Two American Families Free Essay

Review of the Film Two American Families and Failed American Dreams

The movie sheds light on the real-life struggles of two middle-class families – the Stanleys and the Neumanns, who work day and night to provide the best for their families. They have been traced within 22 years in Milwaukee to determine the failure of American dreams, their salient challenges, own benefits and objectives for their lifespans.

The Neumanns

Tony and Terry Neumann dreamed about one thing: to have a simple and secure life. They started a family right after tying the knot and hoped for good things for themselves. Tony worked on the factory, whereas Terry was a stay-in-home mother. The couple had two kids, Adam and Karissa, though the hardships started to ensue as the breadwinner lost his job. Then, Tony got a good job at Briggs and Stratton and made great money so that they could afford an own house.

However, in the 90s, around 4,000 employees lost their jobs in Milwaukee, including Tony Neumann. Now the family has more bills to pay monthly, and they struggle to make their ends men. Terry says, “That’s supposed to be the American Dream. Where is it?” (Casciato, 2013). Before Tony went from making $18 per hour + benefits to $6 in a fast-food joint, whereas his wife tried to resale skin care products to neighbors.

During Clinton’s presidency, Tony Neumann found a job making engine parts in one small company. Like many manufacturers at that time, the job was non-union, and hence, Tony made $8.25 per hour without benefits. Though it was a bit better situation for the Neumanns, it did not balance their lives to the core. The couple still struggled with an enormous mortgage and left behind. Terry realized that she would have to work, despite her kids needing her for care. She had low-wage and part-time jobs to manage finances and family. Though, in 1995, she got a full-time job as a security van driver, making $7.50 per hour with excellent benefits.

A decade later, Tony and Terry got divorced since they did not spend any period together due to different work shifts and job duties. Terry retrained as a nurse’s assistant, making $9 per hour. The agency kept her part-time to avoid paying essential benefits. Between 2008 and 2010, there were 16,000 foreclosures in Milwaukee; as a result, Terry was laid off and lost the house, she has been struggling to keep by all means. She has been doing everything on her own, but she remains strong, claiming, “Never let the devil win” (Casciato, 2013).

The Stanleys

Like Tony Neumann, Claude Stanley was laid off in Milwaukee. He lost his assembly line job at A.O. Smith. He did not give up and told himself that he had to find a job. Later on, he found a job at waterproofing basements for less than $7 per hour, though he had made $20 previously. Claude and his wife, Jackie, had five children, and it was challenging to pay for their education alongside the various bills for the house. Jacki Stanley was also cut off from her job at Briggs and began to practice her real estate skills to provide money for the family. However, things were getting worse and worse every day. Their daughter, Omega, says: “For us, it’s a matter of not life and death; it’s a matter of light and gas” (Casciato, 2013). By 1993, Claude got a promotion to a foreman of the waterproofing crew, making $8.25 an hour with modest benefits.

In 1998, Claude was off work for months with a lung condition that his benefits did not cover and ran up a $30,000 medical bill, which the Stanleys did not have. This bill prevented Jackie and Claude pay for their other children’s education. The financial crisis hit them badly, and the couple had to work even more to make their ends meet.

A decade later, Jackie’s own real estate business failed. The family remained together, unlike the Neumanns, but also was unable to meet ‘the American dream’ and provide the best for their children. Jackie said, “I thought I was a failure because I didn’t do it [provide education and a better life for other kids]. We went backwards” (Casciato, 2013). At 60, Claude became a garbage collector, earning only $26,000 a year, with some benefits and no retirement in sight. They might have lost anything, but they keep their faith in God.


Casciato, T. (2013). Two American Families. Frontline. Retrieved from



The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016.

[Accessed: October 27, 2021] (2016) The terms offer and acceptance [Online].
Available at:

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]

"The terms offer and acceptance.", 17 May 2016

[Accessed: October 27, 2021]
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