American Beauty Sociology

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The unnamed suburban neighborhood in American Beauty fits the typical suburban cliché, complete with perfect houses lined behind lawns mowed with militaristic precision and circumscribed by white-picketed fences. The Burnhams own a home that fits in that suburban cliché. The house itself is huge and has the typical front lawn adorned with red roses that, according to Smicek (2014), are symbolic because they emphasize the importance of nature in the suburbs, which happens to be one of the main reasons why people in the past decided to leave the urban industrial dwellings for the green and clean suburbs. Smicek (2014) notices another symbolism in the colors of the house, which happen to be red, white, and blue, to remind the viewer of the American flag…show more content…
In order to understand how the utopian idea of the suburbs negatively influences the characters’ life in American Beauty and how they get to lose a substantial part of their identity by conforming to existing ideals, this paper looks at five dystopian truths that hide behind the perfect suburban space of American Beauty including keeping up with appearances, using happiness as a disguise, having to repress one’s true identity, realizing the detrimental effect of material pursuit on substantial relationships, and experiencing the suburbs as a prison under surveillance.

4.1. Keeping Up With Appearances

Through various scenes and continuous voiceover narration by Lester, we discover how much work goes into keeping up appearances. His wife, Carolyn, is obsessed with perfection and pours a lot of effort in maintaining that image of perfection. Her red roses in the front lawn are just another example of her obsession with “surface beauty” (Smicek, 2014, p.45). In a brief morning chit-chat with her neighbor Jim, she subtly admits that her roses are not naturally beautiful and that they require a lot of care to appear beautiful to other people.

JIM
I just love your roses. How do you get them to flourish like this?
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