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American Beauty/Leave It To Beaver

10 Pages 2528 Words

“American Beauty is a brilliant satirical diagnosis of what’s most screwed up about life in this country (Berardinelli, 1999: 1). American Beauty is an amazing film that explores the nuclear family at the turn-of-the-century. It is unique because it does not show the family as it ideally should be but, rather, as it really is with all of its imperfections. The portrayal of the nuclear family in American Beauty has changed dramatically from how the nuclear family was portrayed in the 1950s television sitcom Leave It To Beaver. Douglas Kellner stated that “Films … can provide information about the ‘psychology’ of an era and its tensions, conflicts, fears, and fantasies. … Films refract social discourse and content into specifically cinematic forms which engage audiences in an active process of constructing meaning.” American Beauty is a powerful film because the majority of society can relate to the Burnhams. “It is a comedy because we laugh at the absurdity of the hero’s problems. This film is a tragedy because we can identify with his failure – not the specific details, but the general outlines” (Ebert, 1999: 1). The audiences can relate chiefly to Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, and admire his rebellious spirit. However, the audience can also feel affiliation with his wife Carolyn, played by Annette Benning, and his daughter Jane, played by Thora Birch. Although society may view episodes of shows such as Leave It To Beaver with sentiments of nostalgia, it is difficult for society to be able to connect with any of the characters.
“Perhaps no other institution in our culture is as burdened with ideals of perfection as the family. The vision of firm-but-gentle Dad, sexy-but-nurturing Mom, and the goofy-but-lovable kids infuses the media and becomes the standard against which family normalcy often gets measured” (Coontz, 1989: 18). If any family has ever met these expectations of perfec...

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