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American Beauty Starring Kevin Spacey, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

American Beauty is a 1999 movie by Sam Mendes that depicts the everyday characters’  mental struggles and how they manage (or fail to manage) these issues.  The movie tells a story of American white, middle-class families that have psychological struggles.  The plot of the movie though not entirely, is focused on two heads of those families, Lester Burnham and Frank Fitts.  Lester stands a symbol of an American can caught in a crossroads of middle-aged agony, whose life unravels when his wife, Carolyn, begins to emphasize the value of her own professional life. As Carolyn places her professional ambitions ahead of her marriage, it becomes more obvious to Lester the lack of affection that is left for one another. Both fall victim to their surroundings, and even engulfed by it, when Lester begins fantasizing about his young daughter, Jane’s materialistic friend. Jane, on the other hand lies witness to both her parents’ callous behavior toward one another, and thus seeks to replace such a void by beginning a some-what destructive relationship with Frank Fitts’s son Ricky. Parallel to the Burnhams’ familial issues, lie the private lives of the Fitts’s, where hyper-masculinity and even indications of bigotry stands as the epitome of manhood. Frank’s inability to cope with his own sexuality leads to the emotional abuse of both his wife and son, who fall victim to Frank’s internal psychological dilemmas. The film illustrates the intersection of these family’s lives, as well as the ultimate eruption of self-awareness and identity in a changing yet stagnant world.

Coronel Frank Fitts, who has entrenched his past military experience into his ordinary everyday life struggles with internalized homophobia stigma which he does not dare to speak about. In fact, at point in the movie he speaks very negatively of their gay neighbors who live together as domestic partners.  When driving his school to work he tries to convince his son about the openness of their gay neighbors and criticizes them.  According to Gregory Herek, Ph.D., professor of psychology at UC Davis, has done a survey where he concluded that vast majority of humans who suffer from internalized homophobia stigma commonly have the following ideas in their head: I wish I was not gay, If I was given a chance I would become heterosexual , I feel  that being gay is a personal shortcoming of me, and I often feel it best to avoid personal or social involvement with gay men (Herek). Now, if we thoroughly analyze Coronel Frank Fitts, we can definitely see all those problematic aspects in his life. The first notion ” I was I was not gay,” is definitely present in his life, at least in the first half of the movie since in the second part he kisses Lester.  He does not confess it at all which means that he has a deep feeling of guilt which he tries to escape from. The second notion  “If I was given a chance I would become heterosexual” clearly fits his lifestyle. He was given a chance or perhaps forced himself into marrying a woman( who suffers from depression) in order to remain internalized and attempt to change his sexual orientation.  The next notion is “I feel that being gay is a personal shortcoming of me.” This was perhaps Frank Fitts’ most fundamental problem that he tried to overcome. He established his own lifestyle of living in a strict military regime and keeping his family under the same strict rules. In my opinion accepting the army-like personality was to overcome and distant his orientation and perhaps try to change it over time.  Lastly, the notion of ” I often feel it best to avoid personal or social involvement with gay men” was also depicted in the movie in a very artistic and creative way. For instance, when his new gay neighbors came to welcome them into their neighborhood he resented them very harshly to avoid any contact with them. Also, when he suspected Lester of also being homosexual he shied away from keeping any contact with him. All this was depicted in the movie, thereofre, I believe that movie successfully portrayed the character of Frank Fitts and correctly included the vital factors of internalized homophobia stigma. Overall, the disorder in the movie was portrayed exactly as it commonly is with people.

As already mentioned, Lester Burnham also suffered from a disorder, adjustment disorder with disturbance of contact. This disorder is perhaps one of the most common ones in the society and many people of all ages suffer from it. According to US-MD.com , one of the leading informative websites regarding disorders, states that some symptoms of disorder can be:  having no precise psychological problems prior to that even, lack of respect and decency towards others, and no longer complying with common grounds of society which can include stop paying attention to job, school, overall carelessness, etc. (US-MD) Some of the scenes in the movie go parallel with the actual symptoms that someone with this disorder can have. For instance, the first symptom, having no prior record of having any symptoms. In my opinion, Lester had no prior disorder in his life and lead his life quietly without having any major problems. When his disorder commenced to kick in he began acting quite abnormally.  The second symptom  of the disorder is -having no respect or decency for the surrounding people. The movie perfectly characterized that symptom too as Lester began adapting maladaptive behavior which did him only a little productive. By looking at Lester and thoroughly examining his behavior, one can clearly see the small elements in his life were relevant to his disorder and  his way of expressing his stress. For instance, buying drugs from his neighbor, craving for sex with an underage girl and turning in his objective at work, where he had maladaptive behavior. In sum, Lester Burnham (who was portray by Kevin Spacey) did a relatively good job in portraying someone with adjustment disorder with disturbance of contact.

I believe that this movie has been thoroughly studied before filming since it portrays the characters perfectly with their disorders and symptoms. The movie portrayed all the illnesses correctly but left out some portions which was left for the watchers’ critical thinking. The film addressed many fundamental issues about the illness and that family and overall the community should be more alert and seek help when it comes to serious disorders. The ending, however, did not really give a specific solution illness. In contrast, Lester was actually killed at the end. As  James Berardinelli, a renowned movie reviewer said, the beginning also killed the story of the movie when the narrator (Lester) said that he  was going to be killed It would have been more fruitful if this movie had more of a positive touch to its ending (Berardinelli).  In sum, this movie gives a good example for students about what disorders look like and their common symptoms. The only problem, as mentioned, was that it didn’t give out a proper solution to resolving the issues and confronting disorders.

References

Berardinelli, James, 1999, Retrieved from http://www.reelviews.net/movies/a/american_beauty.html

Herek, Gregory, 2006, Retrieved from http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/bibabs.html#abs2009d US-MD, , 2006, Retrieved from www.US-MD.com

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