“A rebel without a cause” is a film whose theme is based on the American youth who are misunderstood, restless and belong to the middle-class society. The film is based on a book written earlier by Dr Robert Lindners 1944, a factual book titled; “Rebel without a Cause,” which tells the story of a criminal psychopath in the years after the second world war.
The film is about youth defiance in mid 1950’s from the perspective of the main adolescent male character who is a worried young adult with unreliable parents in a new surrounding. The story symbolizes the rebellious and idealistic protagonist search for a cause, which is honesty and decency in a hypoctrical world. Due to its theme no one would have been better fit for the main actor’s position like James Dean did shortly before his death which occurred a month before the feature opened at the Astor Theatre (Lindners, p.89).
The film is divided into five main acts: conflict between parents and children leading to lack of a father factor, interaction between teenagers, and climatic challenge of the dare devil, peaceful and loving denouement and lastly the final tragedy of the three young people. The three main characters Jim, Judy and Plato represent the teenagers of the 1950’s .The film brings out their teen culture which is not so different with the current modern culture.
Jim, the main character, is presented as a rebellious character who is a loner and a troublemaker seen as a drunkard when the film starts. He appears dressed like an adult in dark suit and a tie. He is also seen holding a monkey hence, bringing out his own essential innocence, sensitivity, and immaturity. He is arrested for drunkenness and ends up in jail where he meets new friends.
He is disappointed by his parents who are ever arguing and are blamed for his alienation. One of the teenagers he meets is Judy, a desperate girl in need of loving, she has problems with her father who she is convinced that he does not love her. She is all dressed up for him with red lipstick but her father disapproves her maturity and smears off the lipsticks from her lips.
Judy is like many teenagers living in the current teen culture, who are caught in family love drama. The issue has been portrayed in a current film “never been kissed”. In a dialogue of Judy and the policeman when she is informed that her father is picking her:
Judy: He must hate me.
Judy: he hates me.
Ray; what makes you think he hates you?
There is also sexual malaise at Judy’s home because his father is sexually interested in her but to avoid this he treats her coldly. Judy gives him a peck on the cheek but he retorts “What’s the matter with you? You are getting too old for that kind of stuff. … Girls your age don’t do things like that.” Judy responds: “Girls do not love their father? Since when? Since I got to be 16? (Lindners, p. 54).
Plato is the other teen character who is brought to the police station by a powerless nanny for shooting puppies. He is hurt and thinks no one can help him since his parents are always away from home and more so, it was his birthday and his parents were not present. The three attend the same school, Dawson’s high school, and on the first day Jim tries to create friendship with the next door neighbor, Judy but she ignores him. Their conversation has words of juvenile attitudes, peer pressure, attraction and repulsion.
Jim: Hi. Hi. Wait a minute. (He runs down to her) Hi. I had seen you before.
Judy: Well, stop the world.
At school, Judy is a member of a gang that intimidates other students. Jim falls prey of them, they flatten his tyre so as to irritate him and get him to fight, but he walks away. They decide to call him a chicken and he gets irritated too much that he wanted to fight them but they told him that was an invitation to contest at the chicken dare.
He decides to engage in the chicken game but first, he consults his father who tells him not to fight but Jim asks him; “What can you do when you have to be a man?” He engages in the contest and wins but the group’s leader, Buzz, dies in the game (Lindner’s, p. 80).
Plato looks at Jim as a potential hero figure and they later become friends in class but Plato is actually sexually interested in Jim, who is seen to understand the melancholy of adolescence. Plato touches Jim on the shoulder suggestively after the chicken competition. Jim offers to give him a ride home, but in the car Plato asks Jim “Hey, you want to come home with me? I mean, there’s nobody home at my house, and heck, I’m not tired. Are you?” (Lindner’s, p.48).
Jim is attracted to Judy, while Plato tries to discourage him because he feels Judy will threaten their relationship. The gang is annoyed with Jim because they think he rattled them to the police not because of Buzz’s death, but for stealing the cars. The three decide to hide from the gang in an abandoned house and started playing games.
While the other teenagers are idling in a mansion, Plato is deserted and emotionally unbalanced, feeling betrayed by his parent. “He took a gun from his mother’s room and starts firing. He hides in the planetarium, and Jim enters to get him and tries to talk to him but he gets scared and runs away.
The police see him with the gun and shoot him.” Jim is agonized by the meaningless murder and his failure to prevent it; he goes on knees and crawling close to his pal’s body crying loudly.” He finally becomes more adult like due to this experience. He accepts his both parents and his father promises to assume responsibility and face things like a man.
In conclusion the film uses the three characters to portray teenagers’ behavior and lifestyle then, although not much has changed in today’s society since teenagers almost behave the same irrespective of the era since they are still faced by the same issues of relationships, family and school.
Lindner’s, Robert. Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath. New York, NY: Other press LLC., 2003. Print