Sunday, 23 September 2012

American Beauty // Lester Burnham

Todorov's narrative structure

At the beginning of American Beauty, the normal 'household' contains fighting, unhappy family members and a dysfunctional marriage. The main characters Carolyn, Lester and Jane are having family problems as both women think Lester is a loser and not good for anything. Lester himself is having to face losing his job and he also has no male dominance in the house. 

Disruption (disequilibrium)

Lester starts to lust after Jane's friend Angela and fantasizes about sleeping with her. New next-door neighbors move in and the son of the family, Ricky, is seen as a freak as he videos everything because he thinks it's 'beautiful'. Ricky's dad is a homophobic, military based man who drilled discipline into Rickey's mind by putting him in a metal hospital. 

Recognition of disruption

Jane finds out Lester wants to sleep with Angela and Jane warns Angela not to sleep with him because is her dad and he's a loser. Jane finds out more about Ricky and see's that he isn't as weird as she first thought, and she finds befriends him. Ricky is accused of being gay by his dad.

Attempt to repair disruption
To get away from his controlling dad, Ricky says he is in fact gay and his dad throws him out of the house. Ricky then asks Jane to run away to New York with him and she says yes. Lester chooses not to have sex with Angela as she is a virgin and then asks about how Jane is doing, because he cares about his daughter. We also find out Ricky's dad is gay and that's why he is so homophobic; he's hiding a secret that is released when he tries to kiss Lester.

New Equilibrium

After being rejected by Lester, Ricky's dad shoots him and the family is forced to live in a world without Lester. The old equilibrium isn't restored as Lester is dead, but the film ends so we can't see how the other characters cope with the loss. 
Lester Burnham

Lester Burnham is the male role lead in American Beauty and despises life at the beginning of the film. 
He is seen as a loser by his wife and daughter, and we can see he feels trapped in his body and life, due to his actions and the things he says.
In this film he is represented as a middle aged man in difficult circumstances who is passive aggressive and then finds his voice. 

He is seen as the victim in this film as everyone hates him, but he's just trying to get on with life and do the best he can. We feel sorry for him as he is sexually frustrated, seen as lazy at work and his daughter plans to kill him in the establishing shot. It seems the only thing he enjoys in life is getting high, until he meets his daughters friend, Angela and starts to fantasize about her. This represents him as a slightly deranged man, but desperate for love and intimacy. 
In the end we feel sorry for him, as he is shot by his next-door neighbour because he rejected him, due to the fact he wasn't gay. 

No comments:

Post a Comment