I saw Rebel Without a Cause for the first time recently

Okay, I’m going to say from the outset that I’m in my early 30’s, so I wasn’t around when Rebel Without a Cause was released. I’ve always wanted to see it- it was on one of those movie channels like TCM. I missed the first 10 or 15 minutes, and I’d like to see it again.

I liked the movie. The thing I don’t get is, why was James Dean’s character considered such a rebel? He seemed to me to be more self-aware than the average teen, and so that made him different. I guess the title refers to the teenage angst that most kids feel when they’re that age- and I’m guessing that during the time period that the movie was made, teens didn’t really express their angst much, because society on the whole was much more repressed.

Am I totally off here? Can some people who saw the movie when it was released originally talk about it- was it relevant to the time period it came out? I’m sorry if I come across as dense, I’m not trying to be. I just want to understand the movie in context to the “era” in which it came out. I’m also writing under the influence of an antihistamine, because I’ve been sneezing my head off all day. Thanks!

Well, you did maybe miss one important part. James’ family has to move around a lot because James keeps getting in fights with other school kids. He doesn’t like to be dared, as you no doubt discovered.

The film actually begins with Dean doing something that probably every high-school rebel does.

It is implied that he is the way he is because his father is a pussy, and his mother wants to split and run every time Dean gets into trouble.

You have to remember that Rebel came out in '55 and WWII was a living memory. The movie has the overall impression that without a war around, and what with all the danged prosperity, men have become pussies, women have become men (horrors), and teenagers, left without a proper male role-model, have become miserable and (self)-destructive.

I haven’t really been able to look at the movie the same way sine my husband pointed out how deeply mysogynistic it was. It’s important to remember that serious scientific opinion in the 50s blamed mothers like Jim’s for everything from homosexuality to schitzophrenia.


I was a young teen when Rebel was released, and I’ll answer your question from the perspective of a bunch of teenagers in an urban, less than affluent environment.

As I recall, we were slightly disappointed with this movie. All the kids liked James Dean, of course, and the guys were crazy about Natalie Wood, but we found the picture to be very mild, and not a bit wilder or “tougher” than our everyday life. Not too realistic either, with kids wearing ties, things like that. Perhaps that was because the movie was designed to alarm middle class parents, not entertain teenagers? Another good movie about teenagers from this time period is Blackboard Jungle. It had a more positive reception from “us”.

IMHO, the most accurate depiction of teenage life in the mid 50’s to early 60’s era came out years later, when some of those who lived through it produced American Graffiti. That one had characters that I knew, doing things I had done. I’ll leave the more in depth analysis to fellow Dopers with deeper minds.