The play A Streetcar Named Desire written by Tennessee Williams raises several questions about gender roles and identity which are relevant even nowadays. The main character of this literary work Blanche DuBois cannot see herself as an independent and self-sufficient person.
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In her opinion, the life of a woman is impossible without men’s company support. She is not willing or able to change her perceptions about gender roles. This paper will compare Tennessee Williams’ play with a work of contemporary cinematography, namely the film, The Devil Wears Prada. It is necessary to show how these two works explore gender roles. This comparison can show how social norms and values have evolved since the time Tennessee Williams was writing this play.
First of all, Tennessee Williams describes Blanche as a person who is extremely sensitive about her age. She avoids any conversations about it and becomes very suspicious when someone asks her how old she is. She is extremely concerned about the fading of her beauty, and even tries to console herself by saying that “Physical beauty is passing.
A transitory possession. But beauty of the mind and richness of the spirit aren’t taken away, but grow!” (Williams, 108). Still, Blanche focuses only on men’s opinion about her. For example, when Mitch asks her how old she is, Blanche immediately becomes anxious and tries to find out what he thinks about her (Williams, 74).
In Blanche’s opinion, beauty is the true value of a woman since it enables her to win recognition of men. In his play Tennessee Williams was able to show how men of that time viewed women and how some women regarded themselves.
At this point, we need to compare Blanch with Miranda Priestly the protagonist of the film The Devil Wears Prada. This character deliberately tries to distance herself from the opposite sex. She attempts to show that she is a self-sufficient person who does not require men’s support.
More importantly, she even tries to conceal the moments when she feels weak and vulnerable. Blanche DuBois would not have understood or accepted such behavior. So, to some extent, this example shows that gender roles and perceptions have been transformed. Conventional belief in female vulnerability and dependence is no longer acceptable for modern women.
Yet, this movie also indicates that some common gender stereotypes are still prevalent in the modern society. For example, one can surely mention Andrea Sachs. Her friends and relatives accuse her of paying too much attention to her career and overlooking their needs.
Their discontent with her reaches the highest point when she misses the birthday of her boyfriend. In their opinion, this careerism is not suitable for a woman. Such an opinion was particular popular when Tennessee Williams was writing his play, and we cannot say that it has completely disappeared nowadays. In comparison with Blanche, Miranda and Andrea are much more empowered, they still have to struggle with sexual stereotypes.
The main difference between Blanche DuBois and these characters lies in their attitude toward the opposite sex. Blanche believes that a woman can hardly exist for men unless she is not the object of their sexual desires. She says, “Men don’t even admit your existence unless their making love to you.
And you’ve got to have your existence admitted by someone, if you’re going to have someone’s protection” (Williams 60). This statement is the main principle to which she adheres to. She fully acknowledges her dependence on the opposite sex, and such situation is quite acceptable for her. In part, her worldview can be explained by her background; Blanche comes from an Old South family.
She was raised to believe that the duty of a woman is to obey or at least accompany man (Fox-Genovese, 29). The main tragedy of Blanche DuBois is that she was conditioned to act and behave in such a way. Yet, without men’s adoration and support life means very little to her. This is why she desperately wants Mitch to fall in love with her. This is the only chance her to achieve a social status.
In their turn, Miranda Priestly and Andrea Sachs oppose or even reject such worldview. For them career is of much greater importance than success with the opposite sex. Nonetheless, one should not forget that this idea of female independence is not readily accepted by the society.
According to conventional perceptions of gender roles, the main task of a woman is to stay at home and look after the family, and this opinion is reflected in numerous sociological surveys (Scott, 214). Thus, one can argue that some of the opinions and stereotypes described by Tennessee Williams have survived in the twenty-first century.
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Overall, in his play Tennessee Williams attempted to show how social norms and values can change. Blanche DuBois is a person who cannot get used to these changes. She was raised in an entirely different culture. This is the reason why she cannot change her gender identity. In contrast, such characters as Andrea Sachs and Miranda Priestly live in a culture in which women try to become self-sufficient and achieve the positions of power. However, such attempts are not always respected or understood by other people
Fox-Genovese, Elizabeth. Within the plantation household: Black and White women of the Old South. Chapel Hill: UNC Press Books, 1988. Print.
Scott, Jacqueline. Women and employment: changing lives and new challenges. NY: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2008. Print.
The Devil Wears Prada. Dir. David Frankel. Perf. Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway. 20th Century Fox. 2006. Film.
Williams, Tennessee. A streetcar named desire. NY: Heinemann, 1995. Print.