The Angry Young Man Trope, Explained

Who gets to be angry? The “angry young man” trope came onto the scene as a working class anti-hero but has recently morphed into a social villain. In the 50s to the 70s, British angry young men like Look Back in Anger’s Jimmy Porter (Richard Burton), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning’s Arthur Seaton (Albert Finney) and Clockwork Orange’s Alex (Malcolm McDowell) challenged the upper-class focus of cinema. Over the years iconic angry young men around the globe played by Robert De Niro, Amitabh Bachchan, Spike Lee, Edward Norton and more became voices of disruptive political protest — some listened to and validated more than others. Recently, the figure has evolved into a controversial villain, as seen in Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) and Star Wars’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). More women and people of color are finally seeing their anger expressed onscreen and received with legitimacy, notable examples including Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Dear White People’s Reggie (Marque Richardson). Here’s The Take on the Angry Young Men (and increasingly Women) of film and TV, and the politics of anger as protest.


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