Dream Houses

It’s funny to me how something can have slipped entirely out of your memory, and then the barest hint of anything related to it can pull the whole memory to the forefront of your mind.

I’d completely forgotten that I’d ever seen Mr. Blandings Builds his Dream House before, and I didn’t realize it when Dr. McCoy said the title of the movie out loud. I actually remembered it when I saw the actor who played Bill Cole in the opening scene.

But, more clearly than the movie itself, I remember the circumstances in which I watched the movie. I remember walking into my parents’ bedroom, and finding my mother watching it as she folded laundry. I remember being so engrossed in it I didn’t want to stop watching for dinner, so we brought our dinners up and sat on the bed, laughing at the characters’ quips and misfortunes until the next black-and-white classic rolled on. This memory is all the more important to me because I no longer live in the house where I first watched Mr. Blandings, and that home that I don’t have anymore is, in a way, my dream house, just as unattainable as Mr. and Mrs. Blandings’ first seemed to be.

Although I have a positive association with this movie, I can imagine how some spectators wouldn’t enjoy this film. It has its moments of unapologetic sexism, racism, and privilege. (Side note: I think it’s important to remember the time period and context in which the film was made, and to remember the both/and that Dr. McCoy reminds us of.) But I wasn’t thinking about the movie’s sociopolitical failings when watching it. I was thinking about my home. For me, Mr. and Mrs. Blandings’ dream house and my house (which only exists as a memory to me now) are intertwined, and I can’t think about one without the other. When I watched Mr. Blandings, I wasn’t simply watching the movie; I was watching the characters build a memory before my eyes. I was staring into the face of a memory overwhelmingly positive and warm that I will never experience again.

I’m not sure if any of that counted as a sufficient intro for what I want to say, which is this; I don’t think you can separate houses from human emotion. I’ve noticed a tendency in the course, especially from our earlier texts, of people talking about houses as though they are merely buildings people inhabit. It is impossible to live in any place for any amount of time and not have emotions and connections to it. It is impossible to move out of a house without experiencing some sort of loss. You don’t know what you’re taking away from someone if you take away their home. Houses are tools of the economy, but they’re also parts of people’s lives. I think that, when we’re talking about technical terms such as subprime mortgages, derivatives, and toxic bonds, it’s important to remember the inseparable humanness attached to all of these terms; which are made by people and composed of products related to people, who may easily be swept aside. That makes me think of the complicated relationship in the movie of the rising cost of the house, the economic side, and Mr. and Mrs. Blandings’ desire for a dream, both of which go hand in hand. To me, that’s why, no matter how terrible some parts of the movie might be, it’s still important for us to have watched it. It reminds us of the human aspect of houses.

You can never look at something and know all the connections, meanings, and emotions that someone has attached to it, unless you are intimately familiar with that person’s mind. I guess what I mean to say is that some people may utterly hate something, and be more than willing to point out its flaws in thoughtful, meaningful ways. I don’t want to excuse those flaws, but I do want to say that I really love this movie.

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