Domestic Violence & the Character “Ricky” In the film American Beauty

Posted: September 6th, 2013

Domestic Violence & the Character “Ricky” In the film American Beauty






Domestic Violence & the Character “Ricky” In the film American Beauty

The movie American Beauty is about a husband and wife who initially have a perfect marriage and life together. The movie is based on family values, structures and people within such setting react to issues either through violence, conversations or ignorance on the existence of such issues. In essence, the movie is embedded in violence within the family structures and the perversion of morals within society.

The movie begins with the presence of a couple, Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a middle-aged magazine writer who loathes his job description and his wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) who has an initially happy marriage and family. The two are blessed with daughter by the name Jane (Thora Birch) who is sixteen years old. Their daughter Jane is, experiencing a low self-esteem and hates her parents in addition, Mr. and Mrs. Burnham are leading separate lives oblivious of the suffering of their daughter and her call for attention from her self-absorbed parents who concentrate on their personal and martial problems.

In addition, their new neighbors also have their family problems. The family is made up of a retied United States Marine Corps Colonel who could be easily described as a control obsessive man. He is married to a woman who is directly the opposite as she is an introvert and most of the time keeps to herself even it difficult circumstances. They are blessed with a son who due to constant abuse from his father could be easily described as reserved and weird. From the constant harassment and disciplinarian lifestyles which his father has subjected his family to, he eventually becomes a marijuana seller and smoker in efforts to drown his agony he drives from the presence of his father.

Lester eventually becomes infatuated with his daughter’s friend Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari), who is a cheerleader. He describes her as extremely attractive after he sees her performing at their high school halftime dances in a basketball game. In addition, his wife begins having an affair with his business opponent, Buddy Keane (Peter Gallagher). This strains their relationship further as both become distant and infatuated with their newfound love obsessions. Lester opts to quit employment eventually blackmailing his boss for $60,000 before an imminent layoff, which he was a victim. With the money, he purchases his dream car and begins bodybuilding after he overhears Angel and Jane talking Angel’s preference of attractive physiques.

Eventually Lester discovers his wife’s affair with a business rival but reacts calmly and fails to confront her. This affirms their growing distance from each other, physically and emotionally. After discovering the affair, Buddy ends the affair with Carolyn on claims that he is facing an expensive divorce, leaving Carolyn distraught. She opts to carry a loaded gun and heads home to do the unthinkable. In the meanwhile, Frank the retired marine, becomes suspicious of Lester and his son Ricky’s friendship after he discovers footage belonging to Ricky with Lester lifting some weights while nude.

During the same night, Frank witnesses Ricky and Lester in conversation in the garage and concludes that the pair is sexually involved. He opts to punish his son Ricky by beating him thoroughly accusing him of being gay. In order to stop the beating, Ricky opts to admit the false accusations and provokes his father to kick him out of their home. Ricky pressures Jane to flee with him to New York while he tells Angela she is vain and just ordinary like everyone else.

Frank, on the other hand, goes over to Lester’s house to confront him and in the event attempts to kiss him, but Lester rebuffs and pushes him. Lester, while in the house, finds Angel crying and she attempts to seduce him. However, she manages to disclose the she is still a virgin and that the claimed sexual exploits were false. They form a bond such that he decides to stop his advances towards her and decides to look at a family photo album in the kitchen while Angela took a shower. Later there is a gunshot and blood splatter on the wall. The scene changes to Carolyn in the bedroom crying and Frank returning to his house covered in blood and one of his guns missing for his favorite gun collection. In the closing remarks and scene, Lester claims that he has discovered the presence of adequate beauty in the world.

In essence, Frank engages in physical abuse against his son, Ricky making him an unsociable individual who is self reserved. His abuse is aimed at enhancing control over his family and more so, on his son Ricky who has resorted to drug use for comfort. In addition, Ricky’s mother is self-reserved making the audience suspicious that she is also a victim of abuse from the retired Marine who seems to be on a verge of post-war depression. The relationship between Ricky and his father could be described as tense as Ricky fears stepping out into the world due to the humiliation that he faces from his father. His father exercises and subjects the family to an overly authoritative and military style of rule within the household. This leaves the family with a low self-esteem such that they are unable to venture out into the world and make friends with their neighbors.

The impact of the demeaning act of Frank on his son Ricky is evident throughout the program. His son becomes unsociable, as he is unable to relate with other individuals because he considers himself unworthy to mingle with his peers. The results of such harassment within family settings are reduced self-esteem as he is unable to view himself as worthy. In addition, Ricky turns to drug use and the sale of the same with an aim of shutting out any emotions he has for his father an effort to comfort himself. In addition, due to the emotional and physical trauma that Ricky suffers at the hands of his over controlling father, such that he develops a habit of recording all he sees around him in an effort to forget what happens and to engage in something helpful and creative. In addition, this could a form of communication by the character with an aim of communicating the various issues he witnesses around him.

In addition, Frank also instigates sexual abuse or harassment in lighter words against Lester when he approaches him in his house and tries to kiss him. Sexual abuse is defined as forced or coerced sexual act or behavior with an aim of gaining power and control over an individual. Sexual harassment reduces the ability of people to engage in healthy relationships, as evidenced by Frank’s inability to relate with his son and family and specifically with his new neighbors.

Various appropriate theories could be applied to give explanations as to the reasons for the violent nature if individuals within society and specifically within the movie. Resource theory could be applied within this text in order to explain for the reasons behind the constant abuse that Ricky faces form his father. His father is the only source of support for the family who are in a new neighborhood. The decision to move into a new neighborhood could have been highly influenced by the control that Frank Fitts has over his family. In addition, Ricky’s mother does not possess a source of income such as a business or a job. She opts to conform to all decisions that Frank makes without question in order to please the man who provides for her and her son (.CSAP’s Prevention Pathways: Online Courses, 2012).

Hence, Frank‘s continued, violent behavior could be attributed to the economic control he   has over his family. In addition, his violence is also an approach used to cement his authority within the relationship for the two. Furthermore, as he has increased power and control over his family, he adds on his control by intimidating his wife and son into doing whatever he wants. In addition, his violent nature could have also been fueled by his social status as a military man who considers and exercises a high degree of discipline. This enables him to exercise his ‘authority’ by intimidating his son and beating him up over his perceived sexual orientation, which is however false and unfounded. This is a clear illustration that Frank has underlying issues for his violent and over controlling nature (Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project, 2010).

Multidimensional theories are also applicable in explanations for the violent behavior exhibited by Frank Fitts in his family. In addition, Franks’ violent behavior against those in his family even thought there is insufficient evidence to state that Ricky’s mother is abused by Frank in any way. It could be presumed that she faces the same treatment from her husband in his efforts to demean them and maintain control and power over them. Multidimensional theories focus on issues such as race, social classes, gender, individuals and their relations, drug use, and individual personality. From the movie, it is evident that Frank exhibits charter traits, which are violent. This could be attributed to numerous issues such as experiences in a family setting whereby he was exposed to harsh treatment and abuse by his guardians or caretakers. This could have played a significant role in the formation of an undesirable violent character trait as he demonstrates in his own house.

Ricky, because of exposure to family setting where violence takes precedent, could eventually become violent to his family and those around him. Individuals within violent family settings acquire this trait from their violent parents. It becomes the only means of settling scores and relating with others in society. From the view that he has little value, Ricky instigates emotional abuse against Angela when he confronts her, tells her that she is not special, and is simply ordinary like everyone else, and thus she needs friends like Jane to feel special. This is an indication of the coldness and lack of emotional caution that he does not possess, as he blatantly tells her off considering how highly she regards and considers herself among her peers. In addition, this could also be an indication of the inability to converse in a healthy manner with his peers as he is used to constant harassment from his father. Hence, he lacks any kind words for her, as he has not been taught how to be kind to people and especially to his peers (Continuing Psychology Education, 2005).

Intervention of such violent salutations given the outcomes of the violent behavior exhibited by Ricky’s father can be confusing. In addition, Frank assumed that Lester was sexually involved with his son hence it is presumed that he shot Lester because he did not accept is sexual advances. This is an indication that frank does not accept being turned down on his offers. Hence, the means to help Ricky could assume numerous approaches with regard for the law.

Lawful intervention via the use of intervention orders seems as the most appropriate means for Ricky to put an end to the violence within their home. This is easily available for a victim of family violence as it is granted from the local Magistrates office. Ricky could seek this form of protection, which might be short terms before the authorities find another means of protection and ending the violence within their family. Such orders could be made Ex parte which means without the presence of the other party instigating the violence.

With evidence of previous  beatings that he received from his father on claims that he was gay, he could instigate a legal process for seeking an intervention order so long as he is equipped with adequate evidence or proof that the court needs to protect him from his father who is violent and overly controlling. Hence the probabilities of violence against an individual within the family as in the case of Ricky should be high enough for the Magistrate to grant any form of intervention order as either temporary of permanent (Dr.Renata, 2012).

It is also evident that Ricky exhibits unsocial behavior because of the constant harassment he receives from his father. Hence, it is paramount to find a remedial action for his unsocial behavior and one that would enable him to have sociable behavior with his peers and those around him. His unsociable behavior could be because of possibly witnessing his mother being abused by his father. In addition, his experiences also add to his hostile behavior towards people who are his peers such as Angela.

From such a perspective, Ricky should get counseling on how to vent out anger and to communicate with people on how he feels about the world and his family. In addition as a young man, he has a long future ahead of him, which could be marred with incidences of anger mismanagement.

It is also paramount to remove Ricky form his family setting to ensure that he is detached from the constant confrontation he experiences form his father. In addition, to ensure that the chain of confrontation, harassment and beatings that Ricky is exposed to by his father could be cut by ensuring that Frank is arrested fro assault and because on his son and possibly his wife or Ricky’s mother.

In conclusion, the effects of violence against children within a family setting could be deterred by ensuring that individuals in such circumstances are availed with avenues for giving information with regard to their experiences of violence instigated by their guardians or individuals within their families such as Ricky experiencing beatings from his father.



Continuing Psychology Education. (2005). “Domestic Violence”7 Continuing Education Hours.

CSAP’s Prevention Pathways: Online Courses. (2012). Alcohol Abuse and Violence against Women. Retrieved from

Dr.Renata, A. (2012). “Family Violence Intervention Orders (State Law).” The Law Handbook. Retrieved from

Gay Men’s Domestic Violence Project. (2010). Types of Domestic Abuse. Retrieved from


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