James Dean's Screen Personas as a Rebel

Pages: 6 (2387 words) Published: June 18, 2013
The Oxford English Dictionary defined a rebel as “a person who resists authority, control, or convention” . These are the characteristics of James Dean’s screen personas in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause and Elia Kazan’s East of Eden. In a time where conformity was a dominant ideology in society, rebellion became a way to display your own individuality. Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden both respectively deal with the vexing problem of the asocial youth who remain stubbornly delinquent against the nuclear family. Each respective film touches upon the puzzling subject of the 1950s, which is juvenile delinquency. The films also provide ammunition for the ideological rebellious behavior for teens to parody. Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden are both concerned with young people “estranged from their communities and struggling to define themselves differently than the norm” . James Dean was an attractive rebel figure because he represented the raw-nerved emotions of being an adolescent while he also asserted a romantic, mythic notion about, which became attractive to audiences young and old. Dean’s upfront sexiness and relentless desire to imbue honor make Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden films that withstand generational changes and remain prevalent within teenage society today. James Dean as the archetype for the ‘rebel’ character personified a decade of defiance, and his screen portrayal of the iconic rebel sparked a cult following that superseded his life. The continued relevance and renowned status of Dean’s screen persona is prevalent because of its “sympathetic treatment of adolescent anguish” that each director concentrated on. The enigmatic nature of the rebel icon made it easy for the viewing audience to grab hold and manifest their personal principles onto it. Dean was catapulted to a cult figure as he evoked the submerged pain and spoke for a generation of people who had sense of being stifled and smothered by values that were imprisoned by. Furthermore, Dean molded the formation of the “tough-but-tender” iconic teen rebel in the 1950s, and became a commodity and the legendary figure of teenage angst. Dean’s unbridled emotions both on and off screen became essential in both Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden as they channeled the teenager in all of us . The 1950s were a time when teenagers were struggling with their own identity and this idea of conformity was oppressive to their individual growth. James Dean epitomized the ‘rebel’, as his inability to stick to confined conformity both on and off screen was a major asset during 1950s filmmaking. The rebel character that was present in both films was an attempt to glorify individuality. Dean’s protagonist characters in each respective film were alienated, vulnerable and antisocial, which were standard traits of the common rebel. The 1950s became an era where individualism had to be tempered to suit the demanded conformity. The ‘rebel’ icon as a whole offered refuge in a time where adolescents were trapped in environments created by political and social forces beyond their control, which impeded their ability to make their own choices or realize their aspirations. Filmmakers like Ray and Kazan attempted to assert their individuality by creating these rebellious characters that went against the accepted norms and fought for what they wanted to achieve. Ray was acutely aware that the recognitions of the attractive young rebel would intonate a large following, and casting the Hollywood bad-boy, James Dean, created a synergy between Dean’s screen persona, Jim Stark, and his real life counterpart. With his magnificent confusion, pained fragility, and unwavering sexiness, Dean became the template for teenage rebellion. Rebel Without a Cause exemplifies a thinly veiled attempt to search for authority that catapults into an attempt to search for an identity for oneself. On the other hand, in Kazan’s films, he...
Continue Reading

Please join StudyMode to read the full document

You May Also Find These Documents Helpful

  • The Rebel Essay
  • Rebel Essay
  • Persona Essay
  • Persona Essay
  • persona Essay
  • Dean's List Essay
  • The persona COmputer Essay
  • American Persona Research Paper

Become a StudyMode Member

Sign Up - It's Free