There must be something about that poster that I continually miss, I could name at least three websites ad hoc that have this poster listed in their top-ten, if not in the premier spot than at least in a runner-up place. So what is it that those people see?
I’ve seen it described as being erotic, but when I look at it all I see is the close-up of a belly button that could off belong to any body, and a rose held in place by a hand that looks strangely alien as if belonging to a second person we get to see even less of. Another regular exclamation I tend to encounter is praising the cleverness of the tagline: …look closer. I’ve looked at that darn thing close enough that it started to dissolve into the singular points that make it up and didn’t see anything beyond what I always saw. I don't get it, not at all, but it makes me smile how Sorority Boys varied the line by adding: (Not that close), seems somebody out there knows me just too well.
With American Beauty it's like those strangely impersonal nude shots you encounter at times where the photographer cut off the head, and sometimes the limbs too, leaving you with a completely characterless torso to stare at. But this is worse, if it wasn’t for the alien hand I wouldn’t even haven thought at first glance that this strangely gender neutral object could be part of a body, makes we wonder if maybe it would be a better picture without the hand, but maybe that is the point, maybe we are indeed not looking at somebody’s vaguely question mark shaped belly button, maybe this is not a belly at all but… hum, no, no that seems not to be the answer.
Well, there will always be some posters that we don’t get, who’s reasoning for people to put it in their personal ‘best of’ lists escapes us, confounds us even, and for me this is American Beauty.
"When someone doesn't show up, the people who wait sometimes tell stories about what might have happened and come to half believe the desertion, the abduction, the accident. Worry is a way to pretend that you have knowledge or control over what you don't--and it surprises me, even in myself, how much we prefer ugly scenarios to the pure unknown. Perhaps fantasy is what you fill up maps with rather than saying that they too contain the unknown."— Rebecca Solnit