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Does having liberal parents make you a rebel without a cause?

This post is sponsored by Sydney Theatre Company.
Photo credit: Harry Greenwood and Sarah Peirse in Sydney Theatre Company’s Fury. Copyright Lisa Tomasetti 2013.

By KAHLA PRESTON

When young people are driven to rebel, they express themselves in a variety of ways. Some acts of rebellion are amusingly benign; others are radical and ideologically driven.

The motivations behind these acts are equally diverse – politics, anger, isolation, a yearning to be noticed. Yet further below the surface there often lies a common thread among the rebellious: a desire to challenge their upbringing and to set themselves apart from their parents.

For some young people, pushing against parental expectations and values is a necessary step to define themselves as individuals – and therefore avoid turning into their parents. It’s a theme pop culture and literature has covered for years, through the ‘disaffected youths’ desperate to distance themselves from the socially conservative and claustrophobic beliefs of their mums and dads.

However, when your parents don’t display these rigid authoritarian characteristics, taking a stand is less straightforward. How do you rebel against parents who areliberal, tolerant, and supportive of individual freedoms – and who were probably ‘radical lefties’ during their own youth?

Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith thrusts this question into the spotlight in her latest production, Fury. The play focuses on Alice and Patrick, a happily married upper-middle class couple with an enviable lifestyle: they both have stimulating, successful careers – Alice is a top neurosurgeon and Patrick a bestselling author – and proudly maintain a liberal, tolerant outlook despite their social standing.

So when their teenage son Joe commits a hate crime, the couple’s seemingly idyllic world is shaken. Bewildered and ashamed, they initially look to Joe’s peers, modern social pressures and other exterior influences to find the answers – they can’t quite fathom that an upbringing based on open-mindedness and compassion could result in their son acting so radically. Yet Alice and Patrick are eventually forced to turn the focus onto themselves and question whether Joe’s anger comes from a source closer to home.

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Fury’s themes are thought-provoking because they speak to the current generation of parents – those who were once famous for their youthful protests and passionate beliefs. To this day many retain strong, left-leaning views of right and wrong, but the way they articulate their beliefs has changed radically since their younger days – in fact, in Murray-Smith’s play it might even seem that the radical youth of the past have now ironically become the ‘bourgeois’ they once railed against.

Rebellion is born out of restrictions and being told ‘no’. So how does it work in households where parents have seen and done it all themselves? In attempting to differentiate themselves from their parents, are some young people simply echoing the youthful emotions their parents encountered a generation ago? Playwright Joanna Murray-Smith thrusts this question into the spotlight in her latest production for Sydney Theatre Company, Fury.

Fury plays until 6 June at Sydney Theatre Company’s The Wharf. Tickets from $55 here.

Book a ticket to see STC’s Fury and enter the draw to win a pre-theatre dinner for two at Neil Perry’s Rockpool on George. Book online here before midnight May 12 using the promo word MAMAMIA to enter the competition.

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Did you rebel against your parents and why? Or do you have children that rebel and how do you handle it?

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