The most obvious thing that can be traced in the Hollywood movies is the yearning for making money; as a rule, filmmakers do not always benefit from making unprofitable movies and vice versa, sometimes movies that were characterized as noncommercial gain success and popularity which brings them to the top positions in terms of box-office receipts. Eventually, the movie can meet the requirements and expectations of the audience or fail this mission. The success of the film does not have to be measured by its financial success, though most profitable movies appear to be interesting for the audience.
The film American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron is one of the movies that awaked the most critical appraisals. This film was discussed many times with a view to different themes raised in it; some topics were developed successfully, while others can be considered after thorough consideration. As this brings me to the essence of my paper, it is necessary to mention the critical article by Omar Lizardo who managed to analyze the movie Fight Club (1999) directed by David Fincher in terms of economics and contradictions existing in the consumers’ society where the concepts of consuming and accumulating seem to be interrelated and distinctive features of each other.
The movie American Psycho (2000) can be analyzed in terms of the economic position of the main character and the influence of finance on the motives and actions of Patrick Bateman performed by Christian Bale. Though the concept introduced by Lizardo’s article can only be partially applied to American Psycho, it can be clearly traced in the plot of the movie. As you can see, it is necessary to discuss the character and its relations to the “split” of consummation and accumulation.
Classification of Character
The image of Patrick Bateman
The main character of the movie is a successful young man that lives as he pleases; he is obsessed with fashion, style, and glamorous life. He cares for his skin, face, and body, though he appears to be absolutely unhappy without murdering people. “Bateman is shown placing an ice mask on his face, training his abdominal muscles, taking a shower, and applying a facial mask” (Kooijman & Laine, 2003, p.2). The main character is a typical yuppie from a family of a successful financier, “Bateman strives to conceal his lack of being with designer suits and pop culture, but remains aware of the meaninglessness of his project: “Surface, surface, the surface was all that anyone found meaning in… this was civilization as I saw it, colossal and jagged…” (Ellis, 1991, p.375 as cited in Kooijman & Laine, 2003, p.2).
The mask can be considered an allegoric technique that is introduced to conceal Patrick Bateman’s desire to murder innocent people without any reason or motive. He is handsome and successful, though miserable in his attempts to be as perfect inside as outside. Alternatively, we can assume that this image is an embodiment of a natural balance between good and evil, dark and light in a person that lives within the society of consumers. Business cards, fashionable clothes, and visiting prestigious restaurants are distinctive features and the highest values of the consumers world. Successful Patrick Bateman is doing everything to be first: caring for his skin, face, and body. At night, the same obsessive passion for excellence is transformed into a passion for violence. Seeing an unemployed bum in an alley, Patrick at first wanted to help him, and then impulsively killed, opening bloody and senseless crimes.
The directions of “split”
The main character of the American Psycho can be considered as a person who does not realize in full measure his desires and fears, he cannot understand his sudden desire to kill, “Bateman’s interior monologue could be described as a stream of both consciousness and unconsciousness” (Messier, 2004, p.74). However, the main character can be analyzed as both a victim of the consumer society where money makes people happy, “Patrick Bateman’s murders are crimes for which an increasingly commercial and materialistic society must take ultimate responsibility” (Annesley, 1998, p.13, cited in Storey, 2005, p.58) and a cruel murderer who does not realize either the consequences of his actions or impact of money on other people’s lives through his actions. The movie happens to be “… a satire of consumer society” (Messier, 2004, p.89) where Bateman is a puppet in the consumer theater.
Moreover, the image of Patrick Bateman is introduced as the element of psychoanalysis of the self and its different variations, suchlike self-control, self-expression, self-discovery, self-fulfillment, self-denial, self-realization, self-help, and self-refusal. Which one dominates? What do we know about the narcissistic yuppie? As suggested by Campbell (1989),
counter-ethic, while starting in the ‘cult of the self and the glorification of the transgression of eighteenth-century Romanticism, became incorporated into the capitalist system with the emergence of an autonomous artistic field at the end of the nineteenth century which begat the formalist problematic of modernism – with its attempts to efface the distance between the subject and object through technical experimentation – and the incorporation of the aesthetic techniques pioneered therein into advertising in the first half of the twentieth century (cited in Lizardo, 2007, p.226).
The idea of character structure and the concept of self is regarded as an integral part of the consumer society, “This dynamic process of the “rationalization” of the social and natural cosmos manifested itself in private life with the imposition of an internalized ethic of control, calculation, and planning at the level of the character structure” (Adorno & Horkheimer 1972; Lukacs 1972; Marcuse 1974, cited in Lizardo, 2007, p.224).
The movie appears to be “a gross parody of mass consumerism and liberal capitalism, two trends that were not only true during the Reagan Era but remain prevalent today in Western society” (Messier, 2004, p.75). In addition, the basic part of the current discussion is aimed at arguing on the economic impact on the personality and people’s actions; as suggested by Lizardo (2007), “… a split subject caught between hysteria and perversion. This split subject, therefore, is more accurately characterized as psychotic” (pp.225-226).
To conclude, the image of Patrick Bateman can be treated as a vivid representation of the consumer society and contradictions between taking and giving. The main character of American Psycho is a successful representative of modern society; he takes everything that life can suggest to him in terms of his financial position and gives back the psychopathic consequences of consuming goods available to him as a yuppie. The movie partially includes the concept of contradiction between consuming and accumulating because the accumulation is not typical of the modern fast liver.
Kooijman, J. & Laine, T. (2003). American Psycho: A Double Portrait of Serial Yuppie Patrick Bateman. Post Script, 22.3, 46. Web.
Lizardo, O. (2007). Fight Club, or the Cultural Contradictions of Late Capitalism. Journal for Cultural Research, 11(3), 221-243
Messier, V. P. (2004). Violence, Pornography, and Voyeurism as Transgression in Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho. Atenea, 14(1), 73-93. Web.
Storey, M. (2005) And as Things Fell Apart: The Crisis of Postmodern Masculinity in Bret Easton Ellis’s American Psycho and Dennis Cooper’s Frisk. Critique, 47(1), 57-72. Web.