Blog Assignment #1: American Beauty: Roses are a thorny subject

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abAmerican Beauty, a 1999 film directed by Sam Mendes, is a story about a stereotypical American family living the “American Dream”, or so thats what we are made to believe at first. The film starts off by portraying traditional stereotypes of what people believe is the “American Dream”, wife/husband, teenage daughter, a happy family. According to modernism, that is what the media leads us to believe we should strive for, the social norm so to say. And then, from modernism, we got this thing called post-modernism. Post-modernism came about, and we, as a society, began to analyze dominant cultural tropes. So, this image of the “perfect family” shortly comes to an end as it is obvious that this family living the so called “American Dream” is going from some pretty challenges of their own.

Metatheatricality: blog1 refers to a device in which a medium reflects or comments upon itself. For all of you English lit fans, remember Hamlet? The play within a play? American Beauty’s final scene, the cut of the plastic bag “dancing in the wind” essentially is a film within a film. Albeit it’s not a serious film, but it does well to remind us of the monologue that we heard a few scenes ago. All about the hope and beauty in the world and all that fun stuff. However, it’s tongue in cheek. It leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths because of what this cut followed: Lester being shot in the back of the head in his own home after shamelessly groping his daughter’s friend. Unlike other movies (i.e. Forest Gump), where the final monologue is supposed to be heartwarming, American Beauty defies that final moment.

Also: blog2Forrest Gump and American Beauty can be related side by side because each questions the idea of common American values through off screen voice overs. While Forrest Gump has thoughtful, but simple ideas, his monologues fill audience members with sincere emotion. This is definitely not the case with American Beauty. While Lester’s monologues do say something about the human condition pertaining to America, his monologues come off as a kind of stand up routine.

Lester is an office worker who is going through a midlife crisis. When he and his wife go to see his teenage daughter, Jane, perform a cheer routine at a school game, it is as if he is struck by cupid when he sees his teenage daughters best friend! It was like some awkward love at first sight scene in a romance film, but so much more disturbing. He is completely in love (lust) with this teenage girl! (gross)

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Lester is seen as this shy and unassuming kind of guy who just gets “taken in” by a seemingly promiscuous teenage girl.

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Žižek might say that this film removes responsibility that Lester, as a father, might have as an adult and shifts blame for any problems that he has onto his daughters friend.blog4

As for desire, desire takes the form of Angela.

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Lester wants her from the second he sees her and fantasizes about her often. He starts working out so he can “look good naked”. He also begins smoking weed and gets a job at a fast restaurant to “regain his youth and wake up from this dream he has”. However, once he realizes that Angela is a virgin he doesn’t act on his desire because that would be “wrong to steal beauty from her.”

As I mentioned earlier, the anticipation the audience gets about Lester sleeping with a teen girl is continuous. But, because he dies the realization of that desire is never fulfilled. Which agrees with Zizek’s point that cinema is perverted because it tells you how to desire, but never really gives you what to desire.

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Django Unchained

So, I was pretty excited to watch Django Unchained this week in class. Considering I am a fan of Jamie Foxx, I’m surprised that it took me this long to see it. I’m not really a huge fan of Quentin Tarantino’s work, he’s kind of whatever to me to be honest (some people might argue with me on that), ESPECIALLY his 1994 film, Pulp Fiction, like…why is that even a thing?! But, getting back to Django. I didn’t know what to expect before watching this film. All I knew is that it was about some guy name Django, with a silent D, and I thought it was about him being a slave and living through the struggles and what not. I guess it kind of was, not really, I guess he WAS a slave but thats not what the story was about. Django was basically just a boss, at least I think he was. Yeah, of course the movie involved slavery, and how awful slaves were treated, but I didn’t really see it as a “slave” movie. My POV of it is that Django just wanted to find his wife and enjoy freedom with her, and he succeeded. After a whole lot of shooting, “ketchup” blood everywhere, and a couple jokes here and there making the audience giggle a bit, he was able to get what he wanted. I know a couple of my fellow “caucasian” classmates mentioned feeling somewhat guilty after watching this movie, but honestly…why? Am I a bad person for not feeling this ‘guilt’? I don’t know. Everything that African Americans went through during slavery was absolutely terrible (and unfortunately, racism is not dead). But I personally just saw this film as an entertainment aspect. It didn’t make me feel the same way a film such as 12 Years A Slave would make me feel, it was completely different in my eyes. People also mentioned how Tarantino really overused the use of the word, but do you really think thats not how it was then? Because I do, and yes, to THAT extent.

But anywayyy…I’m rambling on now. My thoughts are all over the place. Point is; LOVE Jamie. And Django…well…

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boss.

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Watch and Wonder

Student at York University, enrolled in THEA 3225. Avid movie lover who is discovering new movies everyday.

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