In the movie American Beauty, we see Colonel Frank Fitts tried to kiss Lester Burnham just before the latter was killed. Why did he try to do so? At first, I thought Frank himself was gay too. But later the fact that he was trying to check whether Lester was gay or not started making more sense to me. However I am not still sure. So can it be said definitely whether Frank was gay or not?
Frank Fitts is a closet/repressed homosexual. There are a few pointers for this:
- He had a Southern upbringing, one which is very Christian and anti-gay
- He has a failed marriage and barely touches his wife
- He was in the army, a society of men, possibly with a lot of man-on-man action going on
- He is also vehemently anti-gay which could be interpreted to be a form of Freudian projection, a defence mechanism for self-denial.
Frank kissed Lester because:
- He was under the mistaken impression that Lester was gay
- Lester informed him that his wife was probably out cheating on him
- His own relationship with his wife was virtually non-existent; this led him to believe that Lester and he were in similar situations
- He finally caved in to his desires, in many ways encouraged by Ricky's open (false) confession of his sexuality
Much has already been addressed in the existing answer, so I just want to contribute one argument:
But later the fact that he was trying to check whether Lester was gay or not started making more sense to me.
I do not think that Frank’s kiss makes much sense from this perspective:
Lester was already talking pretty openly about his marriage. It should be clear even to Frank that he could just ask Lester about his sexual orientation at that point.
If Frank’s strong anti-gay sentiments were in line with his actual sexuality, he would be likely be too repulsed by performing this kiss even for the purposes of checking Lester’s sexual orientation – going by the intensity of his prior statements.
The last time we saw Frank before this scene was his escalation with Ricky, which ended with him being confused. From this point, assuming that there is nothing else going on, there are three ways for this character to go:
His clings to his view of the world, re-affirming it. But then he already decided that Lester is gay and there is little need to test them. Also, he should return to his normal, angry self.
His world view collapses be it due to Ricky leaving him or him (falsely) realising that Ricky is gay. Again there is little point to test Lester. Also, if Lester is any concern of his at that moment, it would be due to hate and anger.
He evaluates the situation and decides that he needs further data (or similar). This would justify the testing, but it also clearly is not Frank’s style of doing things.
So, if we go for Lester testing Frank in scenario 1 or 2, we would expect at least some anger. However, in the kiss scene, there is no hint of this (except perhaps for him clutching Lester shortly before the kiss). He clearly lacks the acting skills, self-control, knowledge of human psychology, and creativity to fake this.
He was a repressed homosexual. Fitts killed Lester, because Lester who rejected Fitts now knows his shame. He could not live with that.
Why did Fitts kiss Lester? Because everything up to that moment in Fitts' mind indicated Lester was a homosexual, but more than that....he came to assume Lester was also hiding it behind his marriage just as Fitts' hides his.
I was watching this great classic again and I was asking myself that question too, before the scene of the kiss. I just say that for me, the conclusion that Fitts is a repressed gay is really accurate. If you see the scene and listen carefully to the dialog and his reactions to Lester's answers are quite noticeable of his sensibility to the subject. He slowly gain courage to hug and finally kiss Lester, totally compelled and mistaken about Lester's sexuality.
No, he was not gay or in the closet, he loved his son so much he was willing to try to kiss a man in a desperate attempt to accept homosexuality therefore being able to accept his son