American Beauty Essay 24

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Films are influential in our contemporary society, as they can present certain values that reflect society. Films either re-enforce particular values that we as viewers believe are important in society; or they challenge the values that we believe in. American Beauty is set in an upper middleclass white neighbourhood. The film revolves around Lester Burnham, a man who is struggling in an emotionally vacuumed marriage and living a predictable and tedious life. American Beauty both reinforces and questions particular social values that include success, family life, and being true to yourself. It is the questioning of these values, the ways of thinking and the longing of wanting something different in life that American Beauty presents to its audience.

In today's society, success is measured by wealth, a big house, and a happy family. In the film American Beauty, characters judge their personal "worth and value" based on how they are seen by others. As ‘success' in terms of a big house, happy family is normally unattainable by most, the characters in the film create an image. Carolyn states in a scene: "In order to be successful, one must portray the image of success at all times." Carolyn Burnham is obsessed with materialism and other's opinions of her and her family. She loves her house and possessions and to her these things equal success. She tries to surround herself with whom she perceives is also successful. She wants to represent societies' views on success. American Beauty challenges this concept of success, and puts forward the idea that success is simply being what you want to be, and being happy with life. Lester Burnham, undergoes a change throughout the movie, and changes from a person appearing successful, who really is not, to a man who is happy with who he is, and what he has in life. Lester quits the job which he hates. He buys the car he always wanted, and he connects to his youth by smoking marijuana, working out and with the help of Ricky,...
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