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American Beauty

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In chapters fifteen and sixteen we learn about one’s decision making, self-identity, moratorium, adolescent egocentrism, invincibility fable, rebellion as well as many others. All can be viewed from the movie, American Beauty. A movie where the main character is middle aged, but I assure he has issues just as any other adolescent would have. Along with the supporting cast one being his wife the other high school students, we see the relation between adolescence.

American Beauty depicts modern dysfunctional families that appear to be happy on the outside, while on the inside they have tremendous deep-rooted problems. The movie begins to show many Freudian psychotic traits when unhappy Lester Burnham loses his job and begins a stereotypical male mid-life crisis by buying a red sports car, smoking marijuana, exercising maniacally, and fantasizing about younger women. He lusts after his daughter Jane's best friend a beautiful blond named Angela. Angela is really a virgin although she lies continually about sexual encounters with many men, this being an example of moratorium. She lusts after Lester as well (or so she says), and makes no attempt to hide the fact that she loves the father image in him. At the end of the movie when Lester gets his opportunity to take advantage of Angela's infatuation, he can't go through with it. He realizes that she is not the experienced woman she has made herself out and that he has envisioned her to be and she actually reminds him of his own daughter.

Freud believed very strongly in the Oedipus and Elektra complexes, the sexual attraction of a child to the parent of the opposite sex. What he doesn't discuss however, is the attraction, if any, of the parent to the child. In my opinion, while the parent might be closer to that child because of the child's affection, only a parent with horrible mental problems would act upon that. Lester's mid-life crisis, like other men who experience the same dilemma, is, in my opinion, a battle between ego and superego. As a man moves from being young and fertile to middle age, he wants to retreat to his more youthful days. While his ego is trying to hold him in check with relation to his past experiences, present responsibilities, and future aspirations, the superego is projecting an image of vibrant youthfulness that in reality the man cannot achieve. This gives him a feeling of inadequacy, which can affect other areas of his life. In the movie, Lester attempted to free himself of his current obligations and become a strong, healthy man like he probably was previously. By feeding his superego's need of young girls and sports cars, Lester embodies what most men experience in a mid-life crisis.

The Freudian term that comes to mind that best describes Lester's wife, Carolyn is "neurotic." She spends so much time outside tending to her garden so that the whole neighborhood can see what a good nurturer she is. Yet inside the house she is unable to nurture because her daughter and husband don't like her. Lester and Jane have nothing but contempt for her, though Lester has no problem with Carolyn being the primary money earner in the family. She attempts to escape the unfortunate scene at home by having an affair with her successful real estate competitor Buddy Kane. Lester finds out about their affair when they stop for a burger at the fast-foot restaurant where Lester has taken a job.

Freud, while not very interested in the psychoanalysis of women outside of the realm of sexuality, would find Carolyn intriguing. I think that he would point to her loss of nurturing in the home for her daughter and husband as the source of her problems. Because the woman's primary instinctual action is to nurture, once it was taken away prematurely, she was a lost soul. She tried to pour her energy

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