In New Orleans, in 1937, the young Catherine Holly (Elizabeth Taylor) is admitted to a psychiatric hospital thanks to her aunt, Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn). Violet Venable is a wealthy widow who has lost her son, when he was in Catherine´ s company. The hospital where Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) works, a neurosurgeon whose specialty is lobotomy, receives a large offer from Venable to perform that operation on Catherine. This offer is applauded by both Dr. Hockstader, who knows he needs money to maintain the hospital, and by Catherine´s greedy mother, Grace Holly. Dr. Cukrowicz, who does not think the lobotomy is necessary, tries to help Catherine expel her fears.
Cukrowicz discovers that the cousin of Catherine and son of Violet, Sebastian, was devoured by young cannibals on a beach named Cabeza de Lobo, in Spain and that is why she has these fits of madness. Catherine also lets intuit Sebastian´s homosexual inclinations. Violet Venable, who defends that her son died of a heart attack and his impeccable chastity, opts for the lobotomy to cover the truth. The big secret is homosexuality and the exploitation of Catherine´s beauty. At Cabeza del Lobo beach, which could be any beach in the Caribbean or Central America, Sebastían attracts men by showing their cousin in a short, translucent bathing suit. In this way, he insinuates himself, excites them and then seduces them with his dollars.
But this is the traditional reading. Let´s do another one. Tennessee Williams, the author of the play, is not worried about homosexuality. The great secret that Catherine and Dr. Hockstader want to erase and silence is sexual tourism. Franco´s Spain is the Caribbean today. Louisiana´s wealthy tourists no longer go to Europe to fulfill their wishes; now in a few hours, they are in what is known as the Disneyland of sex. This tourism it is no longer only about sex. Tourists come to seek love in relationships that they call "girlfriend experience", which means simulated romance in a way that seems as real as possible. Simulation is the art of making truth out of a lie. Sebastian and his successors, leave us their dollars in exchange for us to simulate. We must cheat ourselves: not only fake orgasms but tell each other that they come for our natural beauty. Simulation does not only include the couple. Now, it involves from the owners of hotels, travel clubs, shops, restaurants, taxi drivers and many more.
Prostitution has been so profitable (billion of dollars a year) that it has metastized: to politics, the press, the banking, the soccer games and even the public services. Like the cannibals of Spain, it has swallowed them up. Cabeza del Lobo is already half of the Caribbean.