Maybe you've seen the movie, maybe you haven't, but take a second and picture "Rebel Without a Cause" in your mind. James Dean, the epitome of cool, driving around in his 1949 Mercury coupe, picking up all sorts of pieces of ass in poodle skirts with his Robert Pattinson hair and red jacket... also the knife fights, gunplay, breaking-and-entering an abandoned mansion, a deadly game of "chicken" in stolen cars, and animal cruelty! And this all takes place in a 24-hour period. Shit, we thought the teens of today were fucked up!?
This movie demonstrates the conflict that each of the three main teenage characters (Jim, Judy, and Plato) is experiencing because of their parents. But let's face it, good or bad, you owe everything to your parents. If it weren't for them, your meager existence would have ended inside a latex reservoir tip. There's the possibility the designer of the movie poster added "...and they both come from good families" as a hilarious joke or a dare to hit him with a false advertising lawsuit, but one thing is for sure, if you thought "Cinnamon" at your local titty bar has some daddy issues, you haven't seen anything yet.
Jim Stark (Played By James Dean)
The movie starts with Jim stumbling around an empty street, drunker than Kiefer Sutherland on Christmas day. Why? Because he's the new kid in town, a real trouble-maker, a loner, a rebel... without a cause. He's picked up by the police and taken to the station in what can only be described as a twist of fate worthy of a "Lost" episode because the other two teenagers are also at the police station at that same time.
Jim's pissed at his parents for always forcing him and his family to move to a different town whenever the slightest indication of his rebellious demeanor begins to show. More specifically he resents his father for the way his mother constantly tucks her balls in, pulls up her pants, and pushes his henpecked father around. "She eats him alive and he takes it," he explains to the police officer.
I guess for every problem there is a simple solution. And Jim's solution is legendary: "If he had guts to knock Mom cold once... then maybe she'd be happy and she'd stop picking on him." Who wouldn't want to see their father stand up to his nagging wife and play the home version of the popular "Knockout Game"? I mean, this was the 1950's after all, when sexism was not only tolerated, it was expected and actively encouraged. Men were MEN and all women were housewives searching desperately for new ways to starch their husbands' shirts and prepare his next meal... OR ELSE!
Later in the movie, Jim's father is emasculated to the brink of caricature when Jim finds him wearing a frilly apron over his suit and tie at home, squatting on his hands and knees to pick up the dinner he made for his wife that he accidentally dropped on the floor. Jim requests that his mom see the mess — probably to instigate a fight between them. Jim is confused and a bit disgusted at the scene and leaves. We believe Jim when he says, "I don't ever want to be like him."
Judy (Played By Natalie Wood)
See? Women characters in the 50's weren't even given last names!
Judy was also picked up by the police at the beginning of the movie for the horrible offensive of running away from home. When asked why, she tells the officer, “He looks at me like I’m the ugliest thing in the world.” Possibly her boyfriend, right? She continues, "He doesn't like anything about me... He calls me a dirty tramp." Yup, gotta be her boyfriend. "My own father!" Whoa, didn't see that coming!
Although she's not really sure if he means what he said, she claims he acts like he does. As a prime example she explains, "He grabbed my face and he rubbed all my lipstick off — he rubbed till I thought I wouldn't have any lips left." Creepy. The officer asks if she ran away to look for "company" that night and suggests that her banging guys is one way of getting back at her good ol' dad, presumably because that was the best pick up line the officer could come up with at the time.
Later in the movie after somewhat of a reconciliation with her father, things get a little rapey and Judy kisses her father dead on lips. He pushes her away and says she's "getting too old for that stuff." She yells, "I didn't want to stop." At this point the hidden incest subtext is pretty much threatening to burst out and become, well, the text.
You may be familiar with the "Oedipus complex" from pop culture where a man wants to kill his father and pork his mother. On the contrary, there is the lesser known, but still ever so real, "Electra complex" where a girl wants to sling leg for her dad. Did the writers really just draw up some kind of unholy triangle by joining an unconscious incest fantasy, domestic violence, and the 1950's? I'm not a doctor — I just play one on my blog — by there's more sexual tension at their dinner table than a middle school dance.
She tries to kiss him again and he slaps her across the face instead. Judy runs off crying. He dad quickly runs after her, trying to calm her down and calling her by her nickname: Glamour Puss. HIS FUCKING NICKNAME FOR HER IS GLAMOUR PUSS!
"Plato" Crawford (Played By Sal Mineo)
Plato was in custody at the police station because he stole his mother's gun then shot and killed a liter of puppies... on his fucking birthday. Plato’s Aunt-Jemima-looking housemaid (not racist, again, it's the 50's) says, “Seems like [his mother] is always going away somewhere.” About his father? She remarks that they, “Haven’t seen him now in a long time.” Plato only receives attention from his father in the form of a monthly child-support check.
As a baby he would lay in his crib at night and hear his parents constantly fighting. He would run away a lot as a kid, but would go back to his parents until one day his dad wasn't there anymore. A therapist his mother paid for would "make him remember" these bad memories; however, eventually his mom said sessions were too expensive and she went to Hawaii instead.
When pressed further later in the movie he says —
Judy: Where's your father now?
Plato: He's dead. He was a hero in the China Sea.
Jim: You told me he was a big wheel in New York.
Plato: I did? What's the difference? He might as well be dead anyway.
Plato is very protective of Jim and forms a possibly homosexual, but more probably just looking for a father figure physical attraction to Jim. He just wants some male loving, and if rumors are true, James Dean would have given it to him. Eventually Jim would be the downfall of Plato and would ultimately lead him to his death after Plato hides from the police at a planetarium whilst carrying a gun. Jim coaxes him out of hiding and an army of police officers shoot Plato to death. Hahaha! Dads! Am I right?