1 Medier og Kultur, The Department of Culture and Identity, Roskilde University2 The Department of Culture and Identity, Roskilde University3 Department of Communication and Arts, Roskilde University
the Simpsons vs. Tennessee Williams
Following Tennesse Williams’s successful play, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), Elia Kazan’s filmatization of the story of the southern belle gone bonkers invites the viewer to consider on what grounds Williams’s play constitutes itself as a melodrama. Is this story a story about mental degradation, beautifully portrayed by Vivien Leigh, or is it a story about culture clashes embodied by a dashing Marlon Brando? But this was the question then. My paper will juxtapose the 50s melodrama with a pastiche of the Streetcar Named Desire and look at how The Simpsons version of the play, the episode A Streetcar named Marge (1992), tackles the tension between mind and body, past and present, and man and woman. My argument will focus on the idea that high culture’s inability to hold on to universal and all-explanatory systems of values results in a melodramatic climax. High culture deconstructs its own mode of expression by allowing tensions such as the ones between genders to operate in the gaps between contextual transitions from imperial selves to montage selves, from beauty to potency, from production to consumption, from the world of thinking to visual thinking. Against this background of the US in the 40s and 50s, The Simpsons, while paying tribute to good performances on stage that portray both inner and social realistic drama, also highlights the melodramatic aspect of any transition. The fact that Marge participates in a musical rather than in a theatrical performance à la Blanche who emphasizes gesture and enunciation, suggests the idea that music in low culture marks the migration of melodrama from pathos to bathos.
Ranam: Recherches Anglaises Et Nord-américaines, 2010, Issue 43, p. 103-110