In the “Rebel Genre” there are three kinds of feminine prototypes: The Vixen, The Good Girl and the Rebel by Proxy. The Rebel by Proxy was an especially strong concept in 1950s and 1960s, when The (Male) Rebel was still being defined and the fact of his having a strong female lead was in negotiation. After all, we wouldn’t want The Rebel to be domesticated by love now would we?
Early on, at least, the female lead would typically transition between all three prototypes in the course of a narrative. The once Good Girl falls in love with the Bad Boy, becomes the Rebel by Proxy and winds up a Vixen. The Rebel is the one who “domesticates” her.
Typically, “The Vixen” in these rebel narratives are regarded as “strong women”, or feminist icons or whatever, but I have recently come to believe that in fact the Rebel by Proxy is the great feminist moment for the pop-woman. In film, the rebel story has to have a beginning, middle and end, which usually (for the sake of drama), will involve, as noted earlier, evolution of the characters. In music, however, we dwell in one moment. When it comes to girl-group tracks, the Rebel by Proxy is the privileged identity.
Leader of the Pack: The Shangri-La’s
Leader Of The Pack – Shangri-Las
He’s a Rebel: The Crystals
hes a rebel – the crystals
Run Run Run: The Supremes
Run, Run, Run – The Supremes
Like Judy, in Rebel Without a Cause (who escaped the narrative domination by the untimely death of her Rebel), these songs capture the great exhilarating human moment for us all: the first brush with love. As I noted in my post on Revolutionary Love, Che Guevara is often quoted as having once said “the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love”. This is absolutely true, and is why the Rebel by Proxy is the greater feminist personae.
Hers isn’t the Rizzo rebellion of the cocked-hipped, red-lipped Vixen. The Rebel by Proxy is the dullard, the girl-next-door, the “yes ma’am”, “yes sir”, “yes mah”, “yes pah” bore whose eyes have suddenly begun to sparkle with new possibilities: the first hope of alternative, defiance and the chance of escape. The Rebel love-object is but the discovery of a crack in the prison wall; not so fortified as was once fervently believed. She is wide open to the world– in this her rebellion is superior to jaded Vixen, her rebellion still has the undertow of passion, not hardened disappointment. To paraphrase Kristeva, she is in love, at the zenith of subjectivity.
The short-lived personae of the Rebel by Proxy is the pop woman’s great moment for hers is both a rebellion and a revelation.
Before she merely conforms to The Rebel’s will, the Proxy moment is hers alone. She disengages from the regime of the Good Girl– her future is yet unknown.
This is when a feminism takes place.