Family Life in "American Beauty"

Essay by sansimi February 2005

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Family life in American Beauty

I. Introduction

II. A view on the contemporary American family

a) The (stereo)typical American family - Does it exist?

b) Gender roles and marriage

c) Women in workforce - Masculinity in crisis

III. The Burnhams - A suburban family drama

a) A modern double-career family - the Burnhams

b) Out of the monotony - A bit on the side

c) The effect of being dishonest - A family disbands

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

I. Introduction

It probably took me more than 3 years after its coming on screen in 1999 that I felt like watching American Beauty. I confess that I did not know what the movie was about. Just from looking at the posters advertising the movie everywhere at the time the film was released, I presumed that it would be about teenage love and relationship. "Not another one of those high school-teenage-first love movies," I thought, "This is really something the world doesn't need anymore!" The average school life of teenagers presented in this sort of movie is so distant from the school life I experienced, that I hardly felt the urge to watch any more of these films.

I was sick and tired of the homogeneous, uniform American youth film type, where rich kids look down on their poorer classmates and ugly ducklings transform miraculously into swans. "Some kind of wonderful", "Never been kissed", "She's all that", etc. are just three out of numerous movies which all operate under the same scheme: The wealthy school kids are beautiful and popular, yet often dumb and conceited; and everybody wants to be near them or even join their elitist clique. The poor (which means average) students are on the whole intelligent and upright, yet unattractive and lonely; and they either desperately want to...