Fighting. Cursing. Stealing. Rape. Use of weaponry. What was all this? Young boys aren’t supposed to act this way! Oh Lord, what is this doing to their minds! How will they be influenced? This was the panic running through every adult mind with the release of Blackboard Jungle.
In 1955 the film industry was rocked by the release of the movie, Blackboard Jungle, making it one of the most controversial films of all time. But why? What made this movie cause such an uproar? The answer to that question is violence. Nothing so vulgar and aggressive had ever been released in the cinemas before, so to see it on the screen for the first time was an audacity to most adults leaving them in pure fear.
A war veteran, Rick Dadier, is followed on his journey in pursuit of ajob to support his pregnant wife. He finds himself in North Manual High School, an inner city high school with a rough reputation. Most of the boys didn’t even graduate. He might as well been thrown into a Lion’s den as opposed to the classroom. The students were the ring leaders, and disrespect might as well have been a rampant disease. Dadier could hardly mutter a word without interruption.
Even with his persistence of trying to get through to these boys in his class, drama continues and Dadier finds himself getting attacked after hours, and at a constant power struggle with the school bully. The conflict even finds its way into Dadier’s home, upsetting his paranoid pregnant wife.
Ultimately, Dadier wins the battle. He influences the top dog of the school, in turn winning over the respect of the rest of the boys. It all ends with a final rumble , where Dadier dramatically defeats the now cowardly bully. He is the ring leader now.
The plot of wasn’t the problem. It was the violence. All throughout the film the boys are being depicted in a horrific manner. It is not just their inability to listen or be respectful to adults that shines such a negative light on the males, it is their raw aggression.
In one of the first scenes a boy attempts to rape his female teacher, only to be fended off by Dadier. All throughout the film there are fight scenes amongst the boys, showing their lack of emotion and lack of moral thought put into actions. One group of boys attacked two of their teachers in an alley.
Disrespect was continued to be shown to their leaders and themselves throughout the movie. Stealing, smoking, cursing, fighting…all of these things were highlighted components in Blackboard Jungle.
This depiction of an American school system terrified people. Is this really what schools are like? Do boys really act like this? Oh goodness, how is this going to influence the young boys watching? What are the other nations going to think about us? Can we handle our youth? All of these questions raced through adults minds and they were very concerned that this movie was sparking a fire of violence in the eye of young boys to act as those in the movies did.
This film reached new heights for American cinema in a territory never been dabbled in before. The outrage created sent the youth into a loving riot. The opening song “Rock around the Clock” flew into number one on Billboard charts and left youths in an excited frenzy each time the song played at the beginning of the movie. Adults viewed this song as a terrible influence. It even became banned from being played along with the movie in some theaters as a miniscule attempt to blind the kids from a small amount of violence, which was ultimately useless given the context of the film.
Blackboard Jungle is either viewed as a catastrophe or a reality, but there is no denying it opened a whole new door into the world of cinema in the 1950s.
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edited: March 30th, 2015
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