In the course of the twentieth century, the suburbs have come to take a larger and larger place in American society. They have been held out as a model for the best American society has to offer and even a particularly morally-worthy way of life. By and large, most Americans have accepted this view as evidenced by their desire to move to the suburbs when they can afford to. But the suburbs have always had their critics. The 1999 movie “American Beauty” presents a particularly caustic view of contemporary suburban life, illustrating how it includes some of America’s most prolific social problems – teenage Drug use, working parents and teen sexuality. In analyzing the movie’s five main characters, this paper focuses on the gap between the ideal picture of suburbia and what many critics believe is the reality of suburban life. Paper Masters can compose a custom written research paper on American Beauty that follows your guidelines.
American Beauty Characters
The movie “American Beauty” has five characters whose portrayals go against the ideals said to be found in the suburbs and the idealized images of typical suburban residents. Primary among these characters is:
- Lester Burnham, a suburban husband.
- He has a wife named Carolyn
- Daughter named Jane
- Their neighbors are an ex-Marine called Colonel Fitts and his son named Ricky.
Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey who won a Best Actor Oscar for his performance, is a forty-something man who is worn out and worn down by suburban life. In an early scene, he makes fun of his wife pruning shrubbery in the front of their good-size, attractive suburban home. It is not long into the movie before a stereotypical suburban scene, activity, and character are exposed as shams. Lester’ wife Carolyn is dressed up as if she were a fashion model to trim some shrubbery in the front of the yard near the street. Lester’s comment in a voice over it that it is no coincidence that his wife’s gardening gloves match her dress. This remark of Lester’s suggests the lengths to which suburbanites will go to conform to the conventions of suburbia. The suburban housewife is supposed to be fashion conscious and concerned about the appearance of not only herself but her home and property to maintain the suburban norm of keeping up appearances. Thus the criticism of being superficial that has often been leveled at suburbia is made by the movie.