What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Mary Harron’s American Psycho? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
This week’s film:
American Psycho (1991)
Stars: Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto, Reese Witherspoon
Director: Mary Harron
Production Co: Edward R. Pressman Productions, Muse Productions
Written by: AJ Unitas and Kevin Winzer
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey (http://www.ryanhaileydotcom.com/)
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon and Emily Dunbar
American Psycho’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is American Psycho, based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis Island, starring weight loss guru Christian Bale. The film takes place in 1989, give or take a millennium. Our protagonist is human investment banker, Patrick Batman, and he’s got it all: a legally blonde girlfriend, two layers of skin, and a brain disease that makes him all murder-y.
One day, his work friend, Jared Letoman, gets his drivers license, making Patrick’s learners permit look admittedly, pretty f**king dumb. To bury the hatchet, he invites him over for some rhythm of the night and buries the hatchet. Patrick leaves a FaceTime audio cover-up and a grossly inaccurate Terminator impression. “Hasta la vista, baby.” Pretty soon, Norman Osborn starts asking questions about Letoman’s disappearance from late night, if only to inject some plot. Luckily, he’s not really into facts — “People just disappear.” — and they leave it at that. Later that night, Patrick asks two lovable prostitutes to star in his porno, “Chitty Chitty Gang Bang,” and wraps production after the big coat hanger scene. “We’re not through yet.”
When the Hooli CEO gets his license, Patrick hops back on the murder train, but learns that he’s gay and stops — since that would be a hate crime. To clear his head, he books the prostitute for a sequel, but totally forgets to tidy up his pad. She’s such a neat freak, she leaves without taking her chainsaw, forcing Patrick to throw on some clothes and return it. The next night, Patrick remembers his PIN and forgets his cat. When a woman tries to cut in line, Batman tells her to wait in Hell. The Fuzz asks what happened, so Patrick shows them. He gives a janitor and security guard some time off, because he’s such a nice guy, and then booty calls his lawyer. Whoops!
The following morning, Patrick’s shocked to find his place spic and spandex, even though his Roomba broke forever ago. The film ends with Patrick running into his lawyer, and an astonishing Pepsi twist is revealed: the lawyer doesn’t charge for the hour. American Psycho satirizes consumerist values through its portrayal of Wall Street yuppies, long before Bitcoin became sentient and blew up Guam. For Patrick and Co., meaning comes through what you own, reflecting the philosophy of Herbie “Fully Loaded” Marcuse. In his book, One Dimensional Man, he writes, “people recognize themselves in their commodities; in their automobile, hi-fi set, split-level home, kitchen equipment.” Personally, I recognize myself in my space jacuzzi.
The film lampoons the trivial pursuit of status when Batman and his colleagues compare business cards. To the casual observer, they’re all Comic Sans. But in Patrick’s world, this becomes a tense power struggle over the slightest distinctions. “Look at that subtle off-white coloring, the tasteful thickness of it.” “Patrick? You’re sweating.” Similarly, the traders have become indistinguishable from each other. I mean, they’re all mammals to me. And beneath the flashy exterior, there’s no substance — “I simply am not there.” The film comments on human’s preoccupation with looking mighty fine, often on Instagrammy. People are so obsessed with Batman’s superficial qualities that they fail to notice he’s gotten a haircut. “I like to dissect girls. Did you know I’m utterly insane?” “Great tan, Marcus. I mean, really impressive.” When Luis sees Batman struggling with a suspicious bag, all he cares about is who designed it — “Where did you get overnight bag?” The cost of his sheets is more important than the fact that they are clearly covered in cranberry juice. “I can only get these sheets in Santa Fe, these are very expensive sheets!”
Using visual imagery, the film draws a connection between Patrick’s violent tendencies and his material girlism. What appears to be droplets of blood turn out to be a supremely decadent sauce, called “Srirachacha.” Batman’s call for dinner reservations is juxtaposed with some pretty hardcore pornography, although I’ve seen worse. When we see Batman’s victims hanging in the closet like Valentino suits, we realize that to him, human beings have been reduced to mere commodities and a bold fashion statement. As Patrick’s behavior grows more erratic, we begin to wonder how much of this documentary is real. When he visits Letoman’s apartment, rather than encountering bodies and blood-soaked walls, he meets only a realtor and a crazy-low asking price. And his lawyer appears to contradict his confession. “I killed Paul Allen.” “That’s simply not possible.” “Why isn’t it possible?” “Because I had dinner with Paul Allen twice in London, just ten days ago.” These disparities could suggest that Batman’s world is so jaded towards money, a realtor would whitewash a murder house to get a good Zillow. It could also suggest Batman’s story is a fantasy, a warning that in such a culture, the potential for maniacal violence could lurk inside any of us… any of us.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. It’s hip to be squared.