried not to Tweet him or tag him or say anything weird and stalker-ish. But sometimes I didn’t succeed at that. And one of the places I didn’t succeed with that was about that play.

See, around about Midsummer, the news came out that the guy had been cast as the male lead in a repertory company’s production of A Streetcar Named Desire. When I told my husband about this—he’d played Stanley, himself—he said, “I can’t imagine him in that role.” I said, “I can imagine him in it, but I can’t imagine why he’d want to do it.”

You might be able to tell I am not fond of this play. In fact, I’m not fond of Tennessee Williams in general. Around my house, we refer to his work as “Sweat Plays.” As in, “Isn’t Night of the Iguana another Tennessee Williams Sweat Play?” Because most of his plays seem to consist of an assortment of dysfunctional characters emoting while standing around perspiring in some hot, Southern location. It’s not something that appeals to me. I’ve had enough dysfunction in my life; I don’t need to see it glorified on the stage.

Yet in interviews, my celebrity crush stated repeatedly that Tennessee Williams was his favorite playwright, and “Streetcar” his favorite play. I didn’t get it. I still don’t. And I’ve been pretty vocal in various places about not liking the play, not to be critical, but because I want to understand. I’ve had a couple good conversations with people about it, too. But I didn’t expect the celebrity to acknowledge me—though I did actually ask him right out what he saw in “Streetcar”—and he didn’t.

Anyway. One recent morning I was hanging out on the Internet, as I do most mornings, alternating between cruising FaceBook and chatting with some folks on Twitter and doing research on my current project and stuff. And through a series of bizarre events, including getting a false notification from Twitter that he had started following me, I learned that this celebrity had blocked me from following him anymore. I was shocked and shattered, because I had (and still have) no idea what I did to bring on that kind of action. Over the course of the day, I discussed it with a friend (also a fan), and she was as shocked as I was. Neither of us could think of what I’d done. “I’ve seen fans post WAY worse stuff to him and be WAY more stalker-y,” she said. The only thing either of us could think was that he doesn’t like my expressing my opinion of “Streetcar.” Maybe he thinks it’s bad publicity. And even that doesn’t make sense, because I’m not blocked from tagging him, and there’s nothing to keep me from saying anything about that play that I like. Also, a lot of my contacts retweet everything he posts, so it’s not like I’m completely cut out of the loop.

Really, a simple “Yo, knock it off about the play!” would probably have been effective. But I guess you’re maybe not supposed to engage with fans that way, not knowing if they might be freaky stalkers or what. And he doesn’t tend to engage as much as some of the other celebs who post on Twitter anyway.

I have to admit, I, of course, did have a fantasy where he noticed me. And I guess he did. I just had imagined it somewhat differently.

My husband maintains that the blocking was some kind of weird mistake or glitch. He says, “No actor in his right mind would block a fan unless the fan were a looney like that woman from Crawford who stalked David Letterman (she claimed she was having his alien baby and ended in a spectacularly messy fashion a few years ago by throwing herself under a train). It’s just not worth it to alienate people that way.”

But I don’t know. Everyone has triggers that make them do stuff that seems unreasonable to people on the outside. Or maybe he can’t cope with people disagreeing with him, which would disappoint me, but it happens. Or maybe he was thinking, “Shit, I’m in production for this play and I don’t need this kind of negativity.” Or maybe he was having a bad day. It must be a strain, having to be pleasant to people all the time. As a matter of fact, I have some experience of that myself.

The guy’s human; shit happens; don’t take it personally. But I still keep coming back to “Streetcar,” because among the hordes of ravening fans posting photos of their tickets, mine is the lone voice saying, “I’m sorry, but this play stinks. I’m not sure I could sit through it even to watch you.”

*  *  *

Which brings me to the main point of this essay: The Problem with A Streetcar Named Desire. All the things I think about looking at the play, which I would enjoy discussing with any intelligent theater-lover, whether or not they agree with me. The kinds of things I would have liked to have asked my celebrity crush, and the things I’d like to have had a chance say. I’ve never seen it, but I have read it more than once. And yeah, I have a theater background too, though that’s not where I ended up. So I believe my opinion counts for something.

NUMBER ONE: It’s poorly constructed. I write fiction and essays, not plays. But writing, constructing stories, is what I do. I know very well when it works and when it doesn’t, and “Streetcar” doesn’t work for me. The progression from beginning, to middle, through the end seems arbitrary; there’s no coherent plot. I’ve mentioned above that Williams’s plays always strike me as a lot of people standing around emoting, but at least most of the others—Glass Menagerie, for example—have some kind of storyline. Events build one upon another. “Streetcar” isn’t that way. The individual scenes seem disconnected. Stuff happens, but none of it moves. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s lots of plays without standard plots. But it means that the work needs some other draw, like witty dialog—I don’t think people go to see Waiting for Godot for the plot—or using paper cut-outs to represent actors (in true Brechtian fashion) or actors delivering all their surreal lines from garbage cans. Or characters. You can save any dismal piece of crap if you have good characters. Which brings me to:

NUMBER TWO: There isn’t a sympathetic character in the entire play.

“Streetcar” is a glimpse into the lives of a number of people in a working-class neighborhood in the forties (it was first performed in 1948). The main action centers around Stanley Kowalski, his wife, Stella, and her sister, Blanche Dubois. We also get to see Stanley’s poker buddies and various neighbors. The central conflict, as far as I can determine it, is a power struggle between Stanley and Blanche. The struggle has undertones of class warfare: Stanley is a blue-collar man of his time, a blunt-spoken guy who likes to drink and go bowling, who walks around in his undershirt at home and has limited knowledge of what might be termed “the finer things.” On the other hand, Blanche (and, by extension, Stella) comes from the fading plantation culture and is used to things being more refined. Almost from the moment she arrives, Blanche disparages Stanley for his lack of culture. She is, she claims, used to better, and she can’t understand why her sister married such a brute. Stanley, predictably, reacts by getting sulky and belligerent, probably because he doesn’t like his shortcomings being pointed out by some broad. It doesn’t help that Stanley believes Blanche and Stella have inherited a good chunk of money, being the last of their family. Blanche makes it clear from the beginning that there is no money, but Stanley doesn’t care. He feels entitled to it as Stella’s husband, and when he doesn’t get it he sets out to ruin Blanche, which he does by interfering in her budding relationship with his buddy, Mitch, raping her, and ultimately having her committed to a mental institution when she tries to tell Stella what happened.

I have thought and thought about how, were I directing this play, I could make any of these characters into someone with whom the audience could sympathize, and for the life of me I just can’t do it. The closest I can come is Blanche, because she’s clearly the victim, a woman of little resource fallen on hard times and unwilling to admit to it, who does what she has to do to survive. (Unfortunately, this includes soft prostitution, which gives Stanley a weapon against her when he discovers it.) But even Blanche is difficult, because she’s a pathological liar; she tries to manipulate people and circumstance instead of getting a spine and telling the truth. I guess Southern ladies aren’t trained for that. When it bites her in the ass, you can’t quite feel sorry for her. You feel like you should, because what Stanley has done is so horrible. But really, by that point of the play you just don’t care.

My husband points out that, in the beginning of the play, Blanche describes how, to get to Stanley and Stella's apartment, she "took a streetcar named Desire to a stop called Cemetery" and asked for Elysian Fields (the Elysian Fields, in case you don't know, is the section of the classical Greek afterlife where heroes go after they die). To me, this says that the central metaphor of the play is how Blanche's desire (to regain what she's lost, maybe, or just for a better life for herself) carries her toward death. In that case, Blanche should be the clear protagonist and the character for whom the audience feels the most sympathy. Except, the play being what it is, the idea doesn't carry through. It just doesn't work.

Stella makes me ill. She’s a virtual non-entity who buys into the battered woman mythos. The first time in the play that Stanley hits her—and I get the distinct impression it wasn’t the first time ever—she does take refuge with the upstairs neighbors. Then we get the famous “STELLA!” scene, and she runs right back. She and Stanley fuck like bunnies, and the next day when Blanche urges her to leave her abusive husband, she replies with, “There’s nothing in my life I need to run away from.” It’s not quite as bad as the atrocious line in Carousel—“He hit me and it felt like a kiss!”—but it’s a close second. Let’s hear it for a role model of how to be a subservient doormat. Even after Stanley’s violence triggers the onset of labor—oh yeah, I forgot to mention that at one point in the play we learn Stella is pregnant—she doesn’t get a clue, but continues until the end to wonder how her sister could tell such lies about her husband.

Then there’s Stanley. My celebrity crush was quoted in a recent interview as saying, “Stanley Kowalski is the quintessential male role in American Theater.” Well, kudos for the use of the word “quintessential,” but my response is, if Stanley is the quintessential male role in American Theater, then American Theater is in trouble. In the forties when this play debuted, when domestic violence was still a hush-hush issue and Williams might actually have been challenging social norms by putting it on stage, yeah, okay, I can see why you might say that. But not today. There’s more sympathy to Artie O’Shaughnessy, the male lead of House of Blue Leaves, who cheats on his crazy wife and then strangles her, than there is to Stanley. You might excuse him by saying, “But he really loves his wife and he’s sorry he hit her! You can see it in the ‘STELLA!’ scene!” Well, I’m here to tell you, as a person who’s worked in a battered women’s shelter and had close friends and relatives in battering relationships, that’s the classic behavior of an abuser. It’s what’s known as the “Cycle of Violence.” It starts with a calm period. Then tensions start to escalate. There may be a trigger, or there may not. Sometimes the trigger is in the abuser’s head. The escalation leads to a violent incident, after which the abuser feels extreme remorse. He (or she) apologizes, makes excuses, tries to make up for his (or her) behavior by being extra nice and buying his victim gifts: the “Hearts and Flowers” stage. Then the cycle turns back to the period of calm, and starts all over again.

Please explain to me how Stanley is any different. He batters Stella, she leaves, he feels remorse and gets her to come back, tensions escalate and he does it again, again feels remorse, then takes out his temper and frustration on Blanche by raping her while Stella is having their baby. To make matters even more unpalatable, his line immediately before the rape is, “This has been coming between you and me for a long time!” Excuse me? In what way? Do you mean that Blanche had it coming, to be raped? Even if there’s sexual tension between Stanley and Blanche—and you can read the play that way—it’s still a fucking rape. Saying “it’s been coming” as a justification clearly points out that Stanley feels perfectly fine with putting a woman who in some way threatens him “in her place” by sexually assaulting her. Do we really need to affirm this mindset by claiming he’s the “top-of-the-mountain” role for men?

He’s an abuser. He feels entitled to dominate and control the women around him, and not a few of the men, as well. And the play ends with Blanche getting carted away, and, presumably, Stanley and Stella going back to their dysfunctional life. And if you want to say, “Well, now that Blanche is out of the picture maybe their life won’t be so dysfunctional,” okay. I can accept that she might have been the trigger factor, which is why the play takes the shape it does. But it smacks very strongly of blaming the victim of violence for what the perpetrator did to her. And I’d say the same if Blanche were a male role, although in all probability the same events wouldn’t take place.

I remember, years ago, going with my husband and a friend to see Leaving Las Vegas, a movie about some more dysfunctional people, for which Nicholas Cage won an Oscar. We all sat through it without saying anything. When we left the theater, everyone around us was exclaiming what a wonderful, heavy, insightful, profound movie it was. The three of us just looked at each other. Then one of us—I can’t remember who—said, “Did I see the same movie? Because I thought it was horrible. I could barely sit through it.” Turns out all of us felt the same, because what in the hell is insightful and profound about watching a prostitute enable an alcoholic to drink himself to death?

I feel the same way about “Streetcar.” I’ve known those people. I’ve seen their dysfunction close-up. I’ve done the paperwork. I’ve seen the file marked closed because a woman’s abusive husband finally killed her. I’ve been raped. There is nothing about it I want to see in a play. And calling Stanley “the quintessential male role…” in light of what I’ve seen and experienced really, really disturbs me. It’s like saying “Real men are abusers and rapists.” That can’t be what he meant, can it? Furthermore, the fact that the play is being staged at an institution that has recently had its policy on sexual assault called into question for giving perpetrators slaps on the wrist strikes me as beyond ironic. In my opinion, the only value that “Streetcar” has is historic. Yeah, it was groundbreaking for its time, and should be studied for that reason. Yeah, it paints a picture of working-class people in the post-war South. But, please gods, let’s not go there today.

I'm an educated woman with a progressive mindset. I tend to surround myself with like-minded others, both women and men, and this gives me a certain picture of the way the world is. It makes me sad to think that our society hasn't come as far as I'd like to think, and that there are still plenty of people out there who can call a play depicting the horrible lives of horrible people "wonderful, poetic, and iconic."

Obviously, the whole subject is a huge trigger for me, and I should have recognized that to begin with and kept my big mouth shut (or my typing fingers still). But I didn’t. And I wish a whole bunch that I could turn back time and do things differently. I think about Tweeting the celebrity and saying, “WTF?” or “I’m sorry for whatever the hell I did,” but I believe that would just make matters worse. He’s made it clear he doesn’t want to hear from me, and I need to respect that. I also hesitate to air anything in a forum as public as Twitter. (If I could private message the guy, it might be another story. But I can’t.) But at least, if I do decide to publish this—and I’m thinking at the risk of once again making myself vulnerable and maybe garnering A LOT more criticism than I have already, I probably will—I’ve put my views out there. Which is all I wanted to do in the first place.

And by the way, after all that…I’m still a fan.

Addendum: After sleeping on it a couple nights, I did decide to apologize. It just seemed the right thing to do for me. I kept it non-specific, and he may not even see it. But I still feel I needed to.

Good Work. Here's your cookie.


  1. Love this post! That's the short version of this comment. The long version is in a facebook message... :)

  2. The first thing I want to say is I WISH badly that there was someway this heart-throb celebrity of ours could see this post. There's GOT to be a way we can get him to read it, I kept thinking. But then I realized, as I do often, that thought is ridiculous and he's a person from another world that will never interact with ours. He's the way he is and thinks the way he does, regardless of what people like you or me think/say/do.

    Next thing I kept thinking is that you should seriously consider making this blog public--even advertising the link on Twitter/Facebook. Your thoughts are so profound and intriguing on all subjects you presented, and really had me thinking. I think words like this--opinions like this--need to be out in the world for everyone to see. You presented a side to things that many others don't express. But I understand your reservations and respect them completely. That's just my two cents.

    I don't know the reason for why he did what he did. Honestly, a big part of me agrees with your husband on this one--that it was a simple glitch. Because, I think, "That doesn't sound like something he would do!" And then I'm like...wait. I DON'T know him. It could be.

    It doesn't make sense to me and STILL shocks me that he blocked you, considering you are nothing close to as crazy as some of his other fans, but it will sort itself out, even if that means you just move on. Not move on completely, because I know you will always love him, just like I will. But for me, your experience has opened my eyes. Mostly to how ridiculous I, personally, have been. I am not, nor have I EVER been, the kind of girl to swoon over a celebrity. It's just not my thing. Our mutual celebrity "crush" is the first time that has EVER happened to me, and of course it's for MC novel reasons.

    I'm glad you tweeted an apology. Vague as it is, it's still an apology, and whether he sees it or not, it's out there.

    What I wouldn't give to be party to a intelligent debate/conversation about his views on Streetcar, as well as the social problems you talked about. I'd love to know where he stood on domestic violence and rape.

    It comes back to his comment he made about Stanley being the "quintessential" male role in theater. And how BADLY that comment irks me! Just reading your view on it made me feel all the irritation and heat that I felt when I read that interview for the first time, all over again. I'm with you on this, every word you said, and knowing now what you've been through in your life, I can understand even more now why you feel that way.

    I'd REALLY like to know what he meant by that comment exactly. HOW can he even say that, or feel that way? But we will probably never know. Because, in reality, we will never get to have a conversation with him. And judging by his block, it makes me wonder if he would be opposed to such a conversation to begin with.

    1. If I found out he *had* read it, I'd probably puke on my desk.

  3. I gotta say too, that reading through your recap of Streetcar, it brought back a LOT of things to the surface of my mind that I had totally forgotten about. It left me stopping after every paragraph and really thinking, "WHY did I love this play in high school?!" I read it with a group of kids as an assignment. In all honestly, I don't remember much about it (because I tend to block that period of my life from my memory). I just remember admiring it because of the historical value--for standing out in its time and exploring those themes that were shunned.

    But you're absolutely right: what relevance does it have today? Today, it's just a sick exposure into deranged relationships, with nothing learned or accomplished at the end. Like I told you before, I love exploring dysfunctional characters--IF it proves a point, and teaches the viewer/reader some new insight. But you are so right in that this play accomplishes NOTHING. It's slime-balls getting away with being slime-balls, the story having no point other than showing that the human race can be a dreadful thing.
    I respect our celebrity wanting to do this role, only because I think it's great when actors can step outside their norm and do a wide range of roles, even if those roles are hideous. I admit, I was and still am interested in seeing him as Stanley, mostly just to see how he would portray the character. But in every other way, I'm totally with you on this one. And it's funny that reading through your blog is what really made me sit back and think about that play for the first time, and all that is wrong with it.

    And of course, in that light, it makes me question our celebrity. I will always love him, like I said, but I can't help but wonder about a shred of his character, for reasons both you and I mentioned.

    Oh well. It's not us who has to sleep next to him every night (Heaven forbid). We will leave the working through of character flaws to the people who know him intimately, while we admire him from a distance.

    I'm glad you wrote this post, and I'll say again that I don't think you did anything wrong in expressing your opinion on twitter about the play. It's healthy to have varying opinions. It's what makes us all interesting. And if he wants only followers that will support and love 100% of everything he does, then so be it. Weird, but so be it. Can't-take-any-criticism kind of weird.

  4. FirecatStef e-mailed me this comment because Google was being a dick and wouldn't let her post:

    "Stupid chrome won't let me comment on your blog. You'd think that given I'm using a Google product to read a Google product, that would work.


    Gaaah, it's so embarrassing when you think that you've put your foot in it with a celebrity crush.

    I bet that his Twitter account blocking you was some kind of glitch or else the work of an assistant (a lot of celebs don't do all of their tweeting themselves; I don't know about him) and not something that he personally decided to do to you.

    And if it was him, then he's an ass for not being able to tolerate criticism.

    I get it about Tennessee Williams. Stories that are all about people being abusive turn me off too, unless they're told from particular angles that Streetcar is not.

    It reminds me of how somehow I managed to get to the age of 40+ without having read Wuthering Heights. So I finally read it. And I hated it, because I thought it was all about confusing abuse with love, and my thought after reading it was "If I wanted to read about this I would just go click the Random Journal Entry button on Livejournal over and over again."

    It also pisses me off when men like characters whose primary trait is abusiveness, or when this is seen as some kind of quintessential role. I guess I can see how it would be a *challenging* role, precisely because the character is completely unsympathetic, and maybe that's what he means when he says that.

    But that gets into how it's enraging that men can casually say about a role or story that involves abuse of women and rape "oh that is a great role/story" and they mean it's ART. They can say that because rape doesn't touch them in the same way that it touches women. And because in this culture, rape as a plot driver or character development moment matters more than the damage it does in real life."

    1. Completely with you on the Wuthering Heights thing. What a dreadful, dreadful book!

  5. going to be a short comment... you weren't kidding when you said this was long. :)

    Very well written. You are entitled to your opinions. I never thought you were being disrespectful and I'm shocked he would have taken the time to actively block a fan. I've had 95% great interaction with him. (Damn that crush.) There was one interaction during an online twitter chat that I thought I didn't deserve the response I got. It stung. I thought, certainly he "knows" me... and I didn't deserve that. I chalk it up to he was having a bad day... or a bad moment. I'm sure my excessive tweeting bugs him just a little. Proves that no one is perfect.

    Regarding the play, I don't think I've ever seen it or read it. I just know the whole "Stella" line. Reading your version... I can't imagine sitting in the audience watching Joe rape someone. *shivers* This might have been his only option?? a comfort area since he has done it before?? something classically trained actors think they need to do to be validated?? or trying so hard to be the opposite of his clothes off werewolf heartthrob.

    Gotta get back to work...

    1. He's on record as saying this is his favorite play and Tennessee Williams is his favorite playwright. Which is honestly something I just can't comprehend from someone who seems to be an intelligent person. But I've done the theater thing and seen a lot of the same from other actors (which is one reason why I decided not to pursue a career in theater).

  6. I'm not a big fan of Tennessee Williams' plays either -- and I agree that "Streetcar" is a really muddy play with an abusive plot. I frankly need to down a few shots of something which put me to sleep before I have to sit through any of Williams' plays... generally, Williams' characters are abusive, and I don't enjoy watching characters abuse one another when I see people abusing others in real life on a day-to-day basis.

    That said, actors like to play Williams' characters because they are a challenge -- how do you play a truly despicable character that is totally outside of one's own personality & experience? Some actors like playing these characters because it gives them a chance to express negative feelings in a safe environment where they really can't hurt anyone. Perhaps your crush enjoys the challenge of playing Stanley for this reason... Stanley Kowalski expresses incredibly negative emotions (anger, envy, frustration, etc.) that all men supposedly feel (mostly according to that old Bugbear, Freud). However, Stanley expresses these emotions in a disturbingly brutal manner that is not acceptable for a male in a civilized society. However, the stage is not real life... So, your crush is probably a nice guy in real life, however, he enjoys the catharsis of negativity that the character of Stanley provides.

    BTW, it's ok to have celebrity crushes; I've had a crush on a certain Canadian drummer/lyricist for years, and my husband has been a doll about the whole thing. And, yes, most crushes do end up having "feet of clay" in the long run.


    1. Hey, Sarah. I do get the thing about the thrill of a challenge, wanting to extend and push yourself past your limits--which, incidentally, seems to be completely in character with this particular celeb. What bothers me is what seems to be the apologist mindset around this play and this character, rather like the apologism you see around some "classic" literature, that actually seems to be trying to deny that the character's a monster.

  7. This also occurs to me this morning, having read an interview with the actors playing Stanley and Blanche where they purport that Stanley is a "truth-seeker" whereas Blanche is someone who avoids the truth:

    If you want to go there, you could actually make a strong case for Blanche representing faith in beauty and the idea that it's possible to improve one's lot in life. She's no so much a liar as she is an advocate of change by magical thinking. As such, she comes into direct opposition with Stanley, who isn't having any and definitely does not want any change that's going to threaten his supremacy. So you might say "Streetcar" is a play about how hope and beauty wither and die when faced with the brutal, obdurate truth.

    1. That's pretty much Tennessee Williams in a nutshell isn't it? -- FirecatStef

  8. I have (of course, given my relationship to this blog's author) been thinking and talking about this play for a while now. When I was a junior in high school, our drama department produced this play with me in the role of Stanley. I admit that I didn't understand the play at the time. I was just a 16 year old kid getting off on being on stage. I think the only real reason it was selected was to give a truly talented actress in the department a chance to do something really challenging. We did it. I got to yell "Stella," and life went on. I thought Williams was great because he wrote these wonderfully emotive plays with juicy monologues. As I got older, I realized that my like for this kind of thing was juvenile, and so was Williams.

    I will admit that when A Streetcar Named Desire was first written, it was a pioneering work. It was the kind of slice-of-life art that revealed an aspect of life that many wanted to ignore or deny. Williams put it on the stage for everyone to see. Historically, I can see the value of this. But in general terms, this kind of thing is done to effect some change in the public consciousness. To put it on the stage now, and celebrate it as some kind of high art is to glorify or validate the content as somehow significant. All pioneering work has some value to be sure, but it should also be recognized that it has done its work. It was NOT quintessential; it was only germinal. We can hope that society has grown past the point where we need to be made aware that assholes beat their wives.

    What “Streetcar” shows us is a woman who can't cope with the shattering of her ideal/comfortable childhood; her sister who is the near archetypal doormat of an abused wife; a younger man who spinelessly caves in to peer pressure and conventional, shallow, arbitrary judgment about what makes a woman valuable; and an embittered, completely typical abuser mad at the world for his generational poverty mindset. None of the characters challenge their beliefs or programming. None of them learn anything. None of them grow. In short, Streetcar teaches us only how NOT to be human beings.

    If this is still considered groundbreaking or significant, then I can only assume that those who think so have either been living a very sheltered life, or they are lacking all sense of compassion and empathy for the fate of women.