Robots vs. Individuals




After knowing the society’s conservative thoughts, two souls experienced a side of them that haunted their conscious day after day. While everyone is programmed to believe a normal life is consisted of the husband making the bread for the family and the wives taking care of the kids at home, Frank Whitaker and Cathy Whitaker both diverged away from the robots. They had distinctive feelings and thoughts that made them unique as individuals.

Frank Whitaker ends up sharing saliva with another man in his office when all of a sudden his wife, Cathy, walks in on them. He later becomes terrified that this “medical problem” will ruin his life with his wife and kids. In the 1950’s this wasn’t even considered normal to many people. The thought of being engaged intimately with the same sex was outrageous and absurd. However, Frank was one of few who had broken ties from the “idealistic” life and began to continue his future onwards by being himself. Very few took the opportunity of becoming happy. For example Raymond Deagan was a black man who fell in love with a white women, Cathy. After he found out the consequences of having a white girlfriend when his daughter was attacked by three white boys, he decided to severe ties with Cathy. The 1950’s all had this mentality that people were diseased if they were not straight. They also looked down upon women or men if they feel in love with another race. This was a time where secrets and thoughts were bundled up locked in chains where only few were able to break through and reveal their true selves.

The Pain of Secrecy

During the 1950’s, American society dropped its own Iron Curtain around women and completely limited their social, economic, and political freedoms. While there were still certain laws in place that separated men and women, the main divide came from unspoken social laws. A clear example of a model, suburban American woman is portrayed in the film Far From Heaven with Cathy’s character. While she is in essence, the “ideal” type of woman during this time period, she is incredibly unhappy.

While on the outside she is Mrs. Magnatech, the wife of a successful salesman, and has a nice home and two children, she does have internal family issues. After hosting a great party and increasing her social standing, she is left alone in the dark with Frank. With the rules and regulations of society removed, her drunken husband abuses her because he has issues with homosexuality. Although the male figures in this movie have the ability to take action, like Frank pursuing his new lover and Raymond moving away, women are the most trapped because they are bound to either their husbands or their homes. When she loses Frank she loses her economic freedom, which in American society at the time was also the source of social freedom. So while Frank was free to continue life with a new man, and Raymond was able to start anew with his daughter in a different town, Cathy is left to live the life of a divorced, black-loving, friendless woman.

Collapse of the American Dream

Cathy Whitaker is a prime example of a housewife during the 1950’s for she embodies all the characteristics of a loving mother and doting wife, the roles in which she is expected to play by society. This image that she had portray thanks to the ideals during that time, is what kept her from living a fulfilling life, free of oppression. Cathy was living the American dream with her successful husband and kids in a beautiful home located in the suburbs. However, with Cathy and Frank’s marriage falling apart because of Frank’s realization of his attraction to men and Cathy’s growing feelings for Raymond Deagan, the black gardener, the dream quickly collapses. Because homosexuality and interracial relationships were seen as a horrible crime, Frank, Cathy and Raymond are forced to sneak around in their pursuit for happiness. Unfortunately, people in town begin to gossip about the nature of Cathy and Raymond’s relationship leading them to alienation from the townspeople and the downfall of everything they worked so hard to achieve.

The ending scene of Far From Heaven when Cathy drives away with her kids from the railroad stations shows how in the end, Cathy suffered the most, still trapped in her life with no way of escaping. With a divorce from Cathy, Frank would be free to pursue his authentic way of living but Cathy would be obligated to stay and take care of the children since she was their mother and it was considered to be her duty. Raymond had the ability to move with his daughter and start anew because he was capable of finding work to support him and his daughter. Cathy however, has no savings, no job, no education, no husband and no way to support her family. With hardships that she is bound to face, she can’t pursue a fulfilling life due to the limits that have been imposed upon her thanks to the ideals of the 1950’s.

Cathy’s Forbidden Love

When Cathy reveals her problems to Eleanor,  Eleanor is supportive and pities Cathy until it is revealed that Cathy has feelings for Raymond. Eleanor represents the white society which seems to be more okay with someone being homosexual than interracial relationships. Cathy’s options are limited because she cannot freely be with Raymond because people will talk badly about them and hurt Raymond’s daughter. Most people at that time avoided being different from the norm so Cathy was greatly influenced by that.

Also, now that Frank and Cathy are divorced, Cathy must support her children and herself on her own. She is in quite a predicament because it was virtually impossible for a woman to survive on her own with kids during that time. Since Cathy cannot be with Raymond, she has no choice but to attempt survival alone. She is trapoed with no one to turn to for help since the white society dislikes her because of she went out with Raymond. People are bound to find out about the divorce, which some might rumor that it’s because of Raymond, and that would only make things worse for Cathy.

Frank and His Fight Against Society

A specific moment from the movie is when Frank Whitaker uneasily, yet curiously follows two lively men into a dark alley which eventually leads into an underground gay bar. This scene shows how American society in the 1950′ s limits Frank’s life option to be homosexual and feel authentic happiness without any pressure from society prohibiting him to lead such a life. The fact that this gay bar is located in the back of a dark alley without any visible advertisement shows that American society in the 1950’s completely shunned the mere idea of homosexuality. This causes the creation of hidden establishments in dark, unwelcoming areas that serve as safe havens for homosexual people during this time period. This also causes Frank, along with other homosexual men to be social outcasts due to them having to subject themselves to environments which are not displayed to the public.

In my opinion, Frank is extremely trapped from society to pursue what makes him genuinely happy. He is constantly in a state of conflict every passing day. He is forced to put his family and his “life” before his source of authentic happiness because of how unacceptable homosexuality is to society during this time. Throughout the movie, Frank is continually fighting against himself as a result of what society thinks, in order to hide what brings him true joy in his life.

Mixing in Other Worlds

“Here’s to being the only one.” Raymond Deagan said as he proposed a toast to Cathleen Whitaker when he truly believed that being different and having different beliefs was a good thing. He knew that going to the art gallery with his daughter, being the only colored people, would turn heads and cause the white people to whisper. Despite this, he refused to allow this to stop him from enjoying his freedom. However the people of the town believed he overlooked his boundaries of freedom when he offers his friendship to Cathy. He even takes her to a diner full of colored people, showing her what it felt like to be the only different individual in the room. Although he reassures her that it is a friendly place, the judgmental eyes that surrounded them said otherwise.

Trying to break free from the shackles of normality in society, he did not imagine that adopting a harmless friendship would in turn cause harm for his daughter. Three white boys threw rocks at his daughter and other black people threw rocks at their windows. The deplorable truth behind this was simply because the color of his skin did not allow him to associate freely with someone other than his own kind. It is ironic how the outcome of a friendship between a black man and white woman would cause such an uproar between both races, showing how outrageously unacceptable this was on both sides of town. Both blacks and whites began to shun Raymond, causing him to flee from the racist madness. Left with hopeless ideals of equality, Raymond is trapped by the walls built by society and unable to pursue his interest for Cathy. He is left with no choice but to accept the boundaries, “I’ve learned my lesson about mixing in other worlds. I’ve seen the sparks fly. All kinds.”

Mrs. Magnatech No More

Cathy Whitaker seems to lead the quintessential life of a 1950’s housewife with her maid, Mrs. Magnatech title, her two children and successful businessman husband, Frank.  Cathy is depicted as a”happy go lucky” mother to her husband, even when she discovers his homosexuality.  Although Frank lashes out at Cathy, constantly yelling at her and eventually slapping her in the face, Cathy still manages to maintain her composure and refer to Frank as “darling”.  During this time period woman, such as Cathy, were the property of their husbands.  They had no bank accounts, no domestic laws to protect them and much more.  This meant lack of personal freedom.

On the exterior Cathy might seem like she has her whole life together, however on the inside she is yearning to find authenticity. As Cathy meets her black gardner Raymond and discovers more about him, the greater her desire to find herself becomes.  When Raymond and Cathy go to the restaurant in their town of Hartford Connecticut, Raymond states, “This is a very welcoming place.” Ironically, both the white woman in the car judges the interracial friends as well as the black workers in the restaurant.  This shows that the level of openness in both black and white communities was limited.

As the rumors about the two fly around town, Cathy loses her closest friend, husband and new friend Raymond.  Although Cathy was able to stand up for herself  when on the phone with Frank by saying “You could never remember my car pool days,” it lasted for only a brief period of time.  Frank continues on with his life with a man and Raymond is able to escape from Hartford to Baltimore. Yet Cathy still remains boxed in a community filled with the closed-minded upper class.

Far From Heaven

When WWII was over, the 1950s began; it seemed like the last age of innocence. Families sat together for dinner every night, mothers took care of the children, and fathers went to work. It seemed like a perfect era, however life was repressive and constrictive in many ways. Women fulfilled certain roles as mothers, and as wives. A woman was considered a “good wife” only if she carried out her husbands every need and order. Cathy Whitaker is a perfect example. Even though she learns her husband is interested in the other sex, she doesn’t cause chaos but simply takes him to the doctor to be cured, and goes on running errands. Even if she wanted to voice an opinion, no man would listen due to their total dominance and inequality.
Cathy fell in love with the car insurance guy because he was a man who knew how she felt and what she was going through, which rarely happened. Women were the most trapped in the 50s, even though they were living good lives. Everyday seemed like a routine, and a type of show to make their hard working, cheating husbands happy.

Not So Black and White

Far From Heaven uses Raymond Deagan to reflect the black American struggle during the 1950’s. The contrasting relationships between him and Cathy Whitaker as well as him and white society as a whole, reflect this theme of ‘authenticity in isolation’ that finds itself spilled over the era. Their ability to find themselves in each other, what seems to be the tip of a romantic relationship, shows that Cathy, Mrs. Magnatech herself, the WASP incarnate, is not offended by the idea of equality and friendships between blacks and white. White society as a whole, however, lashes back when a group of schoolboys throw rocks at Raymond’s daughter, who is knocked unconscious.

Raymond understands the consequences of their relationship. Though their interracial platonic relationship harms no one, it tears away from the normal spectrum that the 1950’s has molded for society. It is surprising that though Cathy can keep her husband’s homosexuality a secret till their divorce, she can’t do the same with her friendship with Raymond. Unlike homosexuals, black Americans cannot hide their identity behind a wife and two kids, and white supremacist society uses this to its advantage. Raymond is more cultured and tamed then most of the white men and women in the town, yet he is seen as an animal, having rocks thrown through his windows for befriending a white woman, not by racist whites, but by racist blacks. Raymond is trapped by whites and blacks, loses his job, and has to move to Baltimore because he and his daughter can be at peace where their past in unknown.

Cathy’s Cage

A maid, a husband who is in charge of a big corporation, two beautiful kids, and a nice sized suburban house, one would say that Mrs. Mangnatech’s life is picture perfect. However, that is far from the case.  Director Todd Haynes, depicts how tied up Cathy is from living an authentic life when her husband Frank walks in early from work with a full glass of whisky asking her, “is it true what I have heard.” This was referring to when one of her pretentious friends gossiped about her getting lunch with Frank on his side of town. With out hesitation she responded, “of course not Frank.” She is unable to defend her self to anyone at this point in the film. Although it seems as if she is at her peek of comfort when around Frank, Cathy was unable to stand up to her husband because she is living under his establishment.  Cathy not only has her struggling homosexual husband to stand up to whom is the least of her fears at this point.  Her wasp friends live to hear the next big news to spread, destroying or making one acceptable to society. With all her hiding and keeping her emotions in to keep her facade all perfect, Cathy ends up with no one at the end of the film.