Features and Columns · Movies

Unpacking the “Angry Young Man” Trope

He’s young, he’s angry, and he has something to say. 
Angry Young Man Trope If Malcolm Mcdowell
Paramount Pictures
By  · Published on August 5th, 2020

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video that explores the angry young man trope.

These days, the “angry young man” has political baggage. And, because all art is political, that baggage follows the angry young man into the cinema. He’s masculinity in crisis: a very real, scary, and recognizable flavor of male violence that, unfortunately, isn’t just an on-screen trope.

But, while we might recognize today’s angry young man all too well, the long and complicated history of angry young men on screen is less well-known. As the video essay below describes, the trope originated in the kitchen sink dramas of the British New Wave.

Originally, the angry young man was a dissatisfied working-class hero defined by directionless anger that invariably ended in tragedy. As his reach became more global and less white, his purpose shifted towards political protest.

But, while the angry young men of communities of color have plenty to be mad about, as the video underlines, their anger is often seen as dangerous rather than heroic. As an aggressive and violent threat rather than a noble protest.

The question, then, is this: who are the angry young men we listen to? And who are the angry young men we challenge?

Watch “The Angry Young Man Trope, Explained“:

Who made this?

This video comes courtesy of The Take (formerly ScreenPrism), a channel dedicated to analyzing film, television, and pop culture. They specialize in the “ending explained” genre of video essays. They also have a sizeable library of character studies, director profiles, and symbol breakdowns. You can check out their YouTube account here. You can also follow them on Twitter here.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).