Far from heavens (2002) by Todd Haynes is an exciting domestic melodrama about a model house wife who was privileged in the 1950s America, she was greatly inspired by the Hollywood dramas of that time. Haynes illustrates how calm and gorgeous the suburban life was in the mid centuries and how emotions and desires are able to cross the boundaries of racism. The characters in this movie are Cathy Whitaker who is depicted as a model housewife in 1950s in Connecticut, her friend Eleanor who assisted her to plan parties for local societies, and her husband was Frank. Cathy is a wife and a mother of two children; a girl and a boy while her husband Frank is a breadwinner, a father to the two children.
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Cathy crosses the border and befriends her gardener Raymond who was of the black race. Frank has unique character of being attracted to men, when he realizes this, he confesses to his wife who takes the initiative of taking him for rehabilitation. The therapy however proves futile and Frank eventually leaves Cathy for a man; this leaves Cathy confused and eventually she becomes a victim of a mixed relationship which is not acceptable in the society.
Homosexuality is portrayed by Cathy’s husband, Frank is late from home on the excuse that he is working late, Cathy goes to his work station to deliver him supper only to find him passionately embracing another man, he confesses to Cathy about his homosexual feelings, he goes for therapies with no success, eventually he leaves Cathy for a man. Haynes portrays homosexuality as a taboo being a subject of the 1950’s and a disease.
Frank is in difficulties because of his sexual orientation, he has a habit of visiting the bars after work where he is portrayed as a gay who picks men at random. Even after undergoing psychotherapy to cure his homosexual urge, he does not deviate from his homosexual behaviour but he drinks heavily; due to Frank’s ill health he take time off from work and takes his wife to Miami on a holiday, in Miami Frank starts another relationship with another young man who is beautiful according to his judgement.When both of them return to Connecticut, Frank tells his wife about how the plans he had harbored to have an affair with another man in Miami and this causes them to divorce. Frank can no longer control or resist his attraction to men and he leaves his children and wife to be sexually liberated.
Raymond Cathy’s gardener is black; due to the problems between Cathy and her husband, she goes to the garden and the gardener takes this chance to comfort her by taking her out to the lake side. Cathy neighbors’ (Mona Lauder) who are white see them and start gossiping that Cathy is in a relationship with a black man; Raymond believes that color should not be a barrier to their relationship. Cathy is aware that a platonic relationship is a danger to her family and that relationships between whites and blacks were not welcomed by both communities and every community was expected to stick to their own race (Barnett, 23).
The platonic relationship between Raymond and Cathy has a negative consequence on Raymond’s daughter; Sarah was attacked and physically assaulted by three boys of the white race who had heard the vicious gossip of the relationship of Raymond and Cathy (Mercer, 20). Todd Hynes describes Cathy as a non racist, after Sarah’s attack she goes to the hospital to see how she is progressing, Raymond fears for his family life, he and the family leave town and head to Baltimore. Raymond a black gardener is characterized by townspeople as uneducated, unlike Frank who works in an office, he has to work with his hands, in spite of this, in the art gallery he is seen explaining Miró intelligently as opposed to Eleanor whose conversation is a silly prejudice. He is cultured and educated based on his critical analysis and appreciation of Miró more than a prejudiced label. The racial discrimination causes Cathy and Raymond not to be married (Barnett, 47).
Structure of a family
The family constitutes a father, mother and children, in far from heaven (2002), Cathy and Frank demonstrates this kind of the family in 1950s, they have two children Janise and David, living as per the American dream, the father is the bread winner. This family is happy with admirable standards of living, the family breaks when the Cathy finds Frank kissing another man in his office, Frank does not change his behavior and this eventually leads to a divorce, the African-American gardener is a family man, a father and a bread winner, he is a widower with one daughter by the name of Sarah.
Role of women
Todd Hynes in far from heavens (2002) has shown out clearly how women of 1950s in America were concerned with their families; Cathy Whitaker is portrayed as a beautiful housewife who was there to take care of the family. She was honest with her husband until she realized that Frank was a homosexual and due to the frustration she indulges in an illicit relationship for comfort (Butler, 123). Eleanor and Cathy play the role of satisfying men sexually, during the luncheon party in Cathy’s place, Eleanor starts a sexual gossip, Cathy is surprised by the amount of sex demands Eleanor’s husband had; Cathy lacked sexual activity in her mind so she concentrated on maintaining the role of a mother for domestic stability. After the divorce, Frank went his way, leaving the responsibility of rearing children to Cathy Whitaker while he embarks on a search for ultimate happiness.
Children and men
Children, as portrayed in far from above (2002) by Todd Hynes show a heavy reliance on their parents, Frank’s children are victims of divorce after love turned sour; the same goes for the daughter of Raymond who is physically assaulted because of his deeds, three white boys stoned Sarah in the school, this shows that children were influenced by the negative attitude of racism. According to Butler, men are in ultimate control of the family, they are the bread winners, Raymond has a gardening shop and Frank is employed to sustain their families this shows how men are valued in the society, unlike Frank’s wife who is regarded as a housewife. Raymond as a man had a dream that one day the white and black world would co-exist, and he encourages Sarah to interact well with white culture (Mercer, 45).
The cultural facts in 1950’s
The society as portrayed by Todd Hynes in far from heavens, society was divided in terms of race which defined class, the white race was considered as superior unlike the black race. Raymond, who is black, did manual jobs compared to Frank, being white has a well paying job (Scott, 147). Culture labeling is due to sexual identities, e.g homosexuality which was defined by the people who practiced homosexual acts.
Far From Heaven (2002) is one of the best works of Todd Hynes; it describes and illustrates how the 1950s American society existed in terms of homesuality and how the main society looked at it. It further on shows how alienation of minorities was manifested and how interracial relationship were condemned by the society, Far From Heaven illustrates affectionate homage to the melodramas of the 1950s, it illustrates that identifications are as a result of social prejudice.
Barnett, Pamela. “Just How Far From Heaven?”In Dangerous Desire: Literature of Sexual Freedom and Sexual Violence. New York: Routledge press, 2004. Print.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. 2nd ed, New York: Routledge press, 1999. Print.
Mercer, Kobena. Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. London: Routledge press, 1994. Print.
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Scott, David. Conscripts of Modernity: The Tragedy of Colonial Enlightenment. Durham,
Duke University Press, 2004. Print.