Monday, October 29, 2012

Psychopathology Film Analysis: American Beauty

American Beauty       
Plot Summary:

            The film is about how every character in the two families, Burnham and Fitts, struggle to find freedom and control their own destiny, as a result of their psychological problems, developed many poor choices and associated consequences. The father from one of the families, Lester Burnham, was trying to escape his stressful life through reckless behaviors of pedophilic dream and drug use whereas the father from the other family, Frank Fitts was trying to militarily control his family while hiding his homosexuality. This analysis is however is about Ricky Fitts, the son of Frank, who portrayed schizotypal personality disorder throughout the movie.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder is a personality disorder characterized by excessively introverted with social and interpersonal deficits, cognitive and perceptual distortion, and eccentricities in communication and behavior (Student Notes).

From the movie, Ricky showed schizotypal personality disorder in several ways. He was a social outcast with odd character, peculiar appearance, blunt emotion, and high degree of confidence. He wore strange clothes, loved strange art, and had strange affection toward Jane. He had emotionally detached parents and a history of severe childhood abuse that is clearly shown by how he highly respect his father like an authority out of his fear of being hit, ending each sentence with “sir”. Furthermore, he was obsessed with videotaping everything that he found beautiful and interesting, however, he has this distorted concept and perception of beauty. For example, a plastic bag dancing in the wind, a dead bird, and a dying woman, to him, is beautiful to be filmed. Moreover, like most people with schizotypal personality disorder, he had the symptom of bodily illusions, for example, he sensed an external force with God, and that God is looking at him every time he watched any dying subjects. In the ending scene when Jane’s father was shot, he basically stared at him for many seconds and eventually smiled. Last but not least, his conversation was vague and sounded as if he was a very disturbed teenager. At the scene when Ricky was filming Jane complaining about her father, Ricky seriously asked Jane if she want him to kill her father for her. He also thought she was seriously saying yes to him but in fact she was never serious about it.


Biological – Schizotypal personality disorder similar to schizophrenia in that they are linked with the high activity of the neurotransmitter dopamine, smaller temporal lopes, enlarged brain ventricles, and loss of gray matter (Comer, 2010).
Psychosocial – Ricky’s childhood abused and the emotionally detached parents are two obvious causes.
Cognitive – Defect in short-term memory and attention may be the contributing factors.


Biological – Low dose of antipsychotic drugs can reduce Ricky’s thought problems.
Psychotherapy – Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the combination of cognitive and behavioral techniques can be used to help Ricky to function more effective. Cognitive one could be teaching him to evaluate his unusual thoughts or perceptions objectively and ignore the inappropriate one or point out the inaccuracy of those odd ones. Behavioral deals with Ricky’s social skills training, appropriate speech, dress, and manner, and how to be comfortable around others (Comer, 2010).
Family & Social Therapy can also be very effective. Ricky can actually discuss with others their real-life problem. He obviously needs social and family support of his schizotypal personality disorder.

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