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Psychiatric/Psychologic analysis of the characters in the movie "American Beauty"

Updated on December 19, 2012
Lust
Lust
I was waiting for you!
I was waiting for you!
Nothing is worse than being ordinary
Nothing is worse than being ordinary
"Honey" "No Lester!You'll spill the beer on this expensive sofa"
"Honey" "No Lester!You'll spill the beer on this expensive sofa"
"Sorry!My dad made you feel uncomfortable!Don't mind him."
"Sorry!My dad made you feel uncomfortable!Don't mind him."
I'm going away with him.
I'm going away with him.

American Beauty is a 1999 American drama film directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball.It shows different characters with different kind of mental illnesses.Their illnesses brings many changes in the story. At first only a few of the characters seem to have some psychiatric illnesses but as we go on we can see that each and everyone has a certain psychiatric illness.

Lester and Carolyn Burnham are on the outside, a perfect husband and wife. Lester Burnham's wife Carolyn, who's cheating on him, hates him.His daughter Jane regards him with contempt, and his boss wants Lester to quit his job as he finds Lester of no importance. When one has got nothing to lose, one might as well risk everything. Provoked by pitiful life he had , Lester decides to make a few changes in his life to keep his spirits high. The freer he gets, the happier he gets, which troubles his wife. Fantasies begin after he develops the feeling of lust towards Jane’s beautiful friend Angela. But Lester Burnham is about to learn that the ultimate freedom comes at the ultimate price. Meanwhile, his daughter Jane develops a friendship with a shy new neighbour named Ricky, who lives with a homophobic father.

At first Lester seems to be very patient. He bears everything his wife tells him. He's identified as an under-performer at the office and they want to dump him . He's sexually frustrated but tries to be peaceful. But when things finally seem out of control he becomes rebellious. He smashes his plate on the wall. He even tells his wife “You don't get to tell me what to do ever again!”. This is when he periodically gets out of the passive mode and speaks against his dominant and egoistic wife. This shows that he has a Passive Aggressive disorder.

His wife Carolyn is a real estate sales woman who is very ambitious. She is a very materialistic, impatient and self centered lady. She doesn’t take into account the feelings of anyone, neither her daughter nor her husband. She wants everything to look perfect. She gets irritated if anything looks shabby. She portrays a Narcisstic type of disorder.

His daughter Jane hates her father and herself. She is disturbed with what’s going on between her parents and her father’s lust towards her friend. She gets embarrassed over her father falling for her best friend who is of her same age. She admits herself that her dad causes a massive psychological damage on her. She has a borderline disorder as she feels that she is the victim of her parents and they don't understand her.

Angela also possess Narcisstic type of disorder. She believes that she is born to be a star and nothing seems to upset her than being ordinary. She loves to get attention and defames those who don't think she's awesome. She gets hurt when Jane’s boyfriend tells her that she’s not beautiful and she’s just ordinary. She lies about her bed performance in order to impress Jane. After being praised by Lester that she’s very beautiful and she isn’t ordinary she decides to go to bed with him. Later she reveals the fact that she’s still a virgin and really gets embarrassed about it.

Ricky Fitts is obsessed with videotaping almost all things. He finds beauty in things that he videotapes. He wears strange clothes,.He did a strange kind of declaration of love to Jane. He is not like other people of his military academy.He also has an aggressive over-reaction to bullying which caused him problems. He doesn't seem to realize the distance between the videos he captures and the real people in his environment. He portrays Schizotypical disorder.

Similarly Brad who is Lester’s boss has Narcissistic disorder. He wants to get rid of slow worker Lester. He even tries to decide who is important and who is not important in the office. He doesn’t look into the fact that Lester has worked there for a long period of time.

Ricky's mom Barbara Fittz has an Avoidant disorder. She stays in home all the time and becomes very cautious when her son leaves the house.She is not very social but she seems to have a mild social phobia.

Fittz who is Ricky’s dad is a protagonist with an exceptionally large gun stock. Fittz gets angry because his son 'has no respect for authority'. He is physically violent and wants his son to respect his authority. Since he was in the marine he’s very strict about rules and regulations. He also projects his unconscious fear of being gay on his son. He believes it is necessary to be disciplined. He periodically checks his son for drugs. He says he would rather wish his son death than gay. However in the end he turns out to be a gay himself. Fittz shows a paranoid disorder.He is a homophobic as well.

Kane displays Narcissistic disorder. He pretends to be very successful. He even tells Carolyn that in order to look successful one should project the image of success. But he’s not happy deep inside and feels alone. He calls himself 'the King' in the bed scene to make it seem that he is superior to others.

Thank you friends.Please comment and tell me if you know more about the other psychological problems they've portrayed.

I'm Lester!
I'm Lester!

Have you watched the movie 'American Beauty'?

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    • profile image

      PsychStudent 

      3 years ago

      Jirel, thanks for the article. I'm not sure I agree with most of it but it was interesting to read. Some of the traits you listed, like passive aggressive, would be considered a symptom and not an actual disorder.

      PseudoscienceOverThere: Angela actually does meet some of the criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder and displays some narcissistic traits in the movie, and it is an actual disorder that is diagnosed by professionals using the DSM5. Also, you do not need a control group in order to make a diagnosis; as long as someone meets criteria for a specific disorder, no control group is needed because the specific criteria for each disorder take "normal" (control) behavior into account.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      4 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you pseudoscience for dropping by and leaving your comments. What you said does makes sense.:)

    • profile image

      PseudoscienceOverThere 

      4 years ago

      This is just ridiculous, giving every single character in this film a psychiatric disorder immediately takes away any credibility of the author. Take Angela for example, she isn't narssicistic at all, and even if she was, that isn't a disorder-its a quirk of human nature. A person like her would have grown up with such a shattered sense of self-worth that the only coping mechanism to deal with highschool would to be to project an image of a girl she wishes she was: a "perfect" hypersexual teenager that could receive male attention with no effort whatsoever. She tried to emulate this multiple times in the film, such as talking about her gig as a "model" and by trying to get Lester and Ricky to pursue her sexually, Lester didn't reject her as Ricky (and probably most other men in her life) did giving her the satisfaction that her ruse worked. This sense of finally feeling wanted was then enough to make her eager to let this fairly foreign man take both her heart and virginity. I would not be surprised if having lesters attention made him a father figure to her, possibly filling a void from her childhood. As a sidenote to the author, to assess whether or not people have a disorder, you must have a control group with no disorders. I'd be interested to see how few and how messed up these "perfect" people are.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      4 years ago

      Clever character analysis. Yeah, it's just one of those movies in which everyone has serious problems. Good hub.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      5 years ago from Philippines

      yes!!I think so too.Thanks for leaving your insightful comment friend:)

    • profile image

      hindsight 

      5 years ago

      Am I the only who thought that Rickie's mom was getting smacked around by the dad. I think that is why she seemed so detached; she felt trapped in an abusive relationship.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Sam!:)

    • sam209 profile image

      sam209 

      6 years ago

      Nice hub! I got to vote up on this one!

    • profile image

      Nancy 

      6 years ago

      Its interesting.Nice analysis.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Its very encouraging.Thanks.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      yeah!I read my hub again!I found lots of errors and the pictures were very few.I'm learning to format this page as I'm new to hubpages.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      I watched it just once.Actually I had to submit an assignment on psychiatry regarding this.I've edited it again so that there wont be any errors.Thank you.

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Angel:)

    • jirel profile imageAUTHOR

      jirel 

      6 years ago from Philippines

      Thank you Randy!:)

    • profile image

      angel paree 

      6 years ago

      nice one....

    • profile image

      randy1991 

      6 years ago

      Nice article, thx for sharing!

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