Rebel Without A Cause And Fatherhood

Last night I was channel surfing and trying to dodge commercials by flipping between shows.  It usually doesn’t work very well since every station knows to play commercials at exactly the same time.  (It’s a maddening conspiracy, I’m sure of it).  Then, I came across Rebel Without A Cause on PBS.  It was right at the opening credits.  Although I had already seen the movie piecemeal over the years, I couldn’t recall ever watching it all the way through from start to finish.  Here it was commercial free and I didn’t have to rent it.  If not now, when?

It’s hard for me to watch Rebel without thinking of Mr. Magoo and Gilligan’s Island thanks to the pop culture contributions of Mr. Jim Backus.  Nevertheless, it is a good, classic flick.  James Dean never loses his coolness factor in the passing of time.  It sure paints a stark contrast to the Happy Days portrayal of the 1950s.  Between Happy Days, American Graffiti, Rebel Without A Cause, and Grease, it’s not easy to discern what the 50s were actually like.  (I’m a child of the 60s and 70s, although I really like a lot of 50’s music).  In any case, being an adolescent can be tough no matter what era one lives in.  As Judy’s mom said, “It’s the age when nothing fits.”

No doubt Rebel Without A Cause has been analyzed into the ground over the years, but it gave me my own impressions.  The biggest thought it left me with is the importance of fathers.  Fathers are important to the formation of daughters and sons.  It’s just part of how we are designed.  Mothers are important, too.  Since I am the father of a son and a daughter, the movie spoke to me mostly about that.

I don’t have statistics to present here.  But I believe it has been well established how important fathers are to families.  The first step is for fathers to actually stick around and not abandon their families.  Plato’s father did not stick around (nor did his mother).  The fathers of Judy and Jim were present, but unbalanced in their approach to fatherhood.  Judy’s father was strong, but was at a loss when his daughter needed his tenderness.  Jim’s father was tender but lacked strength and decisiveness.

The movie reminded me that my family needs my presence (physical and emotional), my strength and my tenderness.  Jesus and his family are models of presence, strength and tenderness.  The Holy Trinity is a model of presence, strength and tenderness.

My daughter and my son need their father in similar yet different ways.  Every day I have to resolve to step up to the plate and give it my best shot with the help of God’s grace.  Even as I write this, my kids are beckoning me to play a game with them.  Time to step up!

2 thoughts on “Rebel Without A Cause And Fatherhood

  1. mgsmith2

    Thanks for the reflective post on fatherhood. As a father of 4, and with all of them either in college or on their way to college, I can definitely relate to your points. The two that ring truest with me are the need for a father’s emotional presence, and the juxtaposition of a father’s strength and his tenderness. A father who may be present but disengaged is of little good to anyone. And so many dads who don’t know Christ also don’t understand that tenderness in no way reflects weakness. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: it’s strength under control. (That could be separate blog post by itself, on the need for fatherly self-control through the Holy Spirit!) I would add one more thing to your list: A good dad loves and cherishes his wife, and makes sure his kids know it. Since we’re talking about movies here, think Steve Martin’s character on Cheaper By the Dozen and how he treats the mom of his brood (played by Bonnie Hunt). Again, great post, and I look forward to reading more from you.

    1. Thomas Post author

      Great points! So much more could be said about this topic. For example, there is a scene in the movie where Judy tells Jim that she sees his tenderness towards Plato as real strength (“strength under control” as you said). Interesting to ponder the lessons in movies. Haven’t seen that Steve Martin movie. I’ll check it out. Thanks for reading my blog and giving your input!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s