The Sacred and Profane in American Beauty Essay

1648 Words 7 Pages
Durkheim's concepts of the sacred and the profane has dominated religious and social commentary for decades. While these two, inexorably linked, concepts are most often related with respect to religion, we can apply them to the almost-religion of the “American Dream” for the purpose of analyzing the lives of Lester and Carolyn Burnham, Buddy Kane, and Angela Hayes in the film “American Beauty.” In “American Beauty” the experiences of the characters illustrates the dichotomy between the sacred and profane, the morality associated with the sacred and profane, and the influences the sacred and profane have on the characters. The sacred and profane are slathered all over the characters of American Beauty and their motivations. Durkheim's (1912) idea of the scared is that it is ideal that society holds itself to, the “dream.” In this case, rather than a specific religion, the characters are cradled in the religion of the “American dream.” We know that the “American Dream” is a suitable source of the sacred because “Sacredness does not require a God. Flags, national holidays, and other markers of collective solidarity are sacred in the same way— and serve the same group- binding function—as crosses and holy days”(Graham and Haidt 2011). There are several manifestations of the sacred throughout the film, taking the forms of the beautiful Angela and the successful Buddy. While we see these manifestations of the sacred, it must be remembered that the power of the…