Donnie Darko: Critique of Suburbia

Essay by roarkheroUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2004

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Following in the footsteps of movies like Edward Scissorhands, and Pleasantville, Richard Kelly creates a suburbia in his film Donnie Darko that seems out of this world, but in actuality, he shows a suburban town that is so close to real life that it strikes the viewer and forces him or her to reevaluate their own outlook on suburban life. Irony is the tool that Richard Kelly uses to show that the cast of characters, in this almost play-like suburban life, are really the evil that they try so hard to defeat. Many of the characters in the movie are weak minded and are easily influenced into conforming, because of fear, to the teachings of Jim Cunningham, perhaps the most ironic, and disturbing character of them all. Richard Kelly shows that the methods of Cunningham are at the very heart of what is wrong with the people of his suburbia, and that the victims of fear are actually himself and the characters that follow him.

Jim Cunningham's role in the town most closely resembles a god. He is worshiped by the townspeople, and his following is huge. When Donnie Darko's mother is having a conversation with a girlfriend, Mrs. Darko's friend says that his tapes have completely changed her life and that she can't believe that he is single. In addition to this woman, his most devout follower is the gym teacher, Kitty Farmer. She is the kind of cult-like follower that I am sure that Jim Cunningham strives to attain. After showing one of Cunningham's videos, she begins an exercise that is designed to teach the "fear and love lifeline." This lifeline is designed to train one to choose either fear or love for all situations that may arise in life. This lifeline is ironic in itself because...