Rebel without cause
Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend of diving into adjacent queer and queer past titles worth watching or revisiting.
The classic: rebel without a cause
Rebel Without a Cause has landed on just about every list of the greatest movies of all time. The story of three excluded teenagers who find the love and friendship they all so desperately crave still draws hearts 66 years after their release, and also enjoys iconic status thanks to the presence of actor James Dean. Having said that, we have to ask ourselves: do the general public realize how gay the movie is?
The plot follows three young offenders: Jim (Dean), Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo), as they are bound by their problems at home and their inability to cope with the pressures of young adulthood. Buzz, Judy’s boyfriend, suspicious of Jim, challenges him to a car race. When the race turns deadly, Jim, Judy, and Plato together set off on the run, fearing the consequences.
The movie, of course, features two beautiful lead roles in the form of Dean and Mineo, both of which are weird in real life. The movie also gives more than a few clues that Mineo Plato’s character – the slightly effeminate, love-hungry nerd – is also gay, and that his connection to Dean’s Jim goes way beyond the platonic (excuse the pun). . Screenwriter Stewart Stern, in subsequent interviews, confirmed Plato’s sexuality and expressed regret: he wished he had made it even more obvious that Plato was an outcast because he was gay.
As the mother of all delinquent teen films, Rebel Without a Cause has had a lasting influence on American style, culture, and films from Easy Rider to Do The Right Thing to Kids. The film also carries an unfortunate burden, as Dean, Wood, and Mineo all died young, the latter in an anti-gay hate crime. This weekend, we recommend you watch it as a tribute to his three main roles, as a window into the history of cinema and as an example of Hollywood’s early treatment of LGBTQ characters. We’ve always been here and weird, if you knew where to look.
Streams on HBO Max, YouTube, iTunes, and VUDU.