Character Portraits: The Angry Teenager

I think James Dean’s performance in Rebel Without A Cause sums up this type perfectly when he responded to the line ‘What are you rebelling against?’ with ‘What have you got?’

This type is culture specific.  It seems to only be present in Great Britain and the United States.  Yet when the place of origin is other than those two a miraculous change occurs.  Suddenly they are no longer the fearsome, sullen nether creatures but angels, almost.

Teenagers can only be traced back to the twentieth century.  Before then people of this age group went straight from school (sometimes at 12, other times even younger) into work.  They did not have disposable income nor time to spare.  Due to changes in circumstances and especially societal attitudes, we get a new ‘breed’.

Misunderstood because of the perfectly normal transition they are going through, they are tarred with the same brush.  Rebellious, angry, sullen, hate-filled, irresponsible, impulsive.  All the traits we associate with evil influences.

Anybody from Great Britain and the U.S. can see the correlation between the supposed reality and the character type.  We believe that one is a representation of the other which drives how we feel and act around them in real life.

Do we need this type?

No. This stereotype is harmful and perpetuates the myth that all people from this group are evil.  Society alienates teenagers so it is us who must change.  Until we as adults change then this stereotype will continue to exist.

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