Academy for Success

Ep15 Positive Cinematic Spotlight - Rebel without a Cause

Ep15 Positive Cinematic Spotlight - Rebel without a Cause

Welcome back, Wolf Pack, to another Positive Cinematic Spotlight! This week, we are looking at 1955 hit Rebel without a Cause, the last film of cultural icon James Dean, and the only film which had his name in the top billing. The film, to me, is a precursor to the 1980s hit The Breakfast Club. It tells the story of Jim Stark, a teenager new to the town, who gets arrested. At the police station, he encounters Judy and Plato who have also been brought in by the police. The venue for their meeting is a police station rather than school during Saturday detention, but the set-up is the same. A group of troubled teens meet and become friends despite their differences. And similar to The Breakfast Club, the teens’ differences find route in their home lives. Plato’s being raised by his mother, legally, but she spends most of her time on trips. Instead, he is being raised by their housekeeper. Judy is the oldest child wanting attention from her parents, in particular her father, who gives all of his attention to her younger brother. Meanwhile, Jim’s parents provide for his every want and never tells him no. As his father says, “Don't I buy everything you want? A bicycle, you get a bicycle, a car? You get a car.” But he also gets a household full of fighting and a father he sees as unwilling to stand up for himself. The home lives of these teens lead them to behaving in ways which get them in trouble, and which defines their friendship. Jim wants guidance on how to become a man. As he tells his mom, “Once, I want to do something right!” But he can’t figure out what right is. First, his parents and grandmother’s frequent arguing creates confusion for Jim, because he wants to learn how to be a man from his father, but he is frequently criticized and belittled by Jim’s mother and his grandmother. This leads to the iconic scene as James Dean screams, “You’re tearing me apart!” Shortly thereafter Jim explains, “You say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again!” His romance with Judy and friendship with Plato give him the structure that he doesn’t get from home. Second, his parents leave town whenever Jim starts getting into serious trouble. He doesn’t get reprimanded by his parents and he is aware that he is unable to learn what’s right and what’s not without guidance from his parents or the consequences of his actions. Meanwhile, Judy is looking for attention of any sort, and Jim gives her positive and encouraging friendship which blossoms into romance. Plato also seeks any sort of attention, but begins to see Jim as a father figure and Judy as a mother figure. A misunderstanding and assault reveals for us Plato’s fear of abandonment and sends us crashing into the climax of the film. Throughout the film, the teens are trying to get adults to see them for who they are, recognize their concerns, and listen to them, but both parents and law enforcement brush the teens away, except for Officer Ray Fremick. Interestingly, there’s almost no teacher presence in the film. I wonder if that’s a harsh indictment of the 1950s education system. What we can see is that students are looking for things which sometimes they don’t get from parents, but we as teachers can be sure to provide: consistency, guidance, and recognition of their value as individuals. But this is not an age restricted list of needs and desires. While we adults may be more mature and understanding of the realities of life, we still find comfort in consistency, are appreciative of guidance when new situations arise, and want to be recognized for our efforts. And the 2020 - 2021 school year makes these all the more important. If you feel something is inconsistent, communicate with others to address the issue, whether you are talking with fellow teachers and staff or administration. The same goes for seeking guidance when a new situation arises, and this year there’s a very good chance you have already found yourself in unknown territory. Being rec

Duration: 29 min

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