American Beauty Semiotic Analysis

American Beauty, through its use of symbols and the title of the film itself makes us examine the characters and their philosophies (American dream, their concepts of success, beauty, etc.) both as they are and as they are perceived. No one in the movie is actually as they seem. In the end the creepiest (Ricky) is the nicest, the successful wife is an unstable wreck, and the American beauty is rather plain.

The red rose pedals, which appear several times throughout American Beauty are a symbol for love, sensuality, and vitality. However it is important to note that throughout most of the movie the red roses are implicitly an illusion. The red roses in the context of an illusion come to stand for a sugar coated reality.

By sugar coating I mean that which covers up the natural stimulation (taste, sight, touch) by "sweetening" it. In all but one of the scenes, the red peddles are around Angela covering her naked body in a way which makes what ever lays beneath, that much more enticing, through the use of sensual reds and the sexiness of mystery. Not to mention extreme spectacles which often accompany Lester's dream scenes.

However in the scene where Lester finally gets what he has been wishing for Angela has no red peddles around her. Unlike her breasts in the first scene which were covered up with vibrant pedals, this scene exposes her body for what it is, we like Lester start to feel like Angela may not have been all she was cracked up to be. It is not that Angela isn't beautiful, it is that no one could live up to the god like expectations that Lester's wild fantasies created.

After Lester finds out that Angela is a virgin and not at all what he thought she was he goes out to the kitchen and picks up a picture of his family. As Lester looks at a photo of his family saying "man oh man …" a bucay of red roses (exact to those shown earlier) are shown for about 5 seconds. These roses unlike all shown previously are real, not a dream. Also unlike the roses shown earlier they are associated with his family and not Angela. In this context the roses do not represent sugar coating but real love, sensuality, and vitality. Seconds latter we see a puddle of red blood. Shortly after we experience, by video montage which is Lester's life flashing before his eyes, the love, sensuality, and vitality which the picture represented.

The theme of things not being what they seem is not isolated to Lester's view of Angela. Several times throughout the movie Carolyn says You have to project success at all times to eventually become successful. Lester also comments to Ricky's Dad that his marriage "… is just for show".

Many of the characters seem to obsess over how people perceive them but show little care for the reality of things. Ricky's Dad who hates homosexuality, and lets …

The Role of the Weird Sisters – An Analysis of the Vampire Women in Bram Stoker's Dracula

The three vampire women who inhabit the more remote regions of Count Dracula's castle are of great significance to the narrative. Stoker's depiction of them could be considered to embody the very worst Victorian nightmares regarding womanhood. Jonathan Harker's reactions after his encounter with them also convey late nineteenth-century anxieties concerning the feminization of men.

Female gender identities were narrowly defined in Victorian society. Women were generally considered to be of two types, either the doting wife and mother, or the fallen woman. The vampire women, or 'weird sisters', as Harker calls them – referencing the three witches from Macbeth – could be considered an exaggerated literary equivalent of these fallen women. With their "brilliant white teeth" (p.37) and "voluptuous lips" (p.37), they are portrayed as overtly sexual beings. Their appearance and behavior stand in stark contrast to that of Jonathan's fiancée, the virtuous Mina, who he describes as having "naught in common" (p. 53) with the vampire women.

During his seduction, Jonathan's reactions to the weird sisters are decidedly ambivalent: "There was a deliberate voluptuousness which was both thrilling and repulsive" (p. 38). He encounters them in a far-flung chamber of Castle Dracula whilst in an ambiguous state of consciousness, a common motif in Gothic literature: "I suppose I must have fallen asleep; I hope so, but I fear, for all that followed was startlingly real "(p.37). Viewed from within a Victorian context, Harker is portrayed in a somewhat feminized position, with the gender roles reversed, in that he is a man being seduced by women, when in nineteenth-century society men would be expected to assume the role of seducer.

It is arguable that the actions of the vampire women in their seduction of Harker representations of newfound anxieties about the emergence of the New Woman. The New Woman was a type of woman who challenged the prevailing Victorian notions of womanhood. Although Mina could be considered a New Woman, with her financial independence gained from having a career before marriage, she discusses this class of women with disdain. Regarding attitudes to marriage, she states that "I suppose the New Woman won't condescend in future to accept; she will do the proposing herself" (p.89). It would appear that in their seduction of Harker, the female vampires could be considered New Women in light of Mina's remarks.

Within the context of Gothic literature, Stoker confronts several conventions, one of these being through the role of Jonathan Harker in Dracula's castle. In eighteenth-century Gothic novels, such as Ann Radcliffe's influential The Mysteries of Udolpho , it is a young woman – of a 'tremulous sensitivity' and much prone to fainting – who finds herself ensnared in a remote castle and at the mercy of male predators . In Dracula Stoker has subverted convention by having a male character in this role, a detail consolidated by Harker's reaction to his grisly encounter with the vampire women: "the horror overcame me, and I sank down unconscious" (p.39). He is a man assuming the …