Long time no see! Sorry for my absence I'm getting back into the swing with a little piece I wrote about one of my favourite film characters, Judy, from Rebel Without a Cause.
Much of Judy’s emotional conflict comes from her father; she is torn between being a little girl, and being a woman, with all the sexual feelings that come with it. Her parents, like many in the fifties, appear to have given her very little guidance in relation to these emotions. Instead her father suppresses her love by berating her; at once telling her she can’t go out to seduce boys, but is not loved by him either. But its not just Judy’s father who is emotionally distant, her mother always seems to be in the background, never protecting or defending Judy. In many ways Judy is desperately seeking a complete and loving family. At the beginning of the film Judy is seen wearing a red outfit, she is the tormented lovelorn teenager, punished by her father, and seeking for a way of acceptance, trying to be older than she is. Judy’s confusion in part stems from the conflicting views of society, on the one hand she is encouraged to be a vibrant, sexy confident teenager by her own peers, on the other hand the more ‘adult’ world shuns her for it, trying to lie to her as a way of protecting her purity.
Judy’s initial rudeness to Jim is compounded by her knowledge that he knows how she ended up in the police station. She feels threatened by his knowledge of her more vulnerable side, and consequently puts on a great show of being a disdainful young woman, “I go with the kids”. Judy is very much the typical American teenager in this scene, her clothing is more relaxed, but she still seems on edge, still trying to vie for her place amongst the rowdy group she runs with. Judy is swept away with the gang’s risqué behaviour, going along with their stunts and violence; she is a silent pursuer of these moments, as if she is unable to go against the status quo, unable to discredit her adopted family. Her attraction to Buzz is fleeting, he represents a figure of power who does accept her, he gives her somewhere to belong, but it is evident that she finds the alienated Jim a kindred spirit.
Judy’s role becomes more active when she initiates the beginning of the chickie run, and the moments she shares with Buzz and Jim in the scenes leading up to it. Perhaps the most symbolic scene that depicts Judy is when she is standing at the cliff, looking over to where Buzz has died. All her other friends have abandoned her. She is completely alone, looking into the abyss, and she looks like a frightened girl. It is Jim’s hand of friendship that heals the wounds she has been carrying for a long time. He begins the new and more meaningful chapter in her life.
Through Jim Judy comes to the realisation that love does not have to be painful or hard, “I love someone, and it’s so easy”. Unlike the other people in her life Jim reciprocates this love with tenderness and honesty. The look of surprise on her face when he kisses her after declaring, “Nobody acts sincere” is one of amazement and young emotions. Her gentle, “your lips are soft”, is a tender moment. Judy realising the love she can have, that she has been missing, and the audience can see Judy wrestling and embracing the thought that she has met someone who is sincere.
They form a surrogate family around Plato, and Judy is able to step into the role of mother. It comes to her easily, and she seems at peace. Her maturation is evident. Giving the right relationships and opportunity’s Judy begins to blossom into a caring, tender young woman, someone who can dissipate the raging emotions previously carried within her.
Her tender compassionate and earnest looks at Jim reflect a love not shown by Judy to any other character in the course of the film. She loves him, and as she says it is “easy”. Unlike with her father who wants her to act a certain way, whose authority she looks up to, or even Buzz who also gives her a status, creating Judy into one of the ‘kids’, Jim simply accepts her for who she is, recognising the loneliness and confusion in her heart. Jim allows Judy to be her own age, neither forcing her back into childhood, like her father, nor making her more adult and confident like her gang.
It is Judy who replaces the dead Plato’s shoe, a final act for her surrogate child. Now armed with the knowledge of the best and worst of humanity Judy stands next to Jim, ready to face the next phase of her life.