Scrolling Headlines:

Whose American Dream? -

June 24, 2017

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

June 17, 2017

UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

UMass basketball adds Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent -

May 13, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse gets revenge on Colorado, beat Buffs 13-7 in NCAA Tournament First Round -

May 13, 2017

Meg Colleran dominates as UMass softball tops Saint Joseph’s, advances in A-10 tournament -

May 12, 2017

Rain keeps UMass softball from opening tournament play; Minutewomen earn A-10 honors -

May 11, 2017

Former UMass football wide receiver Tajae Sharpe accused of assault in lawsuit -

May 10, 2017

Justice Gorsuch can save the UMass GEO -

May 10, 2017

Minutemen third, Minutewomen finish fifth in Atlantic 10 Championships for UMass track and field -

May 8, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse wins A-10 title for ninth straight season -

May 8, 2017

Dayton takes two from UMass softball in weekend series -

May 8, 2017

Classic ‘Rebel’ still relevant

jamesdean“Rebel Without a Cause” first opened on Oct. 7, 1955, approximately one month after its star, James Dean, died in a fatal car accident. Dean’s fame stems from starring roles in only three films: “East of Eden” (1955), “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955) and “Giant” (1956), but his tragic and untimely death cemented his status as a cultural icon.

The film was nominated for three Academy Awards, and has also become an icon of its own. In 1990, it was added to the United States Library of Congress’s National Films Registry, deeming it “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

Directed by Nicholas Ray, the film’s title is adopted from “Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath” (1944) by psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner. The book is a case-study of an imprisoned teenage psychopath in the post-war years. However, the film itself does not directly reference Lindner’s work. The screenplay was written by Stewart Stem, from Irving Shulman’s adaptation of an original storyline written by Nicholas Ray.   

“Rebel Without a Cause” portrays what was seen as the moral decay of American youth.  It is considered to be one of the best 1950s films depicting young restlessness and rebellion.  Appropriately, the film was used as a case-study for the Hampshire College class titled “1950s: Cold War Culture & The Birth of Cool.” Playing at Amherst Cinema for a select engagement, Hampshire College professor Karen Koehler introduced and led a question-and-answer session for the film.

The film begins in the juvenile division of a Los Angeles Police Station. Jim Stark’s (Dean) parents and grandmother arrive from a country club dinner to exonerate their son, who has been charged with public drunkenness. The ensuing drama reads like family court, with Jim airing their dirty laundry and in a moment of coherence, yelling “You’re tearing me apart!” In following with the adage “a drunken man’s words are a sober man’s thoughts,” Jim reveals the dysfunctional family dynamics.

Judy (Natalie Wood) is picked up walking the streets in red. The tension at home and the constraints of her age and gender force her to escape from her house and run with “the kids,” a restless crowd that Jim comes to blows with. In the tension between Judy and her father, and the resentment towards her mother, Freud is clearly at work. The incestuous subtext of her relationship with her father is disconcerting at best. She later expresses to Jim that “I’ve been looking for someone to love me. And now I love somebody.”

Plato (Sal Mineo) is introduced as a fragile, volatile teenager, whose parents have all but abandoned him. Throughout the film, his view of Jim as a father figure becomes increasingly apparent.

The film was first released with the tag-lines “…and they both come from ‘good’ families!” and “The bad boy from a good family.” The film examines this idea of a “good family,” as Jim, Judy and Plato’s issues clearly stem from troubled family dynamics. 

The Starks have moved, once again, to escape from the trouble and embarrassment caused by Jim’s rebellious ways. Yet once again, Jim falls into trouble with the wrong crowd.  The film spans a 24-hour period, in which Jim is involved in a knife fight, and also in an accident in which Buzz Gunderson, the leader of the gang, is killed, and then proceeds to run from Buzz’s goonies who are out for revenge.

Koehler presented the idea that perhaps Dean’s best acting is nonverbal. There is a pervading idea of entrapment, in gender roles, and in Jim’s case, in his own body. Jim’s frustration threatens to boil over throughout the film; evidenced by his body language and the way in which he interacts with his environment.

Koehler began with the question, “Is there really a cause?” Throughout the film, it is heavily implied that Jim is trying to be the man that his father is not. In a climatic moment with his parents, Jim expresses that he wishes that his father would be a man, and that his mother would stop running from him.

If the film was meant to portray the decay of American youth, it is at odds with Dean’s character, who values honor and is described by Plato as sincere. Jim also finds love and friendship with Judy, to the astonishment of his parents.

In response to the comparison between film rebels James Dean and Marlon Brando, Koehler presented the problem with the idea of an archetypical rebel, saying, “If there is an archetype for rebels, there are certain things the rebel has to conform to, yet the essence of the rebel is breaking conformity. Conformity also needs the rebel, in order for conformity to be what is deemed ‘normative.’”

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