American Beauty The Movie Essay, Research Paper
In the movie American Beauty we see a commentary about people in
contemporary society both as individuals and as members of families. I selected the
character of Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey, and did a psychological
examination on him using the biopsychosocial model.
I noticed many important details that had to be read under close evaluation which
represented the heart of Lester. He is a man weighed down with a soul-sucking job as a
corporate slave at a media marketing magazine. And he hates his life. He doesn?t have a
good outlook on much. He starts out as sort of a schlep with bad posture & is out of
shape. He jump-starts each day by masturbating in the shower, and it’s all downhill from
there. He masturbates because of the fact that he does not get sexually fulfilled by his
wife. Lester is slipping deeper and deeper into a hopeless depression, but ironically he is
downright lively about his own misery. He is so depressed but yet he has this feeling of
making a joke about it. I believe he is repressing feelings and trying to get others around
him to feel sympathetic. Biologically this depression could be from lack of serotonin
produced by his endocrine system. Which his psychological stress brang about the
neurotransmitter imbalance. Their could also be reasons for a genetic hereditary
component for his depression which did not manifest until later in life.
Many people would love to have the luxuries this man has and not think of the
severe problems with his family communication. Today their is not a majority of people
who do not live in a successful middle class society. Maybe his depression turned the
wife off and their for he created his own downfall.
His job of fourteen years is now letting him know how irreplaceable he is.
This makes him feel worthless. Which decreases his self confidence also. This is one of
Lester’s first snaps to his change . His second snap is when he has an eye-opening
encounter when he sees his daughter?s cheerleader friend Angela. Instantly he?s obsessed
with her and becomes fed up with his life. Ricky also has influences in Lester by turning
him on to some primo mind-altering marijuana. This pot might be a temporary biological
condition to dramatically affect his functioning in behavior that he normally would not
use. He provides an example for Lester on how to approach life. Lester calls Ricky his
“hero,” when Ricky unemotionally tells his catering boss, “Then don’t pay me.” Here,
talking with Lester was more important to Ricky than a paying job. This gave
Lester an example of how to view his horrible job. He even thinks back to his
past on how happy he was getting laid and partying, how he did have his whole
life ahead of him. But he remembers the feeling of irresponsibleness and not
being nervous to not have stability. He now discovered that he no longer feels
fulfilled in his job or his personal life and now attempts to make a critical shift in a
career and his lifestyle; A midlife crisis. The next day Lester snaps for good. He
turns in a devastatingly honest job description, which results in forcing his corrupt
boss to pay him a sizeable termination bonus. Facing a midlife crisis, Lester
looks at his life and decides to live it the way he wants to, he no longer can live
life like a prisoner: he quit his job and works at a fast food restaurant because of
the lack of responsibility, starts smoking pot, and begins working out in a
persistent hope to impress Angela. He sees in her something that has been
missing in his life. His physical appearance I believe made him also feel less
confident and had to do with his depression. As he became more fit he became
more confident. He also purchases the car he always wanted. One of his
dreams and fantasies coming to reality also like Angela.
He goes through a kind of decision to rediscover himself, he tries things
he’s never tried, or at least go back to things that he’s long-since forgotten.
Psychologically I believe in his unconscious mind is becoming more conscience
when he fantasizes and dreams about Angela. These sexual feelings have been
submerges into his unconscious thoughts and are now being repressed. They
are life instincts which constitute his libido. But his id cannot take action.
Eventually his ego is demanded by the id to move forward and make a pass to
Over the course of the story, Lester Burnham transforms his middle-aged
self into a lean and fit shadow of his former self. I think Lester is very much like a
lot of men in American life, who start out having certain ideas about the kind of
life they will have, but somewhere along the line, they get squashed down. I
believe Lester grew up in a family where the husband had to have certain
responsibilities to raise a family and be the breadwinner. He had viewed this
either from his parents or society itself. Their is an expected role that people
must play in society and Lester believed this until he suddenly realizes the lack
of honesty in his life, the lack of communication ? not being able to say what he
feels and do what he wants. He?s grappling with feelings that have long been
dormant, but have been reawakened in him. He begins to realize how precious
life is. A realization that?s in some ways too late. He feels like he?s been in a
coma for about twenty years and he?s just now waking up. His self-schema views
him self and looks at his role in society. He uses accommodation to change the
framework he is unhappy with. This is difficult and threatening, especially when
important assumptions are challenged.
Lester Burnham is suffering from a mid-life crisis that also affects the lives
of his family. Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband
and wife, in a perfect house, in a perfect neighborhood. They live all together
behind a mask for society to view them as normal. They want to be part of high
society but really they are not.
Lester and Carolyn may have been in love once but now they’ve grown
distant. It seems like when he was younger he fell in love with a fun and
energetic women who changed substantially by life’s responsibilities. They’re not
really communicating anymore. The wife sells real estate and puts a price tag on
her feelings. She cares about objects to much. She is a little too wrapped up in
her job and takes on an affair with business rival Buddy Kanes. The constant
social adjustments demand a change that is also considerably stressful for both
of them. Lester and Carolyn no longer have sex and this could be why he has so
much hostility. Their is no sexual arousal ness, it is absent. Lester is treated like
he doesn?t exist and he doesn?t even complain. He feels like he lives in hell.
Lester then rebels, he wants to live life happy and no one is going to stop him.
This shocks his family and particularly his wife. She usually has the upper hand
in the family and I believe that was because Lester was brought up by his
parents to be respectful to women and after time he let her rule his life. Until he
snapped. Because of learned behavior he knows that the nice guy finish last so
Lester changes. Because of Carolyn’s strictness and emotional abuse Lester has
become a victim and now he has the tendencies to become overly aggressive
and angry. Which is exactly what happens. Carolyn really doesn?t have any
insight into what Lester?s problem is, or for that matter, what her own problem is.
It’s no wonder that their sullen daughter, Jane has turned out to be one of
those sulky, selfish teenagers. Jane has almost become to hate her father. Their
is no communication their either. And when their is, he doesn?t take into account
his daughter?s feeling. Therefore Jane freezes them out. She wants a role model.
But she views him an angry, insecure, confused, and pathetic. He fells like he?s
not available for her. Even though, he does want to be. This parenting style of
Neglectful-Uninvolved Parenting is going to effect Jane for the rest of her life.
The consequences have proved in her low self esteem and their unavailability to
attach. The way society puts members into roles, Lester and Carolyn have
expected behaviors that will rub off on Jane and their for she will become just like
them. Because of the mothers childhood of being brought up poorly she believes
that Jane has a better life by having things at her age when really all she needs
is some affection. Because of the lack of communication in her family life, Jane
seems to fall in love with Ricky Fitts, the strange boy next door.
He realizes how easy it is to get bogged down in the routines of trying to
be successful, raise a family and keep things going. And that is exactly what
happened with Lester. In the end I think he finds quite a peaceful place, and
learns very important lessons about what’s most valuable to seek. He knows that
he cannot count on anyone except himself for his own happiness.