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Sunday, 10 June 2018

The Genius of American Psycho




American Psycho is not a movie/novel about a killer. It is about the vapid, self-absorbed yuppie culture of upper class stock brokers living in 1980s America. It is about the fact that they are so consumed by the mass consumerism of their lives; obsessed with booking reservations even when not hungry, and trying to have the best business card.

This movie is a hilarious satire on a lifestyle that seems so far-removed from the real world. These people comment on the awful things happening in the world around them; poverty, race relations, Reagan, the Cold War and so forth, yet they lack any actual awareness about these things. Their lives consist of work, fancy restaurants, cocaine-fuelled clubs and expensive flats. The dialogue that passes between them is bland and monotonous. In a scene where Bateman is sitting with his colleagues, the rampant misogyny between them and the fact that they don't care is so appalling its hilarious.

Patrick Bateman is one of these stock brokers. He is a textbook psychopath; narcissistic, cold, self-absorbed, driven by his own greed and pleasures, and has no empathy for others. He is engaged, yet we seldom seem him and his girlfriend together. He has sex with a bunch of women, but we don't once see him making love to his fiancee. Their relationship seems like it's all for show; both are unfaithful to one another and aware of it but neither seem to care. She's just a beautiful woman dating a handsome wealthy man.

Most of the women in the film look the same; blonde, slim, white and fairly attractive. Most of the men are equally homogeneous; slim, white, clear-skinned, brown hair cut in similar styles. This represents the lack of identity that runs throughout the film - people mistake each other for someone else all the time because identity doesn't matter. But there's no unity either - they're all just a blob of the same person doing the same thing and worrying about the same sorts of stuff. It's like living in fog.

Naturally, this drives Bateman crazy to the point where he develops an obsession for murder and bloodlust, desperate to break out of the mundanity of his life. (In that respect, its similar to Fight Club). A lot of people wonder whether or not the murders were in his head or not. While I believe that some happened and the ones later on in the film didn't, it doesn't matter. The point of this movie is not 'did he kill people or didn't he.' The point is that no one cares either way. Even if he did kill a bunch of people, no one he works with takes him seriously or cares about his opinion. His lawyer doesn't even know who he is. (We don't even know if he actually is Patrick Bateman or not - he could really be one of the others because that's how irrelevant their names are).

When the film ends, zooming in on his eyes saying 'this confession means nothing', it means that because no one cares about whether he killed anyone or not, him admitting it has no relevance. After all, something is only relevant if someone else acknowledges it. If a person kills a bunch of people but no one is bothered by it or notices, is it really relevant? Its relevant to the person, but our lives are not lived in isolation. An artist can create art, but if no one recognises their work and acknowledges it it begins to feel meaningless.

Bateman may well be a killer; he likely mistook someone else for Paul Allen and ended up killing them instead, which is even more horrific as it shows on a literal level that life in that world is irrelevant and everyone is easily replaceable. The true 'American Psycho' isn't Bateman, its the world he lives in. A world that is cold, distant and removed from the realities of life, and lost in a blur of money, cocaine, fancy suits and the thickest business card.

Great video that inspired me to write this:

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If you enjoy my posts check out my novel Every Last Psycho. Available to purchase on Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07F44CMNJ