James Dean and Sandra Dee in the Re-Generation
This chapter introduces the concept of “star legacies” to describe the way that figures from film and music in the Re-Generation referenced the star texts of Fifties icons like James Dean and Sandra Dee. The “rebellion” or “conformity” that these stars respectively represented to the Re-Generation is a transformation of their screen images in the 1950s. Considering claims on Dean’s star legacy in music and videos from John Cougar Mellencamp and Morrissey, as well as in Re-Generation teen films like Reckless (1983), Footloose (1984), and Heathers (1988), this chapter reveals how Dean served in the Reagan Era as a symbol for various kinds of masculine eroticism, authenticity, and “cool.” While Dean’s star text was continually lauded, Sandra Dee’s legacy was almost universally rejected, as the song “Look at Me, I’m Sandra Dee” illustrates.
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