James Dean: An Icon of Rebellion and Defiance

Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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A Rebel With A Cause “Wash the dishes, and clean your room. Be home by 7:00, don’t be late. Study, study, study. ” We have all heard these words uttered from the authoritative lips of our parents sometime in our life, however, these days most teenagers aren’t afraid to disobey their parents by responding with, “no. ” James Dean was one of the first people to defy the strict rules of parents, and he did so on screen for the entire nation. Some sources claim that he is a label; a label that is intended for the sole purpose of resisting authority.

He is not a label, rather more of an icon used to show that in certain circumstances it is okay to disobey the various rules that society has unwillingly placed upon us. Whether it be in black and white, or vibrant colors, the emotions in this picture speak loud enough for color not to be an issue. People perceive Dean as “trapped,” and after gathering some background information about him and his career, I can clearly see why he is portrayed as this. His career peaked for three years, and then abruptly came to an end. However, for those three years Dean had to be everything that America wanted to see and idolize.

Cameras surrounded him 24/7, paparazzi always wanted a comment from him, and fans simply couldn’t get enough. In the photograph that I have attached, it is as if Dean is trying to keep a hold on himself and his emotions; trying not to get too caught up in the crazy world he had been thrown in to. The “Torn Sweater” series was taken by photographer Roy Schatt. Schatt told Dean to pose as if he was trying to escape something that comes from within, a feeling perhaps, that only he himself is aware of – hence the attempt at tearing his sweater off.

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It is ironic in a sense that he’s standing in front of a camera, completely alone with a solid background looking into the distance. Being in front of a camera he had grown completely accustomed to, but he was never alone, and the background of his life is more chaotic than just a solid color. Dean is pictured gazing into a vastness that only he could imagine, imagining his life on the complete opposite end of the spectrum that he ended up being on. Even with his fame and stage-presence, Dean was an average guy who struggled to trying to get by with life.

It is possible I’m biased due to myself being a teenager, struggling to get through this crazy thing we call life that I am able to relate to him. This photo stands out to teenagers in the sense that not everyone is perfect, nor knows how to be. At this time period, for many American teenagers, it must have been difficult to stand up to parents, and disobey the overbearing rules they had set-in-stone. Dean gave inspiration to them to stick up for what they believe in, regardless of the fact that they are younger and seen as less knowledgeable.

Some people may know Dean from various old-time movies. He starred in East of Eden, Giant, and is most recognized for his rebellious character in Rebel Without a Cause. He was considered a good actor in the 1950s for the diverse character roles he took part in, and of course for his legendary sex-appeal. For half a century, he has captured the world with his casual style, fearless look, and rebel attitude. James Dean has defied the essence of “cool” and “without-a-cause” for generations.

Rebel Without a Cause may be one of the most famous due to the fact that Dean got into a fatal car accident on September 30 1955, one month before the release date. Dean wasn’t only a sexy symbol of rebellion, he represented an every-day teenager that goes through social issues without having a clear direction for his life. In Rebel Without a Cause, he was shown as a delinquent in an urban slum. It is the story of a rebellious teenager who arrives at a new school, falls for the girlfriend of a school jock, and disobeys his parents trying to defy the meat-head’s bulling.

The directors of the movie casted him as a rebel, realizing that his attractive, edgy self would appeal to many teens being as they can relate. Dean was a product of this 1950s ideology. Percieving Dean as a good guy, desperately wanting to do the right thing, yet constantly getting caught up in doing the wrong, was appealing to teenagers around the entire nation. Teens didn’t challenge their parents rules back then, they listened to their elders, and did as they were told. People who did backlash and resist the authority were considered outlaws, who would never be successful.

Making this movie and being allowed to see the inside world of a “true” rebel was one of the first opportunities both teens and parents had to see the two sides of a story. Dean’s performance spoke powerfully on behalf of teenagers going through this type of scenario themselves, and gave them a hero they could admire and respect. In today’s society, arguing with parents, or going against the rules trying to break the idea of a norm isn’t unusual. Yet, in the era that this movie was made, it was extremely against anything society really knew.

The case isn’t about whether teens should, or shouldn’t argue, it’s the fact of respecting elders so much. His movies, all three of them, show that it isn’t necessarily bad to stick up for what you believe in whether you’re younger than the opposing factors or not. Going against society in ways that not a lot of people were brave enough to endure was something that really stood out, and made him recognizable for decades to come. Being a super-star is something that ordinary people like myself can only dream about.

Not necessarily dream as in wanting it so badly it hurts, but dreaming in the sense that living the life of a celebrity would be such an out-of-body experience. Dealing with cameras constantly on a day-to-day basis isn’t something that I could put up with. Sure, all the money and fame would be nice for maybe a year or so, by eventually a person reaches a point where privacy is more important than materialistic items. Getting to know someone through the media could possibly be the worst way to get the true story. In pictures, you only get to see one thing, one significant moment that happened to be captured by someone’s Kodak.

Gathering background information and searching a little deeper into something that interests you is really beneficial not only for yourself, but also the someone who is getting perceived as a single story. One of his most famous quotes is “Dream as if you’ll life forever. Live as if you’ll die today. ” That’s exactly what he succeeded in doing in his life. “James Dean lived fast – and died young. ” (Gilmore 32. ) Although his life was cut short by an unexpected car crash that ended up being fatal, Dean established a name for himself within the few years that he was an actor.

That is astonishing. He has an outrageous amount of fans, and still continues to become known throughout the world today. Works Cited Gilmore, John. ^ John GiLive Fast – Die Young: Remembering the Short Life of Ja. New York City: Thunder's Mouth, 1998. Print. Herndon, Venable. James Dean: a short life. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974. Print. Hofstede, David. James Dean: a bio-bibliography. Westport, CT: Greenwood P, 1996. Print. Springer, Claudia. James Dean Transfigured: the Many Faces of Rebel Iconography. Austin: University of Texas, 2007. Print.

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James Dean: An Icon of Rebellion and Defiance. (2017, Feb 10). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/james-dean/

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