Did the films "Rebel Without a Cause" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still" serve as good historical artifacts for the 1950s era? How so? What did you learn about that decade by watching these films?

Essay by katelyn420College, UndergraduateA, May 2007

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Although movies may not be the entire truth about an era, they do provide us with historical artifacts for the time period that they represent. Such knowledge as the economic conditions of the era, the political views expressed, the music listened to, the clothes worn and the interactions of the world during that time period are all things that are conveyed by historical films. For the movies that we saw from the 1950’s we learned that these were times of rebellion, hate and fear.

The defiance of the era can be seen in the film Rebel without a Cause starring James Dean. The film portrayed a rift between the teenagers of the generation and their parents. The parents could not understand the attitudes of their offspring, because they lived during an entirely different economic time period. They lived during the Great Depression when families were required to pull together to survive.

They faced the fear of starvation and homelessness and therefore worked hard to get ahead or just stay alive. They did not have the time to question right and wrong when they were merely trying to stay alive. Their children, however, questioned everything, as they had the time to question non-life affecting subjects. The older generation could not understand how such a lucky generation economically could not be satisfied with what they had.

Another film that provided historical artifacts from the 50’s was The Day the Earth Stood Still. This movie provided us with a bird’s eye view of the cold war as it was portrayed in that time period. What made this film on man’s self-destruction even more powerful was seeing it through the eyes of non-humans. For only aliens could provide an unbiased view of the hostilities of the era. With the threat of nuclear destruction looming,