I have chosen the movie American Beauty. The movie displays the story of Lester Burnham who goes through a mid-life crisis which changes the lives of his family in a drastic way. Lester’s family comprised of his materialistic wife, Carolyn and his daughter, Jane who has low self-esteem, is rebellious and hates her own father. Carolyn has a job of a real estate agent who starts getting involved in an affair with Lester’s business rival, Buddy Kane. At the same time, Jane, too, falls in love with the boy who lived next door. His name was Ricky Fitts. He was a bartender who dealt with drugs secretly. Lester’s mid-life crisis turns so horrific that he was compelled to quit his job and takes up a job at the fast food restaurant. Lester starts developing sexual feelings for his daughter’s friend, Angela and tries everything to make Angela notice him. He also starts working out to gain her attention. Lester finds out about his wife’s affair and Buddy leaves and ends the affair because of the fear of divorce. Carolyn gets upset because the affair ended and she drives home with a gun that she had loaded. Frank, Ricky’s father, meets up with Lester and attempts to kiss him but Lester pushes him and walks away. Lester spots Angela and bonds with her and she excuses herself after a little seduction and goes off to the bathroom. Right then, an unseen person put the loaded gun at the back of Lester’s head and shot him.
Lester was the main character in the movie. He was portrayed as a man who is tempted very easily. His wife, Carolyn, was a materialistic and an unfaithful person whereas; his daughter was quite rebellious and had low self-esteem. Ricky is shown as a boy who had little ambition and he was involved in illegal ways of earning money. Angela, Jane’s friend, was a good girl but she had always lied when it came to her virginity. She liked to brag about her sex life but they were actually just lies. Each of the characters except for Jane focused too much on sexuality. They were easily tempted and for them, age and rivalry did not matter when it came to sex. All the characters were very much similar to what we would see in real life. For them, money and status mattered most and not relationships. In real life, too, people with the same status and occupation place a lot of emphasis on money but they value relationships as well. The movie characters were not at all realistic because in real life, it would not be easy to get engaged in sex with anyone and at any time. Also, it would be termed as sexual exploitation if a father tried to have sex with his own daughter’s friend. It is considered illegal.
The female characters are portrayed as unfaithful except for Jane but all of them seemed to lose their way in life. They could not decide what was right and what was wrong anymore. The two women, Carolyn and Angela, were shown being similar to sex objects and that they were easily carried away by men and exploited too. Such a thing displays sex role stereotypes.
The male characters were shown differently. Frank was shown as controlling towards his son, Ricky and was homosexual, too. He tried to develop a sexual relationship with Lester. Ricky, on the other hand, was engaged in illegal means of earning money. Also, Lester was shown as driven by a lot of sexual urges towards Angela. Age did not matter to him. The stereotype about men being driven more by biological factors as compared to females is indeed true.
I do not think the characters can be good parents. The parents in the movie were inconsiderate, controlling and ignorant towards their children. One thing that all of the characters had in common was going in the wrong direction. Each of them seemed to drift away from honesty and goodness. They were all too busy doing other things that they lost the purpose of their lives. They had the problem of being open to each other. In other words, they lacked communication and the ability to be understanding. Thus, if the characters lack such qualities, they can never be good parents.
I’ve selected Lester Burnham’s character. Lester had been facing many problems regarding his professional as well as personal life. He quit his job and started working in a restaurant. Also, his wife was cheating on him with his business rival. Moreover, his daughter hated him and he had also been having sexual fantasies about his daughter’s friend, Angela. Having such problems is actually quite common in real life. Unfulfilled desires, workload and frustration are the factors which lead to such problems. The problems and their solutions are very relevant to my text. The movie describes how people have problems which sometimes have adverse consequences.
Sex had dominated Lester’s thoughts towards his daughter’s friend, Jane. For him, age did not seem to matter anymore. He just had to get himself involved in a sexual relationship with her. He could not resist it. Such purposes are very common in today’s time, especially among teenagers and the middle-aged. Having sexual desires for someone other than the spouse has actually ruined a lot of lives in reality.
Sexuality had ruined Lester’s life in the sense that his wife was engaged in an affair with his business rival and Lester, too, had sexual feelings for Angela. Such things left Lester devastated. He had lost his job and what is worse that he also gets killed by someone unseen in the end. He got so involved in these things that he forgot to maintain and improve his life.
Leaving aside some of the disturbing occurrences aside, the movie serves as a paradigm of the whole American culture. The real message lies in the recognition of beauty despite all the problems we have in our daily lives. Some of the occurrences such as the affair between Carolyn and Buddy do not depict the American culture because this kind of a thing can happen anywhere in the world and not only in America. It represents other cultures in the sense that such problems as those of Lester can originate outside America, too. Cultural factors such as homosexuality, women’s role as sex objects etc. also play an important role in the movie.
The underlying moral in the movie is that we do not realise what we have got until we lose it completely. For example, Carolyn was cheating on her husband, Lester and his daughter also hated him. But once they lost him, they were shocked and confused. They were extremely sad and regretted doing the things that they did to him.
The movie portrays the message that sexuality is a very complicated issue. I think the movie has done a great work by highlighting such issues in a world which nowadays focuses on sex and sexuality a lot. The messages in the movie are both positive and negative. It makes us understand how careful we should be with our feelings, actions and words. It makes us realise that we should think before we take a particular action because our actions, if not regulated, can lead to dire consequences and sometimes, even death. I do not think that it is an appropriate movie for children and teenagers because it is during this time that they learn about sexuality and if they engage themselves in watching a movie like American Beauty, they might get influenced negatively and might start heading the wrong way when it comes to involving themselves in sexual relationships.
After watching the movie, it has become clearer to me that sexuality is not a small thing. It has a deeper meaning than what we already know. It is not just about engaging oneself in sexual activities, it has consequences, too. Therefore, it is necessary for a person to think before engaging themselves in such activities because it can lead to complete ruination if one is careful with it. It has, thus, brought about a great conscious regarding myself and my own sexuality.