Laughing to Keep from Crying: An Analysis of The Film As Good as it Gets

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Americans function in a normative society, where outliers are either considered dangerous or laughable. The patriarchal ideals upon which the United States was founded placed white heterosexual males at the top of the social ladder, but in so doing, all those who fall short of this specific condition are left struggling to climb toward normalcy. This ideal, however, is challenged by the blithely offensive, obsessive-compulsive main character of the film, As Good as it Gets. It is difficult to imagine an actor besides Jack Nicholson playing the part of Melvin Udall, whose neurotic behavior is a part of his particular brand of charm. Noted film critic, Roger Ebert, gave the film a three-star rating, stating that, “It is some kind of twisted …show more content…
Melvin’s concept of homosexuality, however, is contested by Frank, Simon’s art dealer, who, in contrast to Simon, is strongly masculine. Frank confronts Melvin, telling Melvin in no uncertain terms that he will not tolerate Melvin’s abusive treatment of Simon. The film further exposes this concept of the duality of homosexuality in the way that one of Frank’s art associates hires a male prostitute to pose for a portrait, who later becomes an accomplice to Simon’s robbery and attack. In this way, Melvin’s suspicions and verbal disdain of homosexuality is justified by society, making his insults more humorous than offensive. Frank, while he contradicts Melvin’s idea of the typical homosexual, embodies (aside from his sexuality) the stereotype of the African American male. He threatens Melvin with violence after witnessing Melvin’s ill treatment of Simon. In the hallway, Melvin screams for the police, calling them “donut-munching morons,” yelling Frank’s offenses, which he rounds off with the accusation, “and you’re black!” The only other non-white character in the film is similarly portrayed according to stereotype, Simon’s maid is Hispanic, and as such, characteristically Catholic. After she asks Melvin, with religious flourish, to make sure he opens Simon’s windows for him, Melvin sends her off with the retort, “Sell crazy someplace else. We’re

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