When Director Nicholas Ray was asked what the goal of the characters was in Rebel without a Cause was. He said, “Look for a father.” Nicholas Ray himself fails to provide the suitable father image, either in strength or authority. This also presents behind the scenes of Rebel was a desire on the parts of James Dean , Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo to find their own father figures, this desire embodied the characters of Jim, Judy, and Plato. Not being able to get parental guidance or attention, Jim, Judy and Plato start out on an emotional quest to find a father figure, leaving behind their dysfunctional families in order to gain entrance into the adult world. This works out, however, it comes at a price, and the death of the third party, as characterized by Buzz and Plato, it’s needed for Jim and Judy not only to find or act out the role of and ideal parent, but also to complete the journey.
At the beginning of the movie we see Jim, Judy and Plato are at the Police Station . They all are looking for something in someone else. Jim’s desire is to see his father stand up to his nagging wife. Though Jim transfers this desire onto his father, however, his father needs the courage to act upon it. Jim hates being called “chicken” it sends him into a violent bursts, as it raises up negative images of his father, who is being “hen-pecked” by his mother. Jim tells Officer Ray that “She eats him alive” and he takes it. Jim says that, “He always wants to be my pal… If he had the guts to knock mom cold once, then maybe she’d be happy… I’d never want to be like him.” Jim’s father wears an apron over his suit and tie at home and is afraid to challenge his wife on her decisions overriding Jim. Jim’s mom is like a crocodile , trying to “clamp down” on Jim’s innocence and prevents him from crossing over into the symbolic world.
For Judy, lipstick has both pleasant and painful meanings. Her conflict with her father starts from her wearing it and his rejection of it. Judy tells the officer that her father “looks at me like I’m the ugliest thing in the world.” Her desire to get her father’s attention with lipstick and playing the role of daddy’s girl. Instead of showing his approval, he smears it off her lips and calls her a tramp. Whenever Judy kisses him on the cheek, he tells her that she is too old to kiss him. “I don’t want to stop,” she says, and when she kisses him on the lips, he slaps her. Jim and Judy’s parents may be difficult to deal with, but at least they are home with their children. Neither of Plato’s parents is even seen. Mentioning to Plato’s mother, Plato’s housemaid says, “Seems like she’s always going away somewhere.” About his father, she mentions that they “haven’t seen him now in a long time. The only attention Plato receives from his father is a monthly child-support check. Plato’s shooting of the puppies is an act of the imaginative; as puppies are eventually abandoned by their mother and never know their father. Even when Jim offers to give Plato his Jacket, is an issue to Plato’s search of contempt and parental actions of kindness.
The goal then, of Jim, Judy and Plato is to search for a model father figure, one who will offer them support and encouragement without abandoning them physically or emotionally, and who will support them in their journey through life. Of the three, Plato will never make the transformation.
"Senses of Cinema – Finding the Father: A Psychoanalytic Study of Rebel Without a Cause." Senses of Cinema . N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013. <http://sensesofcinema.com/2000/feature-articles/finding/>.