My Roles, Myself and “American Beauty”


Ever since seeing characters for the first time on various TV and film screens, I’ve been captivated by people who are not like me.

The list of screen characters I’ve emulated – even deliberately tried to act like – has grown over the years. Typically, I try on the role of a character for an hour, maybe a day, and experiment with their personality at the grocery check out line, privately at work, or while alone driving the car. Some might call me … crazy. At least … not normal?

I just returned from an exhausting trip to San Francisco a few days ago. Compared to Santa Fe where I live, San Francisco is another planet. I lost my energy, my health, my balance, and worse yet, my confidence, all from a high-speed, technology-driven, deadline-oriented world that left me weary and wobbly.

Chilling at home yesterday, I surfed channels and stumbled upon “American Beauty,” one of my favorite films, but one I hadn’t seen in fifteen years.

Re-enter Ricky Fitz.

I watched eighteen-year-old Ricky Fitz and his world surrounded by deceptive, hypocritical, and success-at-any-cost people. Saved somehow, this “not normal” young man was different from his shallow friends and domineering father. He remained cool, confident, unfettered, truthful, blunt, and oblivious to what anyone might think about him.

After the movie, I took to my yard to write, then do some yard work. It wasn’t until evening I realized what I’d been doing that afternoon outside. I slowed down, dropped my superfluous social animations to neighbors walking by. In turn, I gave them long periods of eye contact, said nothing, just smiled, as if to say nothing because I was comfortable just listening to them speak, comfortable remaining in the moment, and, in a nutshell, feeling confident – even if only for  this brief moment in real-time.

It’s not that I’ll stay Rickie Fitz. But somewhere in me lurks the person I became disconnected from during my trip. It’s not that I wanted to connect with Ricky Fitz as much re-connect with me. It was only natural Rickie Fitz rekindled that – it’s not an unnatural or scary thing to do at all. Same with the thousand and one other screen characters I’ve slipped into.

I suppose what is scary is how few real, breathing, in-the-flesh male role models there were in my life growing up. But that’s another movie for another time.

2 Comments

Filed under Blog, The Daily Thought

2 responses to “My Roles, Myself and “American Beauty”

  1. I think my movie alter ego is Andie from “Pretty in Pink”

  2. Feminism Through Cinema and Literature

    Ricky Fitts is such an interesting character and American Beauty is an excellent film.

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