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A film-goer in 1950 may have expected to see a film that would make them feel good, and

make them laugh. Even the beginning film credits and the film score initially give the audience an understanding that the intention of the film is light and comedic entertainment. However, besides comedy, Harvey offers a complex story of sexuality and gender roles in 1950’s America. Significantly, this film begins with a scene of the front of a large, nice looking Victorian home. It is possible this house represents an era of especially conservative social values. This scene of the house marks the social context that Harvey is set within. The following scenes introduces the family that live within this house, and after meeting them it is easy to see this untraditional family placed inside this home is a point of irony and comedy. Elwood, an extremely pleasant man, lived there with his mother until she died. It was around this time that Harvey, his invisible friend rabbit, moved in. Elwood’s sister, Veta, and her daughter, Myrtle-Mae also moved into the house with him. Physically, Veta and Myrtle Mae appear comedic and untraditional next to each other because of the constrast of their sizes. Veta is plump and short next to Myrtle Mae who is tall and skinny. Noteably, Veta like Elwood is not in a traditional heterosexual relationship. She never mentions having had a husband during any point in the film, but she does have a daughter who is in turn looking for a nice boy boy from society from the Wednesday Afternoon Forum to marry. Because of the untraditional characteristics of her family living within this traditionally framed society, Myrtle Mae has a difficult time being a respected member of society, especially because of Elwood and Harvey. What is being presented to the audience of Harvey in 1950 are the ironic inadequacies of this family (and the humor which comes out of it). This family is understood in their opposition to a traditional family, or a family who operate within societal norms. The important message regarding a non-traditional family that this

film points out, is that conventional family values are not necessary for happiness. This is especially clear at the end of the film when Myrtle Mae and the sanatorium henchman (not from high society) Marvin Wilson are a happy couple, Elwood verifies this when he says they “make a very beautiful couple”. And also in the final scene Myrtle Mae and Veta are walking away from the sanatorium after a long night. As the sun is rising they walk up a sunlit path and into the horizon. Elwood with Harvey follows. These characters (the three that the audience can see) are very content and that, along with the scenery, seems an important part in making a happy ending. If Elwood can be happy with Harvey, and if the other characters act as if he is real, could he be real, or possibly be symbolic for something that is real? It is justifiable to say that Harvey may be a symbol for homosexuality. In the beginning of the film, Harvey seems to the audience to be an unreal creature. Harvey appears to be nothing more than the typical fictional imaginary friend character which children characters may have. Throughout the films, at different times, the characters may or may not acknowledge Harvey as being real, in opposition to being a typical fictional imaginary friend. Elwood of course knows that Harvey is real so he isnot included in this group of people. This leads to the question, is Harvey real? The audience does learn that Harvey is a pooka spirit, but is this real? Why do the characters sometimes act as if he is a tangible being? Harvey’s presence could easily be replaced with a mans. Harvey in fact is a male. He is constantly referred to as a ‘he’. Harvey’s masculine presence is made most obvious when we see his portrait. (describe) In addition, Harvey displays the inadequacies of the mental institution, in this film the sanatorium that Veta takes Elwood to is named Chumley’s Rest. The staff is

cruel to the patients. The audience can see Marvin Wilson as he uncaringly shoves Elwood into the elevator. Once Veta escapes after mistakenly taken into Chumley’s Rest as a patient she emotionally declares how awful it was, and that the staff thinks only of sex which does not like what the sanatorium staff should be thinking of. This point in the film also brings up the issue of public versus private spheres of life. Veta is terribly upset by her experience in Chumley’s as a patient, and she says “Let me get to my own bed where I can let go!” as if she can be more natural and honest in secret. This is a humorous film, but the issues that it deals with (sex and insanity) are not quite the light hearted social issues one might expect in such a film. Harvey uses these issues to present a different perspective on traditional social values, but the issues are acknowledged in a very indirect way, with a plot focusing on ridding society of a kind man who happens to have an invisible rabbit as a friend. Elwood for instance is a rather effeminate character, and suspicious of what could easily be understood as homosexuality in various instances, but the theme of homosexuality in the film is symbolicly replaced with an invisible, 6’ 3 ½ ‘’ tall rabbit pooka spirit. Harvey, while bringing contentment to Elwood, brings shame to Veta and Myrtle Mae.

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