Rebels and Outcasts: American Individualism in Film
The United States was formed around Enlightenment ideas of freedom and the rights of the individual. However, from the beginning, “freedom” has had many definitions and has been put to many uses in American political and social discourse; tension between the individual and the community has been central to Americans’ self-image in a way that has not been true of other nations. From its inception, American film has been fascinated with rebellious loners and social outcasts: characters whose individualism is not only “front-and-center” but often “in your face.” In this course, we will explore what these figures can tell us about certain aspects of the American self-image, in particular how this self-image relates to our evolving definitions of freedom, and also what these rebels and outcasts can tell us about the state of American society at the specific times when they have appeared. We will, in short, consider American film as an artistic, emotional medium created in a particular national culture, and also as a barometer of reactions to economic upheaval, social change, gender and racial tensions, and wars (hot and cold).