American Psycho (Harron, 2000)

In American Psycho (2000), director Mary Harron constructs a mixture of horror and comedy which adequately renders the temper of the original novel by Bret Easton Ellis. More than the typical serial-killer picture, American Psycho is a social satire of the 80’s ‘yuppie’ culture – a culture defined by superficiality, self-centeredness, and phoniness. The protagonist, Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), is the epitomic yuppie; he is materialistic, self-obsessed, and so two-faced that no one would believe he is a disturbed psycho serial-killer. His characteristics and ultimate ‘snap’ of uncontrollable psychotic behavior is a sardonic reflection of the general internally-self-restrained attitude of the ‘yuppie’ culture. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether he actually killed those people or not; the underlying implication is that the psyche of the internally-self-restrained ‘yuppie’ will inexorably ‘snap’, causing fragmenting of the self, and the emergence of multiple-personalities and obsessive compulsions.

Because the young urban professionals of the ‘yuppie’ culture have similar attitudes and desires, conformity reigns. Everyone is similarly artificial and ego-centric, and each person yearns to generate a better reputation than the other. They all smile and say “yes!”, insincerely expressing cheerfulness, contentment, and a can-do attitude. In American Psycho, the characters are essentially clones of one another; this is how Bateman is often mistaken for someone else, such as ‘Halberstram’ by Allen, ‘Davis’ by his lawyer, and ‘Smith’ by a security guard. They each have similar haircuts, clothes, and watches, and appreciate fine dining, fine suits, and fine drugs – cocaine specifically. The scene of the business cards conveys the notion of conformity and shallowness; although they look virtually identical, the ‘yuppie’s’ compete about who has the finest card. In fact, the characters seem rather more concerned about such trivial things as business cards than they are about missing people or apparent murders. Patrick’s expressive music reviews, and the general behavior of the characters, convey the notion of phoniness and artificiality. Together, these formidable notions create the powerful satire of American Psycho.

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About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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