- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2000

Psychological drama

"Maybe I'm just naive, but when people took my movie to be this big indictment of suburbia, my reaction was, 'Oh, I never intended that.' To me, it was about two very specific families who are never meant in any way to represent the suburban family in America… . I know that there are plenty of incredibly functional, well-adjusted, spiritual families raising kids in suburbia. My movie just didn't happen to be about them. It was about characters who are kind of lost and grappling with what their lives mean… .

" 'American Beauty' isn't grounded in a particular sense of place, but is, rather, inspired by a set of mythologies or an iconography that, I think, we all carry with us. So it's really set with the collective imagination… . I'm interested in projecting my own psychological anxieties and fears and desires onto what seems to be an ordinary, or familiar, place. That creates a kind of uncanny tension."

Alan Ball, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of "American Beauty," interviewed in "Children of the Cul-de-Sac," in Sunday's New York Times Magazine

The new elite

"Over the past 30 years … the educated class has gone from triumph to triumph. They have crushed the old WASP elite culture, thrived in an economy that lavishly rewards their particular skills, and now sit atop many of the same institutions they once railed against. But all this has created a gnawing problem. How do they make sure they haven't themselves become self-satisfied replicas of the WASP elite they still so forcefully denounce? …

"Socially enlightened members of the educated elite tend to be disturbed by the widening gap between rich and poor and are therefore made somewhat uncomfortable by the fact that their own family income now tops $80,000. Some of them dream of social justice yet went to a college where the tuition costs could feed an entire village in Rwanda for a year… .

"This is an elite that has been raised to oppose elites. They are affluent yet opposed to materialism… .

"They grapple with the trade-offs between equality and privilege ('I believe in public schooling, but the private school just seems better for my kids'), between convenience and responsibility … between rebellion and convention… .

"Marx told us that classes inevitably conflict, but sometimes they just blur. The values of bourgeois mainstream culture and the values of the 1960s counterculture have merged. That culture war has ended, at least within the educated class… . In the resolution between the culture and the counterculture, it is impossible to tell who co-opted whom, because in reality the bohemians and the bourgeois co-opted each other."

David Brooks, from his new book, "Bobos in Paradise: The New Upper Class and How They Got There"


"On April 29, the night before a huge gay rights march converges on the capital, Melissa Etheridge, the Pet Shop Boys, George Michael, k.d. lang, Nathan Lane, and Ellen DeGeneres will share the stage at Washington, D.C.'s RFK Stadium for Equality Rocks, a concert benefiting the Human Rights Campaign Foundation that's as close as the community has come to having its own Gaystock.

"Some performers may tailor their sets for the occasion. 'I have a large gay following but try not to ever make my concerts be gay-themed,' says Etheridge …. 'I try to be universal in my shows and my work. And maybe this is a chance for me to kind of let it down and be specific and for the community."

Chris Willman, writing on "Gritty in Pink," in the April 14 issue of Entertainment Weekly

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