Jim Stark

Rebel WITH a Cause

Jim's problems concerning family and how that effects his choices

Jim's family life is a mess to say the least, but who's isn't? Jim's dad, Frank, is supposed to act like the "man of the house" but he doesn't. Jim thinks that his mom runs the family, and is in control of his dad. Jim states in the movie, "I mean if he had the guts to knock Mom cold once I bed she'd be happy.." They also constantly move, trying to make a "new start" but it never works out well. All these family problems effect Jim's choices in the long run. Jim sought advice from his dad in the beginning of the movie when Buzz challenged him to a race and the first one to jump out of his car was a chicken. His dad was weak and couldn't take a stand on the question, and therefore Jim went and did it, which resulted in Buzz's death. Jim then preceded to go to the police because he wanted to make his own choices for once, instead of falling into the steps of his parents and hiding in the shadows. This is the point of the movie when things started to change for the better, I believe. The end of the movie ended well for their family situation, when Jim ran into the planetarium, his dad stood up for him and said give him a chance, at that point Jim could tell he was starting to become more of a fatherly figure.

Character Growth

The movie starts with Jim in jail for drinking, and that's where you start to learn how messed up he is. Jim just moved to town and already had a bad start. His parents make him move around constantly, running away from their problems. Jim's parents are weak, especially his dad, when it comes to standing up for themselves, and for Jim. Jim doesn't have any friends, and he is very defensive. If someone calls Jim a name, like a chicken, he puts his fists up, and challenges them. He makes a bunch of bad decisions in the beginning of the movie, like racing Buzz, which resulted in Buzz's death. Towards the end of the movie I think Jim starts to see the light at the end of the tunnel. He finally makes friends, Plato, and Judy, and he stands up for them unlike his father who would never stand up for him. He is taking his own path in life. Jim is the hero at the end, he runs into the planetarium, and not only did Jim change for the better, his dad does too. His dad stands up for Jim, he says "that's my son, back down, give him a chance." The last scene in the movie, Jim introduces Judy to his parents, and they smile and it finally looks like they will have a happily ever after.

The Chickie Run

Buzz challenges Jim to a "Chickie Run," which is where you race two cars towards the end of a cliff, and whoever jumps out first is a chicken. In the movie Buzz's jacket gets stuck in the door, and he plummets off the cliff with the two stolen cars and dies. This scene symbolizes a lot of different things in the movie, like not having a fatherly figure to look to. Before the race, Jim conforms in his dad, seeking advice but his dad won't help him. He doesn't have anyone to be a role model, or fatherly figure. It can also represent where these teenagers state of minds are. They are willing to die for a stupid reason, like not being called a chicken. It symbolizes how desperate they are for people to like them and what they'd do just to get approval and recognition from their peers.


I think one of the main themes in "Rebel Without a Cause" is conformity verse individuality. There is a lot of pressure to fit in and conform to your peers as a teenager. If you don't follow the crowd and do what they do, you're going to get made fun of. For example, Jim didn't want to be called a chicken, and he didn't want "the kids" to think badly or weakly of him so he drag raced. How are you supposed to be an individual if you have to wear what everyone else wears, and do what they do? This is not just a problem in the past when the movie was made, this is a problem for teenagers everywhere today. Jim Stark never really "fit in" with any crowd, either because he was an individual or because he moved around so much. He was an individual from the start, but he did all he could to fit in. The character that was the other way around, that stopped conforming to the other kids and went on to be herself was Judy. Judy was rude and cruel to Jim when her other friends were around, and she knew it! She told him not to listen to her when she was with them. At the end of the movie, Judy left the kids, and went with Jim. She could finally be herself, and individual!

What elements from musicals like West Side or Grease do you see in any of the scenes from Rebel Without a Cause?

The movie "Grease" and "Rebel Without a Cause" are actually quite similar. In Rebel Without a Cause, Jim was the new kid who was trying to fit in and break loose from his old self. He especially wanted his dad to man up and stand up for him. In this movie, individuality verse conformity is a BIG deal. For example, around "the kids" Judy is super mean and rude, but when she is just around Jim, she is actually nice. In the movie Grease, a lot of similarities take place. Sandy is the new kid, and she was trying to fit in with the new crowd. There is a lot of pressure to conform to the ways of the pink ladies, like smoking, and drinking and sexual activity. She does not fall under pressure though, and she stays true to herself. Another thing in common was Danny acts way different around his friends, then he does around Sandy, just like Judy with Jim. Danny acts super cool and chill around his friends like he would never be able to treat a lady as another person, just like Judy does to Jim. I think in today's society, that's still a problem. People pretend to be someone they're not to impress people, so they lose respect from other people. Individuality verse conformity is a big theme in both of these movies.