American Lit/US History
To what extent did James Dean impact the lives of teenagers in the 1950s?
Thesis: James Dean impacted teenagers in the 1950s by creating a teenage culture and a new
American teenager, however James Dean’s rebellious life and actions inspired teenagers to act
out through James Dean’s movie, Rebel Without a Cause.
II./A The birth of Rock n Roll caused a uprising between parents, teenager, and the rules set by
their parents by causing a rise of rebellion and creating juveniles. Before Teenagers started
rebelling, they spent most of their times with their parents. Teenagers had no culture. They
dressed like their parents, had little money, watched same shows and movies as their parents, and
listened to the same music. Rock n Roll music encouraged teenagers to make their own culture
and to do what they want. Many parents did not like Rock and Roll because they thought that it
caused juvenile delinquency. A Pentecostal minister, Reverend Albert Carter explains “The
effect of Rock n Roll in young people turned them into devil worshippers” (qtd. In A.Kallen,
Stuart.191). It was believed that Rock n Roll was a bad influence on teenagers of the 1950s.
Authorities see Rock n Roll as a way for teenagers to show their true colors though sex, by
breaking laws, and to destroy the idea of marriage. It was seen as a bad influence for the youth of
the country. Kids appalled the country as they became more independent. Adults were shocked
by this behavior of teenagers as they performed risky dance moves, had love of fast cars, and an
overall self determination mindset.
III./A Playing roles in movies relating to teenagers, James Dean influenced teenagers through
playing characters who are lost and confused. James Dean helped create a teenage culture by
being able to relate to them through his movie roles. Especially when he played Jim Stark in
Rebel Without a Cause. The point of Rebel Without a Cause is too speak to teenagers. This
movie was portrayed to been as parents not appreciating their kids enough to be able to let them
create a culture away from theirs. A scene in Rebel Without a Cause, the character Jim tells a
social worker to “get lost”. This that symbolizes the teenagers of the 1950s to encourage them to
rebel against the social morals of the day. As parents started to notice the meaning and themes
behind the movie, they started lobbying to get the movie shut down. Jim Stark was a rebellious
teen who followed no rules but his own. In James Dean: The Biography, Val Holley claims that,
“American Teenagers particularly related to Dean through his role in Rebel Without a Cause,
where he portrayed an emotionally confused teen.” (page 301) Dean played a confused...