Around 1950, Americans began to see signs of a new kind of discontent. A generation of young rebels started popping up in fiction and films -- Holden Caulfield, the characters played by Marlon Brando and James Dean -- who were fleeing from or revolting against the phoniness of American life and white middle-class adulthood.
America's iconic heroes had always included plenty of rebels, going clear back to the nation's founders, but white middle-class American adulthood wasn't what bothered them. Brando's and Dean's predecessors included weary figures like Humphrey Bogart's characters and anarchic tough guys like James Cagney's. They weren't young, and they had nothing against middle-class whites per se.