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Don't you LAUGH at me! I will not sit back and watch my only son become a c**ksucker.
~ Frank Fitts to his son Ricky.
How come these faggots always have to rub it in your face? How can they be so shameless?
~ Frank Fitts repressing his homosexuality.
Colonel Frank Fitts is the main antagonist of the 1999 drama film American Beauty.
Given his background as an ex-Marine, Frank runs his family like a platoon. He insists on discipline and order at all times, especially from Ricky, whom he sees as a disappointment. His marriage is a loveless one; he and Barbara barely speak to one another. He also has his own office where he keeps a collection of firearms and Nazi memorabilia, one being a China plate emblazoned with a Nazi swastika.
Frank is also virulently homophobic. He is also extremely violent and abusive toward his son, beating him when he thinks he is gay or deviates from his model he imposes to the family. He also even sent Ricky once at a psychiatric hospital and military school.
Frank was a decorated colonel in the United States Marine Corps. When he retires, he and his wife Barbara along with their teenage son Ricky moved into a suburban street, settling in a house next door to Lester Burnham and his family.
Sometime after Lester meets Angela Hayes, Frank is greeted at the door by his new neighbors, gay couple Jim Olmeyer and Jim Berkeley. Frank is disgusted by their openness about their homosexuality, and complains to Ricky about "faggots" living in the neighborhood. He soon comes to believe (incorrectly) that Ricky may be gay, and bullies him incessantly to keep him on the "straight and narrow".
On one evening, he breaks into Ricky's room and assaults him while interrogating the latter about his entry to the office, accusing him of burglary for money to buy drugs. Ricky confesses that he was giving his new girlfriend, whom he identifies as Lester's daughter, Jane, a tour of their home and about the Nazi china plate. Although Frank somewhat believes him, he insists for Ricky to keep out of his office. After finding a video of Lester working out in the nude, which Ricky had captured by chance, he fears that Ricky and the much older Lester are lovers. Frank then later accuses Ricky of being gay and beats him again after spying on the latter's drug session with Lester, which he mistakes for a sexual affair. He expels Ricky from the house, saying he would rather his son be dead than gay.
That night, Frank comes over to Lester's house and finds him working out. When Frank asks about Lester's wife Carolyn, Lester replies that their marriage is just for show. Frank misunderstands Lester and tries to kiss him; when Lester gently rebuffs his advances, Frank starts crying and leaves. Terrified that Lester will reveal his secret, Frank breaks into Lester's house and shoots him in the back of the head with a SIG-Sauer P226, killing him. He is last seen frantically washing Lester's blood off his hands.
The first and official drafts of the film's script reveals Frank Fitts' past, which serves as an important reason for his antagonism but was taken out of the finished film. In the original draft, Frank had a homosexual relationship with a fellow Marine while serving in the Vietnam War. The scenes show Colonel Fitts “entwined in the officer's private parts". When his lover is killed by the Viet Cong, Frank internalizes the shame he feels about his sexuality as if he was being punished.