Abnormal Psychology: Case Study on American Beauty

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“American Beauty”, the 1999 film, is a motion picture that more or less shows a different side of the average suburban family. Although all of the characters have significant issues, I have chosen to take a closer look at Lester Burnham. Lester Burnham is a 42-year-old businessman who is married to the career-obsessed Carolyn and they have one daughter, a teenager named Jane. One of the first scenes of the movie explains how the family works: Carolyn is driving, just like she “drives” the family, Jane is sitting right next to her in the front seat, and Lester is slouched in the backseat, visually becoming more miserable by the second. Lester goes to work and is asked by an efficiency expert to write a job description to justify his position at the company. He doesn’t talk to his wife about it because there is a lack of communication, to say the least. Soon after Lester is forced by his wife to attend one of Jane’s cheerleading events and is immediately attracted to her friend Angela. He fantasizes about rose petals coming out of her jacket and she unzips it, and then shortly comes back to reality. Later that night while he is lying in bed, he closes his eyes and sees rose petals falling on him. A few days later he is introduced to Ricky Fitts, the new teenage neighbor next door. One night Lester sees Ricky catering at one of Carolyn’s business parties, which she forced him to attend as well, and they end up smoking marijuana outside. While outside, he witnesses Ricky casually quit his job. There was a bit of admiration exuding from Lester after watching Ricky quit so carelessly. Throughout the movie Angela continues to flirt with Lester, which makes him start lifting weights to get in better shape. He gets a job at a local fast food restaurant because there he has “the least amount of responsibility” and buys the car he’s always wanted. Lester’s emotional reactions to his problems turn into active manifestations of his desires.

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