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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Though in the end, a woman leaves her abusive husband, the length of the movie details her submissiveness as well as the helplessness of her sister, whose negative experiences with men seem to have propelled her toward alcoholism and a detachment from reality.
Positive Role Models
Stella, the least assertive of all the badly flawed characters, comes across as the most worthy (though she's largely a doormat until the end). Stanley, proud, brutish, combative and not without some good sense (when not drinking) ends up being the villain. Snobbish, mannered Blanche turns out to be a fallen woman (who, as a teacher, seduced a student) and a prostitute. Being female, over 30, and unwed is regarded with horror, and a somewhat nice guy who could have turned Blanche's life around spurns her cruelly instead.
Violence & Scariness
Volatile, drunken Stanley initiates a brawl and beats on his wife at a card game. We hear more than see other examples of neighborhood domestic violence and household brutality. The suggestion of offscreen rape.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Stella is naked under bedsheets in one scene; it's pretty obvious she and Stanley have had sex. Lots of euphemistic innuendo in the dialogue, with references to prostitution and even a scandal of a teacher romantically involved with a teen student.
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A few ethnic slurs: "Polack" and "Chinaman."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Heavy drinking and smoking by all, especially alcoholic Blanche. A cigarette case is especially romanticized.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that there is no healthy male-female dynamic anywhere you look in this once-scandalous drama. Husbands drink, smoke, fight, and beat their wives as a regular occurrance. Though nothing explicit is shown, the viewer understands that sex (and rape) have occurred offscreen. Prostitution, suicide by gun, and student-teacher sexual relations come up in dialogue (often in innuendo-heavy terms). There are a couple old-fashioned racial epithets. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Some critics say A Streetcar Named Desire has the best-ever acting in a Hollywood movie; it certainly shows why the dynamic young Marlon Brando become a legend. (And that was despite increasing eccentricities, scandals and grotesque career choices.) One can hardly look away while he's on show as the hyper-macho, sometimes-magnetic, sometimes-loathesome Stanley. The acting would need to be the film's strong point, since it's basically setbound (though beautifully photographed in black-and-white) and mostly dialogue, full of quotable epigrams ("Deliberate cruelty is not forgivable") and favorite lines ("Stella!"). For modern-day viewers, especially kids accustomed to more explicit content and less poetic treatment of mental illness/nymphomania (or whatever Blanche, the original drama queen, is afflicted with), the film may take some getting used to, but it still commands attention and respect.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.