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A disorienting Journey through A society whose Cherished institu- tions have all Gone bottom up.”

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Presentation on theme: "A disorienting Journey through A society whose Cherished institu- tions have all Gone bottom up.”"— Presentation transcript:

1 A disorienting Journey through A society whose Cherished institu- tions have all Gone bottom up.”

2 Sterility of conventional life Absence of meaning, adventure... Absence of role models Failure of life built on materialism “Don’t we buy you anything you want, Jim?” Rebel’s critique of conventional fifties life:

3 Failure of society to provide meaningful ways to live –Jim’s father is inadequate, weak,and indecisive: –“You give me a direct answer!” –“10 years! I want an answer now!” –He’s not a man in the 50’s sense--so Jim doesn’t know how to live as a man Hey, Jim boy, you thought I was mom? –Jim’s mom is cold and domineering –Judy’s father withholds affection –Plato’s parents are gone

4 Jim shows the signs of alienation, of being a “stranger in a strange land,” These are the feelings one will have if one is aware that one is a unique individual in a conventional society. No one is like you No one speaks your language No one understands you Everyone else is playing a game by rules which you don’t understand

5 Jim has a sense of honor that he can’t articulate. He asks his father for answers but his father won’t or can’t provide them. Thoreau: I’ve never heard a word of good advice from anyone older.

6 Being unable to articulate and understand his own “genius,” his own instinctive moral code, Jim is open to manipulation. If Buzz says “you’re chicken,” Jim feels Obliged to show him that he’s not, even Though what he’s going to do is not a real Test of courage or of manhood--it’s a stupid And lethal game.

7 Jim understands what Romantics teach: that you can’t rely on others to decide how to live. His mother asks “Do you think the other boys will turn themselves in?” Jim: “It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter!”

8 His parents are hypocrites: Dad: “You can’t be idealistic your whole life.” In other words, ignore your values if they’re going to get you in trouble. Forget about integrity. But Jim has too much of the Romantic in him for that. Jim: “Just tell a little white lie..?” Jim knows better than they do: “Just once, I’d like to do something right.”

9 He’s searching for an authentic way to live and the best he can do at the moment is to have integrity. That’s why Jim is anguished: (“You’re tearing me apart!”) he feels the necessity of living his own way but he doesn’t know what that way is. He has to do what he thinks is right, no matter what his parents say or what his future self might think.

10 Jim exhibits the anguish that Romantics say one will feel when one is trying to be authentic while the world is punishing your for it and you yourself are not yet sure what your true path is. He is afraid of his freedom but can’t help but try to be himself.

11 Jim is alienated from his world, a world in which no one listens to him, no one sees who he really is, everyone tells him what to do He goes to the police station to talk to Ray about the chicky run and the cops on duty are too busy to pay any attention. Frustrated once again, he turns away.

12 He has tried to be a man, to take responsibility for his actions but adult society won’t let him.

13 His parents dishonor and disrespect him. They tell him he shouldn’t value who he is now. Dad “You’ll learn when you’re older.” Mom: “In ten years this won’t mean anything to you.”

14 But Jim understands what Romantics understand: You live now, in the moment and you have to be true to your self now. You can’t discount yourself and your beliefs because of what some hypothetical future you might believe. You can’t let the future make the present meaningless.

15 Other kids aren’t any better. All they can think of is “kicks” Or they’re conformist popularity junkies Judy to Jim: “You shouldn’t believe what I say when I’m with the rest of the kids. Nobody acts sincere.” Sincerity =authenticity. J,J & P are not natural rebels--they’d like to conform but they can’t find anything worthwhile to conform to. That’s why they’re “rebels without a cause.”

16 Notice how sexually tame the film is. Judy adheres to the values of a “good girl” of the fifties. She and Jim fall in love and they kiss But there’s no suggestion that they “go all the way.”

17 And Plato clearly has a homosexual crush on Jim. But that’s an idea that could not be expressed in any mainstream film of the fifties. It was “the love that could not speak its name.”

18 Before the “chicky run,” Jim asks Buzz, “Why do we do this?” Buzz answers, “Well, ya gotta do something!” When conventional life gives one no opportunities for excitement, for adventure, for living life to the full, People will invent ways, even if they’re lethal and meaningless. People yearn for something to give their lives passion

19 Society tries to ignore real problems –Jim’s parents want to let the chickie-run death just go away –They don’t want to be involved. “We are all involved!” You can’t retreat into your private life and ignore things that are unpleasant

20 Identification with the disenfranchised, misfits, outcasts… Plato: “What does he know about man alone.” Jim, Judy, Plato don’t fit in with other kids anymore than they can see themselves fitting into the adult world

21 Parents fear and reject youthful sexuality--Judy’s father Sense of doom in first post-bomb generation: planetarium scene: “man is an episode of little consequence” “It’s all over. The world ended.” Jim, Judy & Plato attempt to imagine alternative social roles

22 Jim, Judy and Plato, flee to the deserted mansion. The mansion becomes a special, sanctified playhouse within which Jim, Judy, and Plato live out imaginative possibilities inconceivable within their real families. They play with their old identities, improvise new ones, and try out a shifting series of pretended roles and relationships. They turn life into an ebullient game. As they parody adult tones and voices in a cascade of comic impersonations, they demonstrate that they apparently can be anything-that the notion of a fixed social

23 identity is an arbitrary limitation on one's true imaginative multiplicity. They show us that personal identity doesn't have to be narrow and formulaic (as it is for the adults in the film), but can be experimental, shifting, open-ended, and playful. They show us that social relations can be stimulating and creative. Their final impersonation is to play at being a family (with Jim and Judy as the mother and father, and Plato as their son)-a family organized along entirely different lines from the families they grew up in: one in which relationships are not rigid, authoritarian, and hierarchical, but egalitarian, democratic, loving, and sensitively responsive to one another's needs.

24 It is against this background of wide-spread cultural anxiety and uncertainty that the performances of Marlon Brando in The Wild One and James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause should be viewed. Brando and Dean were dangerous and exciting actors precisely because they tapped into pervasive undercurrents of dissatisfaction in fifties society. Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause is stunningly in tune with the Beat sensibility. Ray's film demonstrates that if the Beat movement is not confused with its external trappings, its spirit can be captured without even alluding to the Beats. Ray mounts a powerful critique of the social and emotional

25 dysfunctionality of the American family, and, specifically, of the failure of the married-to-his-job father to provide a role model for his son to emulate. (The father as missing-person is one of the secret subtexts of many Beat works.) Ray documents the materialism and spiritual aridity of suburban life. In the planetarium scene, he breathtakingly communicates the dread and doom felt by the first generation to grow up in the shadow of the mushroom cloud. And, on the positive side, in the performances of James Dean and Sal Mineo, he captures one of the most important emotional dimensions of Beat culture: its tenderness toward and identification with the weak and disenfranchised members of society.

26 And ultimately the film ends with a very conventional happy ending as Jim and his parents reconcile, presumably to live happily ever after in fifties nuclear- family bliss. (His mother even gives an affectionate look at his father.)

27 This conventional-seeming ending has led to controversy over the film’s meaning. Peter Biskind in “Seeing is Believing” sees “Rebel’s message as a profoundly conformist one: That Jim Stark’s problems would be solved if his too-weak dad and his too-strong mom would assume their traditional gender roles... nothing short of a restoration of the fifties’ suburban ideal.”

28 Supporting this view is the fact that the most sympathetic figure in the film and the only one Jim thinks he can talk to is Ray Fremick the policeman who works in juvenile hall. The police are of course a standard symbol of authority and to make a policeman the only one who understands Jim must mean something.

29 On the other hand, “”Rebel is a radical work, criticizing the ossified roles and conventions of mainstream society and offering an alternative... Jim, Judy and Plato work out ‘a new way of caring for each other.’ The film’s basic message is “listen to these young people, listen to their ideals.

30 Chris Fujiwara says that “perhaps Ray’s intentions was to espouse neither rebellion nor conformity but to document the contradiction between the two in American society.”

31 Seen today, the film is neither a pure paean to youth’s unbridled self- expression nor a conservative tract on the need to shore up the patriarchal nuclear family. Instead, it’s a film in which the urge to rebel and the longing to conform coexist in a state of peak tension.

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