American Psycho, a darkly comedic movie, is a not so subtle metaphor for the greed, excess, and selfishness of yuppie America in the 80’s starring Christian Bale.
American Psycho, released in 2000, is based on the novel of the same name by Bret Easton Ellis, he of the 80’s yuppie excess love affair. What struck me on the recent Sundance TV airing had not really struck me as much watching this movie 15 years ago. If you have not yet seen this film, then here is your spoiler alert. And another alert is that you must be of a strong stomach as well to handle this fare.
In this film, the point is made that people do not matter, nor do their personalities, characters, points of view and what they have to say. The only thing that does matter is what they have in the way of material items and the images they present to the world.
Bale plays our antihero, Patrick Bateman, although that name is irrelevant. In fact, by the end of American Psycho he has used and been called several different names. The only things relevant to the young male, power-broker, New York City set, are the designers of their suits and eyeglasses, the look and feel of their business cards, and who has the swankiest apartment. And, of course, where they have dinner reservations. Their women are just an extension of their taste in anything fine and shallow.
Not so poor Bateman is completely devoid of any original thought. Most of his conversation is regurgitated reviews of pop culture, such as music and plays, which he has memorized in place of real conversation. By his own admission there is no one home in his carefully maintained body. He is an empty, but impressively well groomed, shell. He finally flips out and kills between 20 and 40 people by his count. His final admissions of guilt to his attorney are taken as a joke and his attorney thinks he is someone else anyway. His admissions to his fiance are mere background noise to her as she obsesses over a glittering bracelet.
The art in his apartment is devoid of faces. The ultimate effect of this sly metaphor for yuppie greed and shallow excess is a sickness where people do not matter. Things matter. Money matters. But the person itself is expunged. The only thing that matters is image and social climbing. The person inside does not count, only what is on the outside counts. You can read a book by its cover in American Psycho. Any young woman with talent, a brain, or personality, is, by definition, ugly, according to our young power-brokers. So when they and others start dropping like flies, who really cares? They aren’t missed much. What really matters is getting precious reservations at Dorsia.
What you say and what you do are of no true consequence in American Psycho. What you have and showing it off is the ultimate gold standard of this world. The real psycho killer is greed and materialism. Bateman is simply its conduit. It reminds me of something I have heard from Porsche diehards and observed myself. One symbol of the yuppie era was the Porsche 944. You don’t see them around much anymore, if at all. They were bought to be seen in and were not taken care of properly. Porschephiles say, “they were not bought by the right kind of people.” Sadly, they just didn’t make it through the 80’s. And not so sadly, some of Patrick Bateman’s compatriots did not make it either. Now about those Dorsia reservations. Dinner, anyone?