Day 119: American Psycho

I just got cable installed in my bedroom for a lark. While it has me a little worried that this will result in me never leaving my bedroom ever again, an immediate advantage is that there are a bunch of channels playing movies and TV shows that I’ve never seen before.

American Psycho. I…liked this. I didn’t really love it though. I think I enjoyed it much more on an intellectual level than a visceral one. I “get” how it was a well made film. I get how incredible Christian Bale’s performance was. He was amazing in this, totally convincing as a completely emotionless psychopath. And above all else, the film really works as a comment on the excess and consumerism of the 1980s. It’s not so much that Bateman does such a good job blending in with normal society that is striking, but rather that he doesn’t. There are times when he seems comically conspicuous, but really, he doesn’t come off any more vacuous and narcissistic than anyone else in his world. They may not be secret serial killers, but they exist in the same emotionally void, soulless, money-driven universe. There appears to be nothing to them, nothing behind them. That’s precisely why Bateman can fit in so well, even as the film progresses and he behaves more and more erratically. If he existed in any other period of time he’d have a much tougher time hiding in plain sight, but here, he’s just another self obsessed yuppie with a veneer of artificiality.

I like the black humour in this, the really absurd and satirical parts of the film. Apart from the opening and closing scenes, my favourite parts of the movie were Bateman’s ridiculous critiques of 80s pop bands as a prelude to violently smashing someone’s face in. The pomposity of it, it’s role as a symbol of consumer culture…I loved it. He’s not a thinking man’s serial killer who analyses the deep meaning of avant garde, arty or classical music. He’s not Hannibal Lector. He’s a Wall Street yuppie who listens to the biggest and most successful pop acts of the day, the music that everyone else listens to, the music he’s told to listen to. And then he tries to sound smarter than everyone else about it. I’m not sure what exactly it says about me that his overblown theses on Phil Collins and the like reminded me all too well of my own musings on rock bands in my Soundwave Scouting Reports. Bit of a worry when I see my own writing in something that sounds so pretentious, but then again…I accept my pretentiousness. I embrace it. It’s hard not to, really…I write a blog for God sakes. About myself.

The ending is the other great part of the film, the thing that really ties it together and makes what was at times a boring journey, if I’m honest, all totally worth it. The finish bumps this up a quarter of a star, to use wrestling parlance. Oh, the futility of it all. The key is the lack of consequences. All his life is spent on a carefully orchestrated process of blending in, because he knows he’s sick and if he doesn’t hide it, worse things will befall him. Then we watch as his mask slips and his insanity is completely released, culminating in the big killing spree, police chase and his tearful confession. Then he wakes up in the morning and…nothing. Nothing has changed. He went crazy shooting people in the middle of the street and got away with it. He left bodies in an apartment and got away with it. He confessed, and got away with it. Life stays the same. It’s like he says, there was no carthasis, he learned nothing and gained nothing. And so he just has to go on, but it’s even worse now because at least before he lived in fear/expectation of a future moment where things changed. He’d get caught, he’d be punished, he’d be on the other side of “it”, and life would be different. Maybe not better, almost assuredly not, but something different. Something different to feel. Instead he has to go on indefinitely with this numbness, this lack of feeling. There are no consequences. There’s nothing on the other side of this. There is only this. If there are no consequences, even for wanton murder, what is the point of doing anything at all? You’re just stuck in an endless loop.

And not only that, there’s a sense of futility about a life spent protecting himself from consequences that were never coming anyway. All that time and effort put into maintaining his vapid persona, trying to mimic human interaction…and what for? It turns out he can act like a psychopath and nobody will bat an eye! What a waste! And there’s that word, “waste”, and you can bring it all back to consumerist culture. Wasting time, effort, money on consuming the right things, owning the right things, and looking the part while you do it…and in the end we’re all in the ground. There’s no rich and beautiful test to pass where we’re going. And therein lies the greatest waste of all, the wasting of life. And I mean, I can get that. Nothing makes me feel sick to my stomach more than thinking about all the life I’ve already wasted.

Well then. Okay. Turns out I reacted to the film a little more viscerally than I first thought.

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