Bret Easton Ellis
Patrick Bateman is intelligent, sophisticated and handsome. He lives in the same apartment in Manhattan where Tom Cruise resides. He is familiar with any high-end brand, be it clothing, perfumes, shoes. He takes care of his body with the best skin care treatments and diets, and his healthy physique enables him to do a thousand crunches every morning. He only dines at the finest restaurants. In his spare time, he kills and tortures women, colleagues and bums.
On the surface, it seems like author Bret Easton Ellis is merely showing us how a psychopathic yuppie lives his life. But I got the sense that Ellis propped up Bateman as a universal truth of modern day man and his predilection towards material trivialities and violence.
Ellis skewers consumerism the same way Bateman skewers women in his apartment. He does it with grace and style, hypnotizing the reader with Bateman’s litanies on brands, gym workouts, restaurants with convoluted dishes, and even business card designs. The reader is sucked in by his superficial criticisms because it’s a relatable habit. For a generation enabled by consumerist culture, what makes a person is the quality of materials he possesses.
Bateman is a polarizing character, but it’s easy to gravitate toward his charm and panache. He downs his J&B on the rocks with ease, flirts effortlessly with “hardbodies,” and dresses with the finest clothes. His stream of consciousness fluctuates from banal to outright disturbing. And yet, I found myself anticipating the evils he’d do, partly because I found his nonchalant approach to killing amusing, but mostly because the graphic violence inspired some sort of thrill, like a climax amid Bateman’s vapid monologues.
American Psycho brings out the psycho in us. In anticipating Bateman’s atrocities, we unwittingly affirm the author’s belief that modern times have glorified violence to the point that it’s no longer shocking, but something accepted and even expected. As we’re subconsciously drawn towards the yuppie, consumerist lifestyle of Bateman, we affirm that materialist culture has molded us in a way that we are no different from Bateman. The only difference is he acts out his fantasies, while we’re content to just get a thrill out of watching or reading about aestheticized violence.