What is the significance of  Thunder Road to popular culture?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most significant elements to come out of Thunder Road was the idea of the underground rebel seeking to do right and to be right in a society that did not understand him.  The film's time period is significant here.  Coming out in the late 1950s and spreading into the 1960s, the film extols the virtue of the individual who is the nonconformist, against the system and seeking to do right by his own set of standards and his own code of conduct.  Lucas Doolin is a veteran from the Korean War, but must engage in the moonshine business for a living.  He is afraid his brother will follow his footsteps, fights off the law, as well as corrupt gangster enterprisers.  Part of the reason why the film became a cult classic was that its protagonist embodies resistance on nearly every level.  At the time, popular culture was embracing the rebel, the renegade with a cause.  Certainly, Lucas has that quality.  It is not surprising that the part of Lucas' brother was initially offered to Elvis Presley, the popular culture icon that embodied what it meant to be a rebel at the time.  It is in this element where I think that the film gains some level of significance to popular culture of the time period.


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