Peer Pressure and the Adolescent Waterfront

“High Noon” and “On the Waterfront” are my two favourite movies, and the latter is so, not just because of the, “I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am…” line. (Be warned: If given anything close to an opportunity, I will do a VERY bad Brando!).

Anyone who has ever spent time with adolescent knows that “peer pressure” is often a reason why teenagers sometimes make decisions that they later regret. In “The Parents We Mean To Be,” Richard Weissbourd offers this insight:

“Some of our great dramas have dealt with how teenagers and young people can release themselves from the low standards of others and develop their own principles.

In the 1950’s film, “On The Waterfront,” Marlon Brando’s Terry Malloy, a man who is guilelessly subservient to a union mob and still an adolescent in many respects, is provided with an idea of a kind of integrity, an ethic of responsibility for his community, by a local priest, a higher morality than the dog-eat-dog morality of the streets.

Terry testifies against the mob – he makes snitching honourable – and on the ground of this new ethic, on this piece of decency, a whole other life falls into place. He has an answer to the question that tortures him, the question of whether he is ‘somebody’.”

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