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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Discussions About Orson Scott Card » American Beauty (Page 1)

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Author Topic: American Beauty
GForce
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I am an OSC fan. Based almost entirely, I will allow, on the Ender series, although I have recently started the Homecoming series. I absolutely loved Ender's Game, and thought it was not only a great read, but also very insightful. I also love the movie "American Beauty". Therefore, I was rather shocked to find out today how much Mr. Card loathes it, and for what I thought were rather odd reasons. Making fun of middle class values, or the middle class way of life? I saw none of that. I saw sympathy for the human condition. I for one was extremely moved by this movie, just as I was extremely moved by Ender's Game. So learning that one of my favorite author's hated one of my favorite movies has introduced a certain level of confusion into my life. Can somebody help clarify why he thought this movie was so God-awful?
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Crocobar
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I concur, an explanation would be nice. The Card-American Beauty phenomenon bugs me too.
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TomDavidson
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"American Beauty" is on many levels a critique of the perceived "hollowness" of Middle America. For a variety of reasons, this irks OSC.
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GForce
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One of the things I'm confused by is that I can't seem to reconcile the thematic elements of Mr. Card's own work with the reasons he seems to dislike American Beauty. In Speaker For The Dead (I haven't read it in a while, and don't have it with me, so correct me if I'm wrong) Novinha has an extra-marital affair for basically her entire marraige. She keeps the truth of her children's parentage from them for as long as possible. Mr. Card's problems with American Beauty seem to stem from the fact that the characters are all having promisuous sex. However, it seems to me that he spends an enormous chunk of "Speaker" trying to get across that Novinha, while perhaps having been mistaken about what would make her most happy, had not been inherently wrong to have the affair. Perhaps I am wrong about Mr. Card's intentions, but this dichotomy has got me stumped.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
Mr. Card's problems with American Beauty seem to stem from the fact that the characters are all having promisuous sex.
I've never gotten that impression.

quote:
However, it seems to me that he spends an enormous chunk of "Speaker" trying to get across that Novinha, while perhaps having been mistaken about what would make her most happy, had not been inherently wrong to have the affair.
I disagree again. The affair wasn't OK, it was understandable.
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Dagonee
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quote:
So learning that one of my favorite author's hated one of my favorite movies has introduced a certain level of confusion into my life.
Rather than attempt to reconcile Mr. Card's views on AB with his writing in SftD, you might be better served by examining why this confuses you.

Perhaps you are projecting your own views onto Mr. Card. For example, you might be saying, "Were I to write X, it would be because I am thinking/feeling Y."

It's usually inaccurate to use that kind of thinking to understand someone else's motives.

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GForce
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quote:
I've never gotten that impression.
What impression did you get? Also, yes, you are probably right about the affair being understandable, but neither does American Beauty say that the behaviors it portrays are ok. It lets us into the characters lives, and lets us see why they made the choices they did. That's what makes it a great movie. That's what, it seams to me, Mr. Card is missing.
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quidscribis
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I dunno. I find it perfectly understandable for anyone to hate that movie. I do. I'll never get those two hours back.
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DDDaysh
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I agree with quid, I do not understand why the movie is so loved. Perhaps it was because, when I first saw the movie, I was a teenage girl, but I was thuroughly disturbed by it. That being said, I have also been thuroughly disturbed by some of OSC's short stories, though for different reasons. I really like him, and I've read nearly everything I can get my hands on, but I was shocked at some of the darker tendencies in the short stories in "Changed Man". However, just because he can shock me and disturb me sometimes doesn't mean he can't be bothered or annoyed with things that seem similar in other media, because to him they may be shockingly different.
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Synesthesia
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Perhaps he, like someone said, objects to the hollowness and shallowness of most of the characters and how that is supposed to reflect suburban life as a whole.
I think it just reflects these specific people, Lester regressing into a 15 year old boy and harping on a 15 year old girl and his wife wanting money and success her husband cannot give her so she goes to another man to find it instead of working on their marriage. Really, most of the characters in that movie are frustrating except for that fellow with the cameras. I loved him. He saw the beauty in things and that's what Lester had to do but he never could see how beautiful life is until he was about to die.
I just get disturbed by the fact that folks found the male on male kiss more disturbing then Lester with his big hairy man paws on that poor innocent girl. (Well, she was pretending not to be innocent.)

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El JT de Spang
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I was indifferent to American Beauty. It was okay, but I've never felt the need to watch it again, all these years after seeing it in the theaters.

If people didn't still go on and on about it, like it was filled with earthshattering revelations, I'd have forgotten about it years ago.

Plus, don't be surprised if you favorite author doesn't like your favorite movie; such is life. People like and don't like stuff and oftentimes have no reason for those preferences.

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pooka
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That's okay, he really loved "You've got Mail" which I loathed (because I found it misogynistic). People have a right to their own opinions.
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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
People have a right to their own opinions.
Not in my view. :pirate:
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Artemisia Tridentata
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I just watched American Beauty for the first time a month or so ago. I did not like it. I found that I had spent over an hour getting to know people that I would not have walked across the street to get acquainted with.
Maybe the camara man was competent. But, if the movie was intended as a "quadro de costumbre" or "slice of life" story, it was not honest. The movie was not one I appriciated.

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pooka
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:pirate:

I'm sure Card wouldn't have made such a big deal if it weren't awarded Best Picture by the Academy. Against the original Matrix, no less.

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Synesthesia
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It's better than Happiness. I wonder what he'd think of that movie. It was terribly depressing and about people even more pathetic than most of the characters in American Beauty.
It was also dark. At least American Beauty had some hope in it, some hope that the characters would learn from their mistakes and evolve, een the dead one, but Happiness, that was just pure misery.

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GForce
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quote:
People like and don't like stuff and oftentimes have no reason for those preferences.
That is certainly not true. Sometimes people don't, or can't express a reason, but they have to have one, buried in their subconsious or whatever. It's got to be there somewhere. Also, it is unproductive to say such things. I'm trying to open up a dialogue, and answers like that aren't answers at all. They're cop outs.

Also, people certainly do have a right to their own opinions. And I have a right to try and figure out why they have that opinion.

Thirdly, The Matrix was cool, without a doubt. One of if not the most often imitated movies since its debut. But I didn't come out thinking that I knew anymore about life than I did when I went in.

Lastly, I see what you mean about the big deal because it was awarded Best Picture thing. I saw Crash before the Oscars, and frankly, I didn't think much of it. It felt like one long, disconnected cliche involving people who I didn't like and where for the most part simply annoying. It did have one or two scenes that achieved "Best Picture" quality, but as a whole, I thought it stunk. Wouldn't have mattered to me if it hadn't won best picture. But it did, and my respect for the Academy went down.

Anybody else have thoughts on Crash, by the way?

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
That is certainly not true. Sometimes people don't, or can't express a reason, but they have to have one, buried in their subconsious or whatever. It's got to be there somewhere.
They have to have one? Why?
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Synesthesia
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Probably because it's interesting to me. To know why a person doesn't care for something can tell a lot about them and their attitude about things.

Crash made me cringe in parts, but it's a fascinating movie. Way better than that version with all the cars.
I hate that stupid movie... It's pathetic. Why do they make movies like that? It's supposed to be artistic, but it's just boring and annoying and depraved.
Of course, a lot of movies that get oscar nods really squeeze out the tradegy and pain. Perhaps I should see it again sometime now that I know how a certain scene turned out and it won't scare me as much.

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Dagonee
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Let's see what OSC has to say on the subject.
Here's one:

quote:
"American Beauty" ... show[s] a nightmare vision of middle class life that bears no relation to anything I've actually seen (but resembles Hollywood society very closely -- everyone sleeping with everyone, taking drugs, and showing contempt for decency and law).
Another

quote:
How else can you explain the evil, nasty, and stupid movie "American Beauty" as a Best Picture winner? It's by-the-number formulaic "edgy" filmmaking, which always consists of ridiculing middle class suburban life -- by accusing them (falsely) of doing all the stuff that show business people actually do!

...

The Royal Tennenbaums is the "American Beauty" of this year -- a film apparently written by somebody who is deeply p----- off at his family and can't get over it.

Another

quote:
The Hollywood cliche these days, on the other hand, is that small towns and committed communities are evil and should be destroyed -- as in Pleasantville and American Beauty. Of course this is a lie, because the "small town" they invariably show is Hollywood -- a society dominated by hypocritical people who are more concerned about whether other people are obeying the rules than whether they actually live by any rules themselves.
another

quote:
American Beauty
Boy, suburban people are awful -- breaking marriage vows, having sex with inappropriate partners, self-obsessing with their bodies, being hateful to everyone around them. Oh, wait, that's how Hollywood is! Once again, Hollywood falsely accuses normal American families of being as vile as Hollywood actually is, and then awards themselves for this clever hypocrisy.


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Sterling
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I liked both movies. I think there's a danger in making characters into more than they are; one aggressively masculine ex-military character doesn't necessarily have to represent every male in the military, or dominant male head-of-the-family, or... Whatever. When one starts believing that Hollywood has an overarching agenda that goes into virtually every movie, suddenly there's bears lurking behind every bush. (Not necessarily speaking of Card, here.)

I can see how some might feel "Crash" was overbearing, but I don't entirely agree with the notion that it relies overly on stereotypes. To the contrary, its greatest weakness may be the predictability brought about by the screenplay's determination to turn stereotypes on their head: The religious and thoughtful carjacker, the racist cop who is also brave and heroic, the "enlightened" cop who can't overcome his unconscious prejudices when push comes to shove.

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Synesthesia
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They weren't really a normal family though... or at least a family free of certain problems, again, he would have hated Happiness so much more because it was full of a lot of the stuff he said American Beauty had without the sort of hope American Beauty had...
But, aw, well... Some places are LIKE that everywhere. There are no pockets of perfection in America or anywhere else.

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El JT de Spang
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quote:
Also, it is unproductive to say such things. I'm trying to open up a dialogue, and answers like that aren't answers at all.
Cry me a river. I could care less about your 'dialogue', or the inner turmoil your favorite author not liking your favorite movie causes you.

'Specially when your initial question is easily answered by a google search.

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GForce
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quote:
They have to have one? Why?
If somebody has an opinion, then they have to have a reason. No opinion, no reason.

.
quote:
Cry me a river. I could care less about your 'dialogue', or the inner turmoil your favorite author not liking your favorite movie causes you.

'Specially when your initial question is easily answered by a google search

First of all, you apparently cared enough to #1 read the post, and #2 write a completely unnecessary and gratuitously ignorant reply. Secondly, I can't think of any issue involving somebody's inner thoughts and opinions that could be easily solved by a "google search." If you don't have something insightful to say. . . Well, actually, go ahead and say whatever. Reading weird, off topic replies is half the fun.
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GForce
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quote:
It's by-the-number formulaic "edgy" filmmaking, which always consists of ridiculing middle class suburban life -- by accusing them (falsely) of doing all the stuff that show business people actually do!
I disagree with Mr. Card on this point. This is probably we apparently have different moral values on this point. I didn't see this movie "accusing" anybody of anything. I know people in unhappy marriages. A lot of people. I think something like more than half of marriages end in divorce these days. That's not limited to Hollywood, that's everywhere. I know lots of people with drug problems. That also, is not limited to people in the industry. This is an uplifting movie, because it says that people, average people, can rise above those things. I have no idea why Mr. Card doesn't see that.
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El JT de Spang
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quote:
Secondly, I can't think of any issue involving somebody's inner thoughts and opinions that could be easily solved by a "google search."
Except where, y'know, they write them out and publish them in column form.

quote:
First of all, you apparently cared enough to #1 read the post, and #2 write a completely unnecessary and gratuitously ignorant reply.
Oh, I see what happened here. You think that you *own* the thread (or 'dialogue') because you started it. That's a common rookie mistake. Just because you chose not to recognize that it answered your question doesn't make my initial response either ignorant or unnecessary. As for 'gratuitous', well, show me a post anywhere on this board that doesn't fit that criteria (assuming by gratuitous you mean 'free' -- course, you could mean 'unnecessary' instead, but that would be redundant).

I personally find nothing more arrogant than people who can't imagine why everyone doesn't see things the way they do.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
I personally find nothing more arrogant than people who can't imagine why everyone doesn't see things the way they do.
I can't imagine why you would have a problem with that.
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GForce
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The question still hasn't been answered to my satisfaction. Continue the argument.

Morituri te salutamus!

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mr_porteiro_head
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How did Dag's post not answer your question?
quote:
Can somebody help clarify why he thought this movie was so God-awful?

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Launchywiggin
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Frankly,

American Beauty's world was more realistic to me than OSC's fantasy of good-christian-suburban life. The MAJORITY of people I know come from broken families. It isn't just Hollywood--Drugs, gay couples, and teen sex are the norm in suburbia--and I live in the bible belt.

I mean, I've seen it--I've lived it. I highly doubt that my community is vastly different than the rest of the country. I think OSC might not realize that his family is NOT the normal American family.

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Synesthesia
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I don't think it's arrogant. I know that sometimes i am just curious about other people's perspectives on things.
For example, those ruddy television shows.

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GForce
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Dag's post highlighted what OSC has written about American Beauty. It told what he thought of the movie. It doesn't say anything about why he thought it.
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El JT de Spang
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quote:
I can't imagine why you would have a problem with that.
Really? You can't think of any reason why someone assuming their views on everything under the sun are the only possible views could be considered arrogant?

Seems unbelievably egocentric to me.

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pooka
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You might want to try Google for your Latin bon mots as well. I mean, I'm as suspicious of Google as anyone.

And, er, I think Porter was being sardonic, if you look at the stem cell thread.

P.S. How come I couldn't find anything OSC had written about stem cells?

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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by mr_porteiro_head:
quote:
That is certainly not true. Sometimes people don't, or can't express a reason, but they have to have one, buried in their subconsious or whatever. It's got to be there somewhere.
They have to have one? Why?
I agree with the original sentiment. People might not be able to articulate their reasons, but it seems intuitive to me that they must have some.

That being said, GForce, I think Dag has answered your questions. Card does give his reasons. He believes American Beauty to be a sneering attack on his culture. I haven't seen American Beauty—in part because of Card's warning, and a lack of convincing evidence to the contrary—but I agree with his assessment of Pleasantville.

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Jack Bauer
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Card's reviews of "American Beauty" and "Pleasantville" were from waaaaaay back in the day on the frescopix website. And some follow-ups on the forum, but I beleive that was in the Big Mouth Lion days, and those reviews and posts are long gone.

The essence of Card's arguement against the argument that this is the way most families are was that, iirc, it became that way when we started believing Hollywood.

Essentially, the argument is in the posts Dag made. Hollywood, corrupt as it was, said, 'Isn't the world corrupt?' and the world said, 'Yes,' and went about trying to become as corrupt as Hollywood said they were.

There was more. He had opinions on everything from the military character in the movie (am I remembering that right?) to what must have been the writer's motivation, but having never seen the movie, and being a senile old man, I can't remember exactly what all was there.

My favorite from the "Pleasantville" review was how he turned it around so that the filmmakers, who were decrying what they felt to be puritanism, were actually being puritanical in a far more real sense of the word.

Incidently, my favorite review from those days was his one-sentence review of "Mars Attacks":

"Tim Burton has aliens come down and do all the wierd experiments he would like to do and kill all the people he would like to kill, making this a movie not meant to be seen by human beings."

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Launchywiggin
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I don't believe for one second that "Hollywood" "convinced" society to become evil. Why? because BEFORE Pleasantville and American Beauty came out, I lived in a community that had drugs, gay couples, and broken families everywhere.

Does he think HIS community doesn't have gays, drugs, broken familes, and extra-marital sex? Or maybe his community only got that way because Hollywood told it to...right.

I think it's naive and unfair to the middle class to claim that they're all "decent, hard-working christian families" who have been painted black by Hollywood.

American Beauty was reality before and it's reality now.

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Icarus
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I don't know anything about your community. I absolutely do, however, believe that Hollywood paints an unrealistic picture of middle class, suburban society as being much more corrupt and hypocritical than it is. That doesn't mean these things don't happen, but I do buy into the idea that our popular culture has made it fashionable to believe that "everyone is doing it," so go ahead and do it yourself. I think if you've lived more than one generation, this is pretty hard to miss. So while I may disagree with some particular fine points, I largely do agree with OSC on this one.
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Launchywiggin
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The middle class I've lived in for 21 years is accurately represented by most Hollywood films like American Beauty. Pastor's daughters do get pregnant. Respected members of the community do show up at AA meetings. Drugs are readily available to high school students.

I don't think most people consider it's fashionable or acceptable--with well over half of the community attending the 100-some churches in the area.

I do think that the righteous upper-middle class likes to ignore the reality of the rest of their community. Heck, when I was a kid I was part of it--dad had a 6-figure salary. We were decent, hard-working church-goers. When he left my mom and left us bankrupt, I woke up to some realities about life.

I'm not saying my specific story is the norm--but half of my friends come from similar backgrounds. That means the other half of the community might fit into OSC's idea of "decent folk"--but it's only half. American Beauty had truth in it, and I'm sure of it.

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Sterling
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Perhaps a better question might be: does Card disapprove of American Beauty because of its portrayal of "Middle American life", or for what it appears to approve and deride in that version thereof?
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CRash
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quote:
The question still hasn't been answered to my satisfaction. Continue the argument.
Oh yes, great sahib. I listen and obey.

...Or I exert my right as a teenager to snub any attempts to make me do something. It's more fun that way.

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Icarus
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Launchywiggin, I'm not sure what your point is. That infidelity and drug-use occur in the middle class? Nobody's really denying that. What I'm commenting on, and what I believe OSC is commenting on as well, is the attitude toward these occurences. One is not a hypocrite because one gets divorced. One is not a hypocrite even if one uses drugs or has some other addiction. People fall, and there is nobility in the effort to try to get back up. And tragedy in the failure to do so.

The attitude in many recent movies and shows about suburban life seems to be that nobody is what they seem. Everyone is a liar, and those who object to these social ills are hypocrites and closed-minded. Those who succumb to temptation have not failed in any way; they merely have been caught doing what everyone else is doing in secret. And only when people embrace their faults can they be truly honest and, if not upright, then at least less hypocritical.

In twenty-one years, I'm sure you've seen a lot. But I don't believe you can compare and contrast the attitudes of different generations at the same age and stage in development to each other. People born when you were a teenager are not yet teenagers. You have seen one generation--your own. When I made my comment about living more than one generation, which perhaps is what you are taking objection to with your comment on your twenty-one years, I was not condescending--particularly given that I did not know your age, nor did I refer to you. I was merely reporting my observations of how attitudes toward fidelity, drug use, and sex have changed between the time when I was a teenager and now, with the teenagers that I teach. I'm fairly confident that someone a generation older than I am would note a similar difference between the attitudes of his or her generation and my own, and a greater difference from the current one.

(And I'm not some überconservative decrying all social change. I believe that a lot of our attititudes have changed for the better, which is why I said OSC and I probably disagree on a lot of details. But my point here is simply that I agree with his assertion that there is in current popular culture a conscious portrayal of suburban middle class Americans as hypocrites, and of vice as commonplace and acceptable. Like OSC, I don't believe this is an accurate portrayal. And like OSC, I believe that, since we're talking about attitudes, saying something is true often enough has the potential to bring it about.)

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Synesthesia
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I don't think I fit into any of those views of society, the "perfect" middle class society or the one consisting of drugs and vice. [Dont Know]
Perhaps it's just a handful of people's view of things and the only way you can get the clear image is by looking at it from many perspectives.

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Icarus
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Well, Syn, as I said, I'm not so conservative to think that only "middle class values" (whatever precisely that means) are good values. My point is not to argue that nobody should ever have sex outside of marriage or take drugs. My point is merely that the portrayal of people with traditional values as almost invariably stupid or hypocritical is a real and disturbing, and quite likely deliberate phenomenon.
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Synesthesia
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I think it depends on the traditional value in question... Like if a woman wants to stay home with her kids instead of working, it's her business. And if people want to save themselves for marriage, that's good, as long as they follow their values and believe them and are not really hypocrits...
But then there are some values that are considered traditional that just scare me.... I reckon that is what movies tend to rant about but Hollywood exists only to sell things and not to portray the truth. *points to television as well.*


If people have lived in those sort of families portrayed on American Beauty (or worse, Happiness. I'm telling you, there's no point complaining about American Beauty when Happiness is so much worse, so snarky and sarcastic with pathetic people in it, I hate movies like that. Most of the characters in AB are shallow and stupid, but many of them will change and learn, these folks in Happiness NEVER will and it's not even completely a Hollywood movie, I think it's indie.) then what if they are just writing about what they went through instead of reflecting all of American society?
I didn't come from that sort of background, but I didn't come from the ghetto either.

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Icarus
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quote:
Originally posted by Synesthesia:
I think it depends on the traditional value in question...

I'm not sure what you mean, or what "it" refers to. Again, my purpose is not to promote traditional values, but to decry a certain kind of bigotry I believe I see reflected in popular culture.

WRT your second paragraph, remember that I haven't actually seen EDIT American Beauty. I'm talking in general, and particularly about Truman Show and Pleasantville (though there are certainly more examples).

[ July 20, 2006, 09:24 PM: Message edited by: Icarus ]

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Synesthesia
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American Pie? [Wink]

Which movies? I think a movie with a so-called perfect family would be extremely boring and as annoying as a family that is all disfuctional. I want something realistic and not dripping with stereotypes. There's a ton of movies with black people for instance in which they are in the ghetto shooting each other with guns every second. It happens, but there's more to black families than guns, gangs and drug dealing...
And there's never any Asians or hispanics that are not maids in mainstream Hollywood.
The independent movies are even worse sometimes.

But it seems like any family regardless of how together they seem on the outside would have SOMETHING screwed up about them... I can't even understand what is meant by perfection, but it would be interesting to have a movie with a Christian in it who isn't.... scary and is strong in their faith.

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GForce
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I'm beginning to see a trend in this thread that I hadn't seen or thought of before. Now we're getting somewhere. I think maybe Icarus brought this up. I think that one of the ideas being thrown around is that Mr. Card is not really objecting to the portrayal of drug use and sex, but rather is objecting to the negative portrayal of people who don't use drugs or are in a monogamous relationship.

That, at least, explains why he hates Pleasantville (which I also liked, although not as much as I liked American Beauty). However, I don't think that there are really any characters in American Beauty that can be described as having those traditional values, except perhaps the Colonel. Not even him really. His values would be more accurately described as "homophobic values". So without anybody in the movie to make traditional values look bad, I think that argument is weakened slightly. Although it is still a better explanation than any I had thought of so far.

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mr_porteiro_head
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quote:
So without anybody in the movie to make traditional values look bad, I think that argument is weakened slightly. Although it is still a better explanation than any I had thought of so far.
Might part of his complaint be that exact lack of people with traditional values?
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Icarus
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Hehe. Actually, I have seen American Pie. My brain misfires like that a lot. [Smile]

I'm not saying there should be perfect families. I specifically said that people can be flawed without being hypocrites. None of us is perfect, but most of my friends are trying to do the right thing and trying to get better. We don't all agree on what that means, of course. Your objection to a call for only perfect families is frankly puzzling--it's as if you're reading my posts but somehow seeing a parody of my argument instead of what I am actually saying. (And I don't mean that quite as snarky as it sounds, but it is kinda puzzling.)

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