So like many people I’d heard of “James Dean,” iconic American beauty star who died young.
(It’s almost impossible not to in the US — pictures of him and Marilyn Monroe inundate every cheap tourist trap)
And yet up until my birthday a few weeks back I hadn’t seen any of his films.
But there I was, on a plane, and the option was right in front of me… so I decided to check out “Rebel Without A Cause.”
Getting the boilerplate out of the way:
I couldn’t have been more impressed.
The acting was everything I was promised. Dean just oozes passion and sincerity. You could tell the role was playing him as much as he was playing the role.
But this ain’t a movie review list, so I won’t go much more into that.
Rather I wanted to touch on the themes.
Because what’s going on in Rebel Without A Cause is more relevant than ever today.
Why, you might ask?
#1: The Impact of Weak Masculinity In Fathers
I found this so interesting, because it’s such an honest exploration of father-son dynamics— one that would never get treatment today.
Dean’s father is henpecked constantly by his mother and grandmother, who belittle him, demean his authority, and effectively blame him for everything that happens. His father manages it through laughter, pleading for her to be “reasonable,” and attempts to appease the mother through various actions.
All of this disgusts Dean, who has contempt for his father’s weakness. When taken in for drunkenness early in the film, he remarks “I wish he’d clock her in the face just once” — a statement of desperation underlining how much he wishes his father would show up with strength.
Dean’s mother, in contrast, attempts to coddle Dean — indeed, both parents do, and much of the story is that of the parents attempting to buy off Dean’s affection through gifts and low boundaries… actions which only infuriate Dean, who feels like he has no one to guide him through the world.
Long story short, things get worse and worse for Dean and there’s no resolution until the end when his father finally shows up like the decisive man Dean needs him to be.
#2: The Impact of A Father’s Indifference To His Daughter
The main female character (Natalie Wood) has a similar arc. She’s a “daddy’s girl” but it’s clear daddy doesn’t much care. He doesn’t show affection or attention to Natalie, which causes her to act out in all sorts of irresponsible ways with guys who can play that role.
While James Dean acts out to define himself as a man (hates being called “chicken” which he associates with his father), Natalie acts out by trying to get her father’s attention and the attention of guys who can act as a proxy in that role.
She thus gets upset that when she gets into trouble, running away from home, her mother not her father picks her up. Natalie hates her mother in a certain sense because the father cares about her. (The dynamic is very dark, there’s a lot of latent sexual interest Natalie has in her father).
A key part of this instability expresses itself when Natalie’s boyfriend dies in a game of “chicken,” and she immediately falls in love with Dean — his rival.
(The manosphere couldn’t ask for a better example of branch swinging)
There are more of course — the story of “Plato” has plenty of lessons about lack of parental involvement.
But the psychological malaise of James Dean and Natalie Wood in particular speaks to the different pains both men and women suffer when there are no active masculine figures in their lives.
James loses his identity, Natalie loses her self-esteem. Both need a man to guide and pay attention to them.
Anyway, I highly recommend it as a film diving into psychology. Tons of gems.
But there’s an even better, more active way to learn:
Put yourself out there in “the field” with a guy who understands these dynamics viscerally.
Someone like me.
You see, it’s easy enough to see the problems a woman has in a film, when they’re spelled out.
In the real world however you’ve got to read between the lines.
You need to figure out if and WHY a woman has baggage.
And even more importantly?
You need to see if and why YOU have it.
And guess what my friend… even if you’re someone who IS honest with yourself (less likely than you think), you’re still BLIND to certain things about you.
To see them, you need someone on the outside… someone discerning… someone…
Well, I think you get the picture.
Apply here: www.patstedman.com/application