Who is really a chicken? Men who show emotions or the one fighting to hide feelings?
American men face the dilemma of figuring out how to be an “ ‘authentic’ American man,” and it seems that avoiding being “soft” and weak is how one becomes ‘authentic’ (Mitchell 134). It seems weird, right? To think that authenticity is something where every male is the same— every male is avoiding feelings, emotional confrontation, showing empathy, and compassion for the sake of remaining masculine and not-weak. The husbands to the ‘all American woman’ have mastered upholding their masculinity by releasing the bottled up emotions by “woods hunting, fishing, and/or camping,” but how do the teenage males keep up their masculinity (Mitchell 134)? Well, They do so by being the bad guy on the block, and in terms of the film, Rebel Without a Cause, they keep up this act even if it brings them to death.
Now to give a speedy synopsis of this film— Jim, a troubled teen in the 50s moves to a new town, gets into a knife fight with Buzz, a gang-leader and local, over Buzz calling Jim “chicken.” The fight leads to the two driving stolen cars to the edge of a cliff, and whoever stops first is the “chicken;” unfortunately Buzz gets trapped and dies. But I mean, come on! Is this what being an “authentic American man” should be? Bottling emotions up to the point of death. It’s absurd to think that teenage boys will be able to keep up this idea of masculinity when at this age, adolescents have difficulty controlling emotions; so their concept of being masculine is rebelling because it’s the best way they know how to express their feelings without being deemed as ‘weak.’ Rebel Without a Cause does an excellent job of showing how the phenomena of masculinity are actually toxic and can lead to death— or worse. This ‘authentic’ behavior isn’t healthy for men or teenage boys.