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Christian Analysis of American Culture (CAP Ministry)
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(1955), NR
Analysis Date
CAP Final Score
CAP Influence Density
January 27, 2004
Posted March 16, 2004
59 out of 100

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If Scriptural references appear, the full text appears at the end of the Summary / Commentary likely using a mix of KJV and NIV.

(1955), NR --Remember, the Rebel Without A Cause generation (and their children) are the leaders of today.

Cast/Crew Details Courtesy Internet Movie Database
Production (US): Warner Bros.
Distribution (US): Warner Bros., Warner Home Video (DVD, VHS, laserdisc)
Director(s): Nicholas Ray
Producer(s): David Weisbart
Story: Nicholas Ray (story), Irving Shulman (adaptation)
Screenplay: Stewart Stern
Cinematography/Camera: Ernest Haller
Music: Leonard Rosenman
Film Editing: William H. Ziegler
Production Design: Malcolm C. Bert
Art Direction: Malcolm C. Bert
Viewed on: Warner Home Video DVD

Rebel Without A Cause (1955) was analyzed using the same analysis model, the same investigation standards, the same equations in the same computer applications as used on all the other more than 850 films we have analyzed. The CAP model has revealed Rebel Without A Cause is morally equivalent to a PG-13 of today (NOT a R-13). That suggests it was one of the first "big doses" to build up the "blood count", readying the body for more.

Rebel Without A Cause, originally titled "The Blind Run", seems to follow a counterfeited theme of "Romeo and Juliet" and is set in a 24-hour span of time in Los Angels of the post-war 1950s. It is a film of teenage tragedy. Of overbearing and milquetoast idiot parents. Of teens taking lethal dares from peers to establish pecking order. Of anguished, troubled, frustrated and identity-seeking teenagers.

Each of three young lives are entwined by fueled and "justified" by manufactured parental/authority irresponsibility. Rebel Without a Cause may have been the first world-wide release to try to make teen malcontentism and rebellion against controls desirable and make it feel as if every teen could and should embrace it -- the same that now saturates most of modern cinema. [Prov. 22:15] To thoroughly implant such an behavioral template in every youth who saw the film, the writers had the lead actor physically throwing his cowardly stage father around with impunity [Exod. 20:12]. To further ingrain acceptance of such behavior in the young observer, there were no consequences for the assailant. [Eccl. 8:11] And to yet further anchor such emboldenment to empathize with youthful rebellion and aggression, the writers had the quintessential rebel wanting to tell the truth and admit his culpability in a fatal tragedy and grand theft-auto but his parents coached him to withhold the truth to save social face. [Col. 2:8; Rev. 21:8]

Jim Stark (James Dean), the rebel, is a high school senior who has been moved from town to town over the years by his status-hungry father, Frank (Jim Baccus) and mother, Carrol (Ann Doran) each time Jim got in any sort of trouble. The extent of trouble Jim got into to "cause" the Starks to unjustly (unjust by most of modern standards) move to avoid social shame was ill-defined. Can't have the Jones' or the Smith's looking down their noses at us, y'know. Scandalous!

Judy (Natalie Wood) is a particularly vicious young lady who lives on the edge - all of the time. Taking advantage of Wood's natural expressional intensity, Nicholas Ray had her playing the bad girl hanging out with hoods. Since Judy lives almost next door to Jim Stark, meeting each other was inevitable. As Judy threw insult after insult at Stark, the filmmakers made it obvious that she was internally feeling otherwise about Stark. In one scene, after she pummeled Stark with insults and as she rode away, the camera focused on her face looking at Stark, making it obvious her interests were more than social combat with the "new kid."

John Crawford, a.k.a. "Plato" (Sal Mineo) lived almost as close to Stark as Judy. Plato was the sort of character that sought acceptance by servitude and submission to a socially superior presence. Jim Stark was chosen by Plato to be his "socially superior" presence. Plato was quite physical in his affection for Stark. Plato seemed to be the kid who would rally to a "cause" of any kind just to be accepted. A truly dangerous attitude to take.

All three characters were confused and embittered by the lack of a strong and responsible father figure. Each would sneak and lie. As part of the social warfare that ensued, including a knife fight, it was decided amongst the top dogs that a "chickie run" would settle the friction. A "chickie run" is two cars - stolen cars - in a race to the edge of a cliff to see who jumps out first. Stark's challenger did not get out. After a period of flight to escape accountability and after the benchmark display of a teen throwing his father around, the stage was set for the denouement and the development of an attraction between Stark and Judy, which seems to yet be typical of films that portray two teens running away together.

As part of their efforts to gain relief from emotional turmoil, Judy and Jim, abetted by Plato, ran away to an abandoned mansion, Plato with a gun. The police knew about the gun and were thus forced treat Plato as a possible lethal threat to others and himself. In that abandoned mansion, Jim and Judy started planning a fantasy wedding, marriage and a family with acidic notions about children. In an act of kindness, Jim gave Plato his red jacket which caused a case of mistaken identity by the police who shot and killed Plato. What a powerful portrayal to embolden same-age camaraderie.

Rebel Without a Cause (the name itself incites pity) feeds teenage rebellion by guided sympathy/empathy. It glamorizes the restlessness of the "It ain't good enough, no matter what 'it' is" attitude that causes almost all teens to feel that mom/dad "just don't understand", as if claiming parental misunderstanding excuses teen defiance of them. Such has been happening probably since a while after Adam and Eve but likely never before as attractively and encouragingly for teens as in Rebel Without a Cause. The movie also glamorizes malcontentism and defiance by portraying that other "It ain't good enough, no matter what 'it' is" teens DO understand, thus creating an unbearable dissonance between parent and child. The human entity will do almost anything to alleviate such dissonance. [Jer. 5:6]

This film and a 1953 film with Marlon Brando, The Wild One, are together the focal point for the CAP Ministry study: that the most significant decline of youthful moral standards in and as entertainment began, as several agree, in the mid 1950s when the days of a wholesome hero figure in entertainment started evaporating. I contend that such decline dug in its heels with these two films; that the decay of teen morality in entertainment began with Rebel Without A Cause, The Wild One, or both and all films of the period which exploited the monetary success of such youthful attitude in and as entertainment. While Rebel Without A Cause was probably the first major world-wide release of its size to exploit and capitalize on the success of cinematic emboldening teenage rebellion as desirable by glamorizing it by feeding it to our kids in and as entertainment [Ps. 12:8], it was likely also the first to clearly exploit teenage sex appeal as a fundamental element. [1Ths. 4:1-5] It was also the first to present homosexual attractions. [1Cor. 6:9-10]

It begs of wonder why all three stars of this movie who led the world into accelerated rebellion and defiance suffered untimely and violent deaths. James Dean died at 24 years old in a car wreck in the same year of the film. Natalie Wood drowned at the age of 43. Sal Mineo was stabbed to death at 37. Is there a measure of Spiritual reckoning there? Only God knows. But it is sometimes interesting to wonder. [Isa. 13:11]

Especially revealing evidence of the decay of morality in film since the 1950s was noted in the fact that of the moral assaults now commonplace is PG-13 movies are just not there. In Rebel Without A Cause (1955) not once were any of the three/four letter word vocabulary used nor was there even one use of God's name in vain with or without the four letter expletive. Nor was there the slightest hint of nudity or intercourse or even inappropriate touch or open face kissing noted in this 1955 "PG-13", just a shot of Woods' legs (from the knees down) in a sensual statement. Indeed, the reason for the scoring equivalent to PG-13 movies in the comparative baseline database is almost entirely due to violence and crime and teenage rebellion, arrogance and hatred.

Several elements are blended together into an intricately woven fabric of poison to wholesome teen ethics and morality:

  • guided dissonance between parents and their children with the parents ("unfair control") as the "bad guys", leading the young viewer to empathize and vicariously experience the feelings portrayed, even if exaggerated or manufactured
  • potentially lethal resolution of conflict between teens
  • searching for answers among teens without mature guidance
  • giving unearned and unmerited autonomy and independence to teens

    Remember, the Rebel Without A Cause generation (and their children) are the leaders of today.

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    If needed to focus or fortify, applicable text is underlined or bracketed [ ]. If you wish to have full context available, the Blue Letter Bible is a convenient source. If you use the Blue Letter Bible, a new window will open. Close it to return here or use "Window" in your browser's menu bar to alternate between the CAP page and the Blue Letter Bible page.

  • Prov. 22:15 Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
  • Exod. 20:12 "Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
  • Eccl. 8:11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • Rev. 21:8 But the [unforgiven] cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars -their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death." [God seems to lump the cowardice of father in this movie with an array of undesirables indeed. It indeed takes courage to say "No" in love and keep it "No" with love. "Cowardly" includes they who will deny Him (which includes His Word, which includes His instructions for us) rather than suffer confrontation or threat like Paul as he denied knowing Jesus three times [Matt. 26:34]. And Matt. 10:33 says "But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven." [Thank God He is a forgiving God.]
  • Jer. 5:6 Therefore a lion from the forest will attack them, a wolf from the desert will ravage them, a leopard will lie in wait near their towns to tear to pieces any who venture out, for their rebellion is great and their backslidings many. [The "lion", the "wolf" and the "leopard" can be any of the corrupting agents of the modern world (including entertainment), consuming the hearts of they who stray out of His Word and into their own.]
  • Matt. 26:34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.
  • 1Ths. 4:1-5 Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. It is God's will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his [or her] own body [which includes control of drives, touching, seeking, lusting (even after images), promiscuity, etc.] in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God;
  • 1Cor. 6:9-10 Do you not know that the [unforgiven] wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the [unforgiven] sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Isa. 13:11 I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.

    ***Selected Scriptures of Armour against the influence of the entertainment industry***
  • Ps. 12:8 The wicked freely strut about [e.g., create progressively vile/offensive entertainment with impunity and no consequences and present it to younger and younger audiences every year] when what is vile is honored among men [when enough people continue to defend it, embrace it, pay for it, enjoy it, want it, submit to it. I call attention to Ps. 12:8 to warn of the creeping desensitizing power of "entertainment."]
  • Col. 2:8 Beware lest any man [by his influence] spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
  • 1 Cor. 15:33 (KJV) Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (NIV) Do not be misled: Bad company corrupts good character.
  • Rom. 5:19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
  • Jude 4 For certain men* whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change [warp, distort, falsely represent, situationally redefine, counterfeit, conditionally apply] the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. [*men: anthropos {anth'-ro-pos}, generic, a human being, whether male or female]
  • Matt. 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto [or for] one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto [or for] me.
  • Luke 17:2 It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. [cause by teaching or example]
  • Ps. 119:133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me.
  • John 14:15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.
  • 1 Thess. 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.


    As always, it is best to refer to the Findings/Scoring section -- the heart of the CAP analysis model -- for the most complete assessment possible of this movie.

    Rebel Without A Cause (1955) CAP Thermometers

    Wanton Violence/Crime (W)
  • teen attempted assault of police with no consequences
  • threats of doing violence/harm to control/coerce
  • wishing for death to avoid misery
  • vandalism
  • Knife threat
  • knife to throat
  • knife fight with blood
  • teen death in car duel
  • double car theft
  • attack of father, attempted murder
  • assault, teens on teens
  • breaking and entering
  • morbid fantasizing about children
  • firearm for assault, repeatedly
  • gunfire to kill, repeatedly, once with wounding
  • attempted murder of police, repeatedly
  • return gunfire from police
  • illegal flight to avoid lawful capture
  • teen death at the hands of police

    Impudence/Hate (I)
  • marital friction
  • father slapping daughter for kissing him
  • teen girl claiming her father hates he
  • teen malcontentism, repeatedly, frequent
  • teen arrogance toward police
  • "I don't see what's so bad about taking a little drink" by father about teen son's drinking/drunkenness
  • teen screaming at parents, repeatedly
  • wish of harm on grandmother
  • parental/marital friction before teen
  • police usurping parents
  • teen insolence toward authority, repeatedly, including teachers and classroom discipline
  • lie for social equality
  • reactive arrogance
  • teen ignoring father's instruction
  • lies about friendship
  • overbearing mother, cowardly father - dysfunctional parenting
  • coaching son to lie
  • assault of mother
  • teen runaway to solve friction, three
  • hoods terrorizing parents
  • parental abandonment of son
  • lie to excuse absent father
  • physical assault, three teens on one
  • additional lies

    Sexual Immorality (S)
  • view of teen gril's legs clearly with intent to arouse
  • teens making out early AM in an abandoned mansion

    Drugs/Alcohol (D):
  • teen drunkenness
  • teen smoking, repeatedly

    Offense to God (O)
  • teaching big bang theory

    Murder/Suicide (M)
  • none noted

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    There are some in the entertainment industry who maintain that 1) violent programming is harmless because no studies exist that prove a connection between violent entertainment and aggressive behavior in children, and 2) young people know that television, movies, and video games are simply fantasy. Unfortunately, they are wrong on both accounts." And "Viewing violence may lead to real life violence." I applaud these associations for fortifying 1 Cor. 15:33. Read the rest of the story. From our more than eight years of study, I contend that other aberrant behaviors, attitudes, and expressions can be inserted in place of "violence" in that statement. Our Director - Child Psychology Support, a licensed psychologist and certified school psychologist concurs. For example, "Viewing arrogance against fair authority may lead to your kids defying you in real life." Or "Viewing sex may lead to sex in real life." Likewise and especially with impudence, hate and foul language. I further contend that any positive behavior can be inserted in place of "violence" with the same chance or likelihood of being a behavior template for the observer; of being incorporated into the behavior mechanics and/or coping skills of the observer. In choosing your entertainment, please consider carefully the "rest of the story" and our findings.

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