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In Answer to a Friend

It sounds like you were very offended by "American Beauty".Are you are familiar with Diane Rehm who does an interview show that isbroadcast on public radio? She has been in the business and long time andis recognized as one of the best. One day she gave an opinion of AmericanBeauty that was as disparaging as yours. On the next show, she acknowledgedthat she had received more listener response to those comments than toanything else she had said in all her years on the air, and that most ofthe comments were in favor of "American Beauty". Most of the comments alsomentioned the the key image of bag blowing in the wind.
Taking a step back from American Beauty, I see it asunhealthy people in a unhealthy environment. Another friend of mine wentto see American Beauty with a guy who thought the drug dealing teenagerwas the healthiest character. I agree more with my friend who said thatthe teen was not healthier, but rather that he was just more adjusted toan unhealthy situation. The characters were so stark in their differences.The ex-marine was the epitome of military strictness in sharp contrastto his meek, terrified wife. Yet all their lives were so empty as if theywere the discarded bag that was blowing in the wind.
American Beauty portrayed many behaviors that were unhealthyand/or immoral including selling drugs. I share your concern about filmimages as a model for behavior. I even cringe a little when I see actorssmoking cigarettes let alone dealing in drugs. I have three daughters,now adults, who would say watching poor role models was okay because themovie was just entertainment, and they were not even thinking about whatthey were seeing. Telling me they were "not thinking" was even more upsettingto me as a concerned parent than what they wanted to watch. How could theykeep from being unconsciously guided by what they were seeing if they were"not thinking"?
When I watch a film, a large and critically importantpart of me is not on the screen with the actors. Either above or behindthe actors is an implied author who often has a different perspective andopinion. Just because the middle aged main character in American Beautywas willing to sexually pursue  a teenage girl does not mean thatthe maker of the film shared the same view. Part of me also sits aboveor behind the  implied author. Drugs are much more offensive to methan to the characters in "American Beauty" who glorified drugs or to theimplied author who seemed non judgmental.

Live plays are more likely to be viewed with this multipleperspective because it is easier to be aware that you are sitting in thetheater at the same time you are empathizing with the character on stage.I would strongly prefer that the same sobering attention be  givento film. I regret that our technical advances in movie making are morelikely to lure us into an intoxicating escape from reality and responsibility,making movie going just another drug of choice.
If I did not see "American Beauty" as the source of arole model or as having the answers to life's questions, why did I enjoyit? Watching other's pain and ugliness and misdirection also has its rewards.Instead of giving us a moral example, it is an opportunity for us to givecompassion. Maybe that is the best "moral" to be learned from any film.If the situation is artfully expressed, I feel like I am becoming moreconnected in a healthy way with others, even if those others are not veryhealthy themselves.
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