10 Things You Didn't Know About American Beauty

3. The Two Lolitas

American Beauty Mena Suvari

The film is notably inspired by two different pop culture Lolitas.

The first is Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial classic novel. Lolita is a contender for the best novel of the twentieth century, following unreliable narrator and master manipulator Humbert Humbert and his perverted take on love aimed at his landlady’s twelve-year-old daughter, Lolita.

It is obvious why Alan Ball would be influenced by Nabokov’s novel. He inserted subtle references to Lolita throughout the film. The most noticeable are in his naming of the predator and the preyed-upon. Lester Burnham is an anagram of Humbert learns, even if it is debatable whether Lester himself learns anything. Angela’s last name Hayes is an alternative spelling to Haze the surname of Lolita.

Ball was also inspired by the 1992 case of Amy Fisher dubbed “the Long Island Lolita” by the media. Fisher, then seventeen, had a sexual relationship with thirty-six-year-old Joey Buttafuoco. Fisher became jealous of Buttafuoco’s wife Mary Jo, leading to Fisher shooting her abuser’s wife in the face. Fisher and Buttafuoco were charged with first-degree aggravated assault and statutory rape respectively.

Ball noted that while he intended to write a script based on the incident, with each draft the project moved further away from this.


An English Lit. MA Grad trying to validate my student debt by writing literary fiction and alternative non-fiction.