Unpacking What ‘American Beauty’ is About: A Closer Look at the American Suburban Dream

Unpacking What ‘American Beauty’ is About: A Closer Look at the American Suburban Dream

The 1999 film ‘American Beauty’ presents a scathing critique of the American suburban lifestyle. The film portrays the Burnham family, who outwardly seem to embody the perfect suburban dream. Lester Burnham, the patriarch of the family, is a successful advertising executive who is married to a beautiful and successful real estate agent, Carolyn. Together, they have a teenage daughter, Jane, who is struggling to find her place in the world.

However, upon closer inspection, the film exposes the dark underbelly of the American suburban dream. The Burnhams’ seemingly perfect lives are riddled with problems, including infidelity, drug use, and disillusionment. Their dissatisfaction with their lives is reflected in Lester’s now-famous line, “I’m just an ordinary guy, with nothing to lose.”

The film also highlights the emptiness of the consumerist culture that permeates American society. Carolyn embodies this culture, constantly striving for success and material possessions. She becomes obsessed with selling a house in a new development, which she believes will be the pinnacle of her career. When the deal falls through, Carolyn’s fragile façade cracks, and she is unable to cope with the failure.

The film suggests that the American suburban dream is built on a foundation of lies and illusion. Behind the white picket fences and perfectly manicured lawns lies a deep sense of unhappiness and disillusionment. The film raises important questions about the cost of pursuing the American Dream and the toll it takes on individuals and families.

Ultimately, ‘American Beauty’ is a powerful commentary on contemporary American society. It exposes the flaws and contradictions of the American Dream and challenges viewers to re-examine their own values and aspirations. The film serves as a stark warning about the dangers of living a life driven by material and societal expectations, rather than true fulfillment.

In conclusion, ‘American Beauty’ is a thought-provoking film that unpacks the complex and often conflicted nature of the American suburban dream. It presents a stark critique of the illusions that underpin American society and encourages viewers to question their own lives and values. The film is a powerful reminder that true happiness cannot be achieved through material possessions or social status, but through a deeper sense of purpose and meaning.

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