American Beauty

Pain. That seems to be the underlying theme of all pop culture artifacts. Songs, books, films, pastimes--they all seem to involve pain.... The pain of loss, of want, of need, of frustration, of deprivation, of injustice, of betrayal--all these forms of pain seem to be at the base of contemporary pop culture. But does this mean that people want to feel pain? That pain is the goal? Or is the pain ever-present in pop culture, like pain in medical terminology, really just a symptom? Probably we only cry out in pain because we crave the joy the pain tells we aren't feeling. In 1970, the Grateful Dead released the Album American Beauty. Full of bluegrass-themed acoustic songs celebrating the joys of the natural world, it is an artifact from a world not so far in the past, but vastly different from the one we inhabit today. The 1999 film American Beauty makes great strides in addressing the sense of loss and despair as it takes a look at the emptiness and abyss that has opened up between people in the generations between. Even in the darkest of times and places, people never seem to stop looking for what's worth salvaging, even when the cost appears too steep:

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