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Social Values reflected in the film American Beauty

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Introduction

________________ Question: With reference to American Beauty, discuss how the values of the time and place or production are identified and understood by the audience. ________________ Note- HOW THEY ARE UNDERSTOOD BY THE AUDIENCE. The dominant value of the time in the USA held towards homosexuality was one of acceptance and that it is clearly a normal way to live your life. This is clearly reinforced in the text, American Beauty, where the audience are presented with a respected and loving couple, ?The Jims.? Given the events of the time, Clinton?s push for gay rights through government, public outcry over a gay bashing of a student and sitcom Will and Grace with gay lead being released, the values of American people of the production pin the 1990?s are clearly reflected in the film. This is further enhanced through the portrayal of anti gay (yet closet-gay himself) Colonel Frank Fitts. His representation, cast in expressive negative light, for example shadows cast upon his face, and through his association with Nazi memorabilia, the audience can ...read more.

Middle

The negative portrayal of characters that desire ?material items? in lieu of happiness signal to the audience that this is not the right thing to aspire to. Whether it be Buddy?s failed relationship to the gorgeous bimbo or even Lester?s purchase of his ?dream car?. The conclusion of the film, the downfall of those who have sought happiness in this way, the realisation by Angela that truth and beauty go hand in hand and even the running away of Jane and Ricky to be happy together wherever they are, regardless of money- confirms to the audience the value the film believes and compliments the dominant value of the time. The surge in ?self-help? books released in the USA in the late 1990?s also reinforces the American people?s dominant views. Controversially the film challenges the dominant values held at the time towards recreational use of the drug marijuana. During the production period American citizens were strongly against the use of any illegal drug in any form. ...read more.

Conclusion

While Americans were coming to terms with this new, emerging attitude towards guns, American Beauty presents a strong case against the use of guns and for stricter restrictions on ownership. The film challenges the dominant value of the time by giving the audience several examples of where guns are used for different purposes- and all of them presented in a negative light. Lester is killed by a gun at the hand of ?psycho? Colonel Fitts. Carolyn (in the heat of an affair with Buddy) is advised to ?pop off a few rounds? for stress release- and when gun in hand is led to contemplate the murder of her husband. It is painted very clearly for the audience to see that ownership of guns is should be heavily scrutinised which clearly links to the ethos in the United States at the time. The film presents quite modern values yet are quite obvious and coherent for audiences to interpret. With additional consideration of the production period of American Beauty, it is clear to see the links and connections in a film not afraid to question the dominant beliefs of the time. ...read more.

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