Do you think you come from a dysfunctional family? What would you do if you suffered from a mid life crisis, had a bitchy wife, a daughter who hates you, and were stuck in a dead-end job? Lester Burnham, whether thought selfish or not, turned his life around and as some may think, took the low road. Many argue that family comes first no matter if you"re happy or not. Should parents sacrifice themselves for the sake of their children? In Lester and Carolyn's case, their number one concerns should have been the little girl they brought into the world.
American Beauty is a story about "a typical suburban, American family; or, at least, they desperately want to appear to be," comments Drake Streetman (Streetman, par. 1). The Burnham's are a dysfunctional family living in a nice house, in a nice neighborhood, and in a nice suburb. Lester and his wife Carolyn are both middle-aged, out of love, and sexually unfulfilled. Lester is about to lose his job, while Carolyn's lack of success as a real estate agent drives her to tears. Their teenaged daughter Jane also hates them, which doesn't exactly provide for pleasant dinner conversations. .
Next door to the Burnham's lives another dysfunctional family. The father is a wacko military veteran who collects Nazi memorabilia and rages against homosexuals, his wife who simply stares, and their son, Ricky Fitts, still in high school, is suspected of being a Peeping Tom. Although he isn't a Peeping Tom, he is a drug dealer. Before long, Jane's sleeping with him. About the most exciting distraction in their lives is that they live next door to a gay couple named Jim and Jim who are ironically presented as the epitome of normality in this neighborhood.
Lester's mid-life crisis causes him to drastically change his life around when he quits his job, works at a fast food restaurant, and bought a 76" Chevy Camaro (the car he always wanted). He starts working out to gain the attention of Angela, a friend of his daughter's who brags about her sexual exploits every weekend and thinks "the worst thing anyone can be is normal" (Mendes).